Sixer’s Soapbox: Spurs too sharp

Jake:  Sixer and Sobs contemplate a long hard winter
Jake: Sixer and Sobs contemplate a long hard winter

John McCormick writes: Until recently I’d been on the same wavelength as Gus when it came to picking teams but I have to admit Gardner’s inclusion against Chelsea confused me. Then for Spurs Gus reverted to the kind of team I’d have picked, with me hoping AJ would realise he had to turn in a performance or two to remain a chosen starter. And did AJ perform? Well, sort of. But if he and the rest of the team that turned out against Spurs wanted to think about a proper shift they could do worse than reflect on the likes of Sobs from ALS and our own Pete Sixsmith, who labour on, week in, week out, to try to bring us some optimism when the overpaid bunch they support turn in yet another pathetic performance. And with that rant over I turn to Pete for his take on the weekend’s events:

SoapboxSPURS

Not a good weekend football wise, was it? Stoke, Fulham, Palace, Norwich all won and put a little more daylight between us and safety. Cardiff and West Ham were the big losers but are still six and five points respectively ahead of us. It doesn’t look good.

For the first time this season, I came out of the ground seriously contemplating relegation. Up until yesterday, it had been a relegation battle, but this performance almost convinced me that Doncaster, Bournemouth and Millwall are likely to be be paying their first visit to the Stadium of Light next season.

This was a disappointing showing from a group of players who have experienced the bounce of a new manager coming in after the previous much disliked one had departed and who had mentally and physically committed themselves to the SAFC cause. But against Spurs, they looked physically and mentally tired. The crisp passing that we saw against Manchester City and at Stoke (before KF changed it all) looked far more laboured and too many players found it hard to raise their game for the second time in three days. A buoyant Spurs side were well set to take advantage of it.

Jake: We all want to
Jake: We all want to

For some players like Bardsley, Larsson, Fletcher and Colback, this is yet another relegation scrap, the fourth or fifth that they have faced in succession. For O’Shea, Brown and Giaccherini, it is in direct contrast to years spent racking up Championship titles with their clubs. Instead, they are playing with colleagues who are nowhere near as good as the ones they have left behind.

Poyet sounded as down as the occupants of the male toilets in the East Stand, but far more animated. It was quiet in the toilet, there was little conversation, just a collection of resigned sighs as we looked at our feet and realised that the game was not far from being up.

The manager didn’t sound too happy either in his post-match comments. Apparently, the press had to wait for an hour before he appeared to talk to them, and he was distinctly low key and pessimistic, making it clear that the honeymoon period was over. He now knew what he had to work with and I suspect he didn’t like it much.
Some will say that we were unlucky in that Lee Mason missed a blatant handball by Sandro and that the Spurs winner was an own goal by John O’Shea. That Defoe might easily have had a second half hat trick should bring that line of reasoning to an end. Throughout the team we lacked pace and guile, none more so than Jack Colback. The more I see of him, the more he falls into that category of “useful player”, a step up from the likes of Colin Symm, Steve Doyle and Carl Robinson, but only a small, Jimmy Clitheroe type step. He missed an excellent chance in the first half when he went too wide instead of cutting in and thrashed the ball into the side netting after Altidore put him through. Would that the positions had been reversed!

Then, he was outfought and outpaced by Dembele, whose cross was bundled over the line by John O’Shea to give Spurs the lead and to rack up our fifth own goal in nine matches. Unlucky? Absolutely not. Poor defenders concede own goals. O’Shea looked tired and under pressure throughout the game. The midfield lacks any genuine creativity and the opposition will easily work out how we play and will push Ki further and further back. Because of the lack of genuinely good players to take us forward, we will forever be on the back foot and putting pressure on our creaking defence. Brown and O’Shea are hardly in the first flush of youth.

Poyet will at least try things. He opened with Johnson and was rewarded with a well taken goal. Despite his lack of pace, he is one of the few players we have who can strike a ball and who can turn up unannounced and, as such, he needs to be a regular. There is little else with any genuine quality in the club.

The week has been a very poor one for us. There is a heightened feeling that relegation is a matter of when and not if. Poyet is blameless at the moment; he is picking up the pieces left by the previous three managers. Bruce signed a lot of very average players in his final transfer window and we are stuck with them; O’Neill tried to buy quality but both Fletcher and Johnson look weary of playing in a team where things they cannot do are expected of them. The players brought into the club in the summer by whoever it was are just not good enough. Celustka, Mannone and Altidore are probably the pick of them; Giaccherini would be excellent in a good side, but not in one where he has to do so much leg work, while the rest strike me as distinctly average.

Whether Poyet decides to use the likes of Diakite, Roberge, Cabral and Mavrias in the next two absolutely crucial games is a huge decision. They may freshen things up, which is positive, or they may be as poor as we suspect they are, which will leave us bottom of the league and in single figures points wise at Christmas. In 2002 we had 18 points,(would that we had now) while the disastrous Mick McCarthy team had five. This present lot look more like Mick’s team than Wilkinson’s.

West Ham look as bad as we do and they have a crowd that regard Sam Allardyce with the same feelings that the Tory Party of Margaret Thatcher and Norman Tebbit had towards Nelson Mandela. Norwich are a strange side who can fluctuate between the appalling and the mildly effective. We need a minimum of four points and ideally six from these two. Should we continue to miss chances, hoof the ball into our own net or come across referees who can’t recognise a legitimate tackle or a handball in the area, we will be out of this league before the Christmas decorations come down.

It gets harder and harder to keep the faith – but we must try.


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16 thoughts on “Sixer’s Soapbox: Spurs too sharp”

  1. Man City have YaYa Toure in central midfield and we have Colback/Larsson/Gardner. How did 442 work out for Di Canio? Or O’Neill when he signed Danny Graham and played it, after sitting midtable before doing so?

    Sweeping as my statement may sound, it’s a fact. It was used to effect against Newcastle as Catts and Colback played under instruction to stop them from dictating in there and keep things basic. This tactic isn’t and would never be sustainable over the course of a season. Not when you need to start taking the initiative in games. When your midfielders are limited then you play an extra one to try and dictate play.

  2. Goldy – bit of a sweeping statement to say “if you’re outnumbered in midfield against top teams then you lose” . It’s not an exact science. It depends on the players involved, who gels on the day and various other factors. Tottenham managed to lose 6-0 at Man City who played with two strikers.

    I agree that 4-5-1 can be an attacking formation and most foreign teams seem far more adept at it than British players. To make it work you need midfielders, usually wide men, who can quickly get up and support the striker and do something constructive when they get there.I can’t see our current squad, with it’s lack of pace and, mainly, sh*te midfielders, ever really making a success of it. We might make things difficult for teams at times but I don’t see that formation, with our squad, ever scoring many goals or winning many games. I hope I’m wrong and made to eat my words, but I don’t see it at the moment. Maybe a couple of inspired signings in January might make all the difference.

    Poyet has had to walk a fine line between not making a ridiculous number of changes yet at the same time try and find out what formation best suits what he has available, and try and find out just who is up to it. I think he’s approached things pretty sensibly so far and I don’t believe anyone else could have done any better.

  3. Well, for me, it looks like we going back to a 4-5-1. I prefer Altidore up front.
    Another poster says give the new, younger signings a chance. It would be nice to see Moberg-Karlsson and Mavrias in there just to confuse the opposition.
    And Cabral, yes, why not. Whats he done wrong? A poor game v MK Dons, yes, but didn’t the rest of the side perform badly then too? He did great v Fulham and pre-season.

    Anyway, my point is that we should be seeing a 4-5-1 at a majority of games this season.

    • Exactly if Cabral was dropped because of one poor game then logically we shouldn’t have anyone on the pitch now. Could be something else as well.

  4. I can’t believe the GP is already getting stick. As far as I’m concerned, no-one else on the planet would have done any better than he has done so far, wth the resources available to him. We should be grateful we’ve won a few games since he arrived.

    It was perfectly reasonable to play with two up front on Saturday. We need to try and win our home games. Draws get you nowhere. At least if it didn’t come off we weren’t losing three points to one of our relegation rivals. We had to see if Altidore & Fletcher could play together. Ok it didn’t come off , but that doesn’t mean GP deserves the chop. What the performance did was to further confirm the consistently hopeless contributions of some members of the squad – Johnson ( I can’t agree with Pete’s comment that he needs to be in the team. Apart from his goal he did nothing. What disappoints me is his complete lack of character and refusal to take any responsibility, as much as his complete lack of ability), Colback (one of my favourites in some ways as you won’t find a more honest footballer…..but just hasn’t the ability to make an impression at this level), Larsson and shock, horror, Fletcher (I’ve never been quite as obsessed with him as the majority of fans appear to be. He is a good finisher but I’ve long suspected he’s a bit lazy. His performance on Saturday was shocking, feeble, lazy and disinterested for the most part. Obviously ne heeds service, which few strikers at Sunderland ever get, but we are entitled to expect him to at least look interested).

    I agree with other comments on the site that Gardner should not play. Unfortunately he has no ability. I disagree with the criticism of Ki and Mannone. Ki is the best passer of a ball we’ve had for years – I think we’ll just have to accept his poor defensive qualities and lack of any great pace. I don’t think we’re in a position to leave out someone who actually retain the football. Mannone’s done nothing wrong for me – who would we have played instead – Pickford ? Goalkeeping is the least of our worries.

    It could take ages to turn this squad around. The fact we’ve still got a little bit of hope is to Poyet’s credit. Don’t go slagging him off after he’s been here for 8 games. If he fails as miserably as his three predecessors in the transfer market then yes, have a go, but I wouldn’t blame him for anything yet.

    • You’re making the mistake of assuming that because you don’t play two forwards that you’re not going for a win. You can go for it all you like, but if you’re outnumbered in midfield against top teams then you lose. Not draw, lose.

      This is modern football and England have always been way behind it.

  5. I wasn’t at the Spurs game so can only comment with limited info. I’ve huge faith in Poyet, but was disturbed by his comments after the match. Maybe they sound worse in isolation, but if I was getting poor results at work, and lacking confidence, hearing that I’m not good enough would hardly help me raise my game. As Pete says, we are not likely to be able to bring in better players in January, unless we pay huge wages or put them on short contracts, so Poyet is going to need to get the very best out of the players we have. And he may need to build a team around this core to get us promotion next season. My hopes are dwindling, but overall we’ve improved hugely under Poyet. Perhaps mental fatigue after the effort against Chelsea played a part. And I know we can’t keep making refereeing decisions our excuse, but had we been given the penalty, and got a draw, we might be feeling very different. A shot missed or off the bar is a mistake by the opposition, it doesn’t cancel out the fact that a clear decision that wasn’t given may well have cost us a point.

  6. Was crazy to revert to 442. I’ve heard that they were individual mistakes blah blah but we invited pressure on ourselves by being outnumbered in midfield. Fletcher may as well have sat on the touchline.

    And I’ll say it again, Lee Cattermole is better than Colback, Gardner and Larsson at driving the team forward. Wouldn’t be surprised at all to see us go for Bridcutt and push Ki further upfield now.

  7. Logic says gamble with the fresh untried faces and it would have happened years ago . Difference is the financial hit you took for relegation then is a fraction percentage wise to what it is today . On paper we have a team of experienced internationals and Poyet is just the latest in a long list who thinks he can get more out of them . History tells us he won’t and the last few years of selling all of our sellable players has come home to roost this year, it was inevitable .

  8. I have to agree with Dave in terms of Poyet’s culpability. Playing Fletcher and Altidore was a ludicrous decision against a team of Spurs’ pace. The midfield were consistently overrun, and at no point did he attempt to change the obvious, instead sticking with a formation and team which simply wasn’t working. After several matches of demanding the possession game he suddenly plays a team which he admitted had to be ‘more direct’, unfortunately neither forward is any good in the air, and consequently the Spurs central defence had a night of great comfort and joy. No, the players aren’t great, but last night the manager has to shoulder the majority of the blame, it’s a shame he failed to do so.

    • I’m sure I read somewhere that Fletcher had scored more headers than anyone in the Prem whilst playing for Wolves. Since signing for us – zilcho. Lack of service? Poor training methods? Lack of interest? His “he scores when he wants” days appear to be behind him.

  9. So, who should he have played there, Dave? Cattermole – likely to have been sent off; Larsson – would have done no better than Gardener; Cabral – invisible.
    Where else would you put Borini if you play Altidore on his own?
    He has a vey poor collection of players to work with, some of who have been here for a season too long. I don’t think any manager would be keen to work with these.
    The Di Canio legacy is that no decent player would touch Sunderland with the proverbial bargepole in the summer. Huddlestone was warned off and any UK player would find out that the man was a maniac.
    No decent player will join in January because we are bottom of the league. Poyet has a real problem here and if we go down, he will have to build a brand new team a la Roy Keane.
    Wasted opportunities again, just like 1964, 1973, 1990 and 1997. The club is close to a Coventry/Middlesbrough/Sheffield Wednesday situation, where we will be perpetual strugglers.

    • Great post. I think you have summed it up perfectly.

      I think it might be time for Gus to gamble with some of the youngsters just like Adamson did when he brought in Rowell , Arnott and Elliot. Sadly it didn’t quite work then but at least we went down in blaze of glory….better that than going down with a whimper.

      Let’s se what Mandron, Mavrias,Watmore ,Ba and Molberg-Karlsson are made of.

    • Cattermole sent off after 60 minutes would at least mean that we only played with 10 men for 30, as opposed to every minute that Gardner was on the pitch on Wednesday. He literally might as well not have been there, as far as I saw.
      I would not play Borini at all as, one fabulous lash notwithstanding, he hasn’t shown anything to suggest that Liverpool were wrong to get rid of him.
      Cabral started pre-season brilliantly and was good against Fulham. He appears to have been discarded by Di Canio and got disheartened, which is pathetic, but I find it hard to believe that he could be worse than the ones being picked. Get an arm around him, pick him up and give him a go.
      Setting aside personnel, as I completely agree that he doesn’t exactly have a massive amount of choice, going 442 on Saturday was suicidal and it worries me tremendously that Poyet is only blaming the players

  10. While Poyet has clearly picked them up and he clearly has far less blame to pick up than previous managers and, in particular, our current director of football, I cannot agree that he is blameless.
    After Gardner was unanimously agreed as terrible on Saturday, out he trots again on Wednesday and Hazard was able to treat him like he wasn’t there for the first 2 goals.
    He continues to pick Mannone, presumably because he is calm with the ball at his feet, but he does not appear to me to be any good as a keeper. I have always judged keepers on how many times they stop goals that they have no right to save and how many times they don’t save things they should. Mannone has not yet made a single save where I was surprised he saved it and I am pretty sure that Mignolet would have saved some or all of Stoke’s 2nd, Chelsea’s 2nd and both yesterday.
    He also continues to use Borini as a left midfielder, where he is completely useless.
    As per posting on the Poyet comment article, I also think that his post match comments are designed to put distance between him and the team performance, which is a really bad sign.
    All will look brighter with a couple of good performances in the next 2 but I am worried that if we have a bad couple of games and are clearly then going down that we could completely implode.

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