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Strangers XI 1-1 Norwich: Perhaps Tottenham Need a Meet-and-Greet Session?

Trent Scott@https://twitter.com/TrentAScottAnalyst IIISeptember 2, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01:  Tom Huddlestone of Tottenham Hotpsur is sent off by referee Mark Halsey during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Norwich City at White Hart Lane on September 1, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

With the international break now in front of Tottenham and players travelling all over the globe, when the players return, perhaps the staff at White Hart Lane will have some name tags ready for the returning players.

After all, it looked as if 11 strangers met at the grounds a half hour before the match with Norwich began, picked positions and played as if it were a five-a-side match down at the local park.

There was something relatively striking about the lack of fluidity that Spurs displayed against the Canaries on Saturday.

Was it the formation? Was it Norwich’s physical, pressing style? Was it the fact that half the team might have been available on transfer and the booze was still working its way out?

Whatever it was, Spurs looked more disjointed in their third match than in either of the first two against Newcastle and West Brom.

(Maybe a weekend team-building retreat might help? I hear the golf courses up north are still waiting for Tottenham to make their "return.")

Perhaps it was players trying too hard, knowing that their positions are not guaranteed with the late dash for new arrivals.

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Only goalie Brad Friedel did himself any good by showing that the man who has started 307 straight Premier League matches does not intend to hand over the gloves anytime soon.

One might even suggest that Friedel saved Tottenham from suffering their second defeat in three matches with a string of outstanding saves that kept Norwich from taking the lead in the first half.

Other than Friedel, Jan Vertonghen and Moussa Dembele are the only players one might suggest had anything close to a quality outing.

Vertonghen had his moments, particularly late in the match when Norwich might have found a winner after he left a ball to roll out of play (a dangerous thing against the Canaries).

Dembele changed the attacking dynamic for Tottenham by playing well in advance of Jake Livermore, as predicted.

Norwich, which did not need to deal with anyone playing there, often had to rely on nicking the ball off of others once Dembele had put the ball at their feet.

That, unfortunately, was frequently done with ease.

It was one of the more frustrating elements of Saturday’s match that Tottenham looked as if they were playing with rubber shoes on, such was their lack of control on the ball.

It was a draw that will have to suffice for now, as Spurs still remain two points off of last term’s 69-point pace in comparable fixtures.

So long as everyone remains healthy (though I’m willing to make an exception on William Gallas), by the time Tottenham return from the international break, they should have a different lineup that will be ready to get on with the chase once again.

 

Worried yet?

It has to be reiterated that several players are now playing for starting time with the arrivals of Dembele, Emmanuel Adebayor, Clint Dempsey and Hugo Lloris over the past two weeks.

Lloris looks to have the most difficult battle. Friedel will certainly maintain sentimental value (until the January window), and it will be very difficult to dislodge someone in Friedel’s current vein of form.

Dembele showed already that a midfield spot will be his to lose after his showing blew Livermore, Tom Huddlestone and Sandro out of the water.

Aaron Lennon or Gylfi Sigurdsson might be looking nervously at the manager for a while as Andre Villas-Boas decides where he wants to play Dempsey.

Goals have been in short supply so far, and Lennon might have to make way for the scoring touch of Dempsey, who can certainly pick a cross and has Kyle Walker to maraud down the wing behind him.

Jermain Defoe did little to fight off the eventual advancement of Adebayor to the front. However, a combination of Dembele and Dempsey on the pitch might yet give Defoe better passing options (such as on the ground) to work with.

It's not as if Defoe has lost his way to goal, but constantly sending crosses in the box to a player who is listed at 5'7" has not been a well-crafted strategy so far from Spurs.

Regardless, it would not surprise anyone if Adebayor took the starting spot for the next match at the Madjeski against Reading on September 16.

 

A Final Thought

 What is William Gallas doing anywhere near the pitch at White Hart Lane?

I don’t care if he can beat Michael Dawson on a scooter for pace, Dawson would not have been rag-dolled by Grant Holt every five minutes on Saturday.

Until Villas-Boas thinks Steven Caulker is ready, Dawson had better be the partner of Vertonghen for the foreseeable future.

Physical Premier League clubs know that Gallas can be muscled out with ease. With Pavel Pogrebnyak next on the list, I would rather not have to watch the Frenchman get bulldozed into the Madjeski turf at every available opportunity.

It’s not like Pogrebnyak is going to be sprinting by anyone, anyway, unless it’s the carcass of Gallas on the floor after he brushes him off like a small child.