After that bombshell at White Hart Lane, it was important to see an improvement yesterday. If we had lost 4-1 to a meagre team last week, then it would’ve been harder to strike back this week. Tottenham are a team that have enough ability to turn up and demolish teams from all walks of life. They had the same scoreline against Manchester City at their fortress, so it is testament to their fine form of late that could see them finish in the top 4 – maybe. Anyone can win the title at this point. There is no need to panic, as of yet. We are only 3 points off the top 5, so there is no need to despair. Conversely, it is also worth noting we are only a couple of points off the bottom half, so the next 4 games will be of vital importance. Three of our next four are against teams in the bottom half, so I expect a bit more ruthlessness from Bilic’s side like under Big Sam, who got us more points at this stage last season with more points against the weaker sides. For me, at the end of the day, three points is three points.
It is fair to say predicting this week’s line-up wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. Well done to anyone who did well this week in the Predictor League. Iain said: “This is one of the most difficult lineups to predict in some time.” If that’s the case, I ought to swap Fantasy Football for the Predictor League, because I only had one mistake in the starting XI – Obiang played instead of Song. There is absolutely no need to play with three CB’s against the team that has had the fewest attempts on goal in the BPL this season. Why sit back against a team that has very little to offer going forward? The other reason why I was adamant Bilic would not change to an unorthodox system is elementary. If you had a blip (like most pundits said as well) in an otherwise good season, there were be no justification for changing the style of play. Remi Garde has to do that, but not Super Slav. It was clear Tomkins wouldn’t play with his lacklustre performance, even more so, as Ogbonna hasn’t played in a while. We have a system where the two wing-backs have the freedom to get forward, and at times, they can get caught in two minds, and make defensive errors. It is hard to prevent it, but very rare. Nonetheless, they work tirelessly for us, and as such, I felt they deserved to play yesterday. The manager was likely to mix it up with the selection available. I got a bit lucky, but simply going with this abductive reasoning, it was clear that the manager had particular changes in mind. I can’t fault his decision making before the match; it was only during the match I was unhappy with the gaffer, which I will go into further detail later.
Manuel Lanzini has a mammoth task filling the boots of Payet. So far, the Jewel has done very well for himself. The 22 year old’s enthusiasm for the ball is beautiful to watch. “He always wants the ball,” the gaffer said. The Argentine is more than an Ersatz good for me, as we will see in a few years time. He is quickly becoming one of the best at our club with the likes of Liverpool chasing him. Lanzini has made more dribbles per 90 minutes than any other player for us this season. Lanzini has made 3.1, Zárate has made 2.6, and Payet and Moses have both made 2.4. You can see why he has been compared to Modric. According to WhoScored, he is also our best player (excluding Payet). The top clubs didn’t go for Payet, due to the fact he is 28. How foolish they were. I can’t even imagine the reaction they would have after missing out on Lanzini who is on loan. He gets on with our players with a few fellow Argentinians in our side, as well as the new players who have been brought in, as part of our Renaissance. Valencia said: “He’s always playing pranks and having a laugh.” On the contrary, big clubs can get players with more ease. Toby Alderweireld went to Spurs for £11.5M, as opposed to Southampton this season. He was reunited with former Ajax teammates Christian Eriksen, and Jan Vertonghen. Liverpool don’t have any first team players who have played with Lanzini, so it safe to say that there is no sentiment involved in that transfer.
There were some facts going into the match, that had me coloured tickled pink. For one, only Joe Hart has kept more clean sheets than Boaz Myhill. Secondly, it was Reid’s 150th match for us who played as captain, as well as Jenkinson’s 50th appearance, so the pressure was on. Also, you don’t want to play a team that just beat Arsenal 2-1 last week, when you lost 4-1 the previous week. That is torture! Both teams started fairly well passing the ball around the middle of the pitch. There was a nice bit of trickery from Lanzini who got it to fellow countryman Zárate, whose shot hit the side netting. Rondon nearly scored with a tremendous strike outside the box which was only a few inches wide. The onus is on Lanzini, and boy did he deliver creating many openings for others. Gareth McAuley had both hands on Sakho, which rightfully got us a free-kick in a dangerous position. It was the other Argentine who scored right into the roof of the net. Myhill didn’t stand a chance with it, though he went in the right direction to concede in the 17th minute. Mauro has now scored in 5 of the last 6 he started in. We were in a strong position at HT. We had won all 5 games we were leading at the break before yesterday. I love the way in which Zárate focused himself before taking the shot – it was as if Zárate turned into Zola!
There was very little support for Salomon Rondon in the first half. Tony Pulis is an experienced manager, and as such, will introduce another striker. If not that, then he will still sub on more attack-minded players. I was a bit disappointed Bilic didn’t change the style of play. We were running ourselves ragged. We needed more stability to make sure West Brom didn’t get back in. The Baggies changed their formation to 4-4-2, but we didn’t respond. The 4-1-4-1 formation we had didn’t help us enough. The ball was cleared away to the substitute Lambert, whose shot hit Reid’s hand to deflect in, with the keeper on the ground unable to reach it in the 50th minute. It was very unfortunate for the skipper. This later turned into a game of two halves, as we didn’t have enough defensive quality. The Baggies consistently broke through the final third, but Bilic decided to sub Carroll on for Obiang. I felt Obiang needed more game time, and was sufficient enough to stay on. There was a save of tremendous quality from Adrián who saved Rondon’s header from close distance with his face! But in all honesty, the Venezuelan should have buried that. It was right down the middle, and he had more than enough space to head it either side. That was a very lucky escape. Speaking of which, Jonas Olsson denied us on several occasions in particular, the Sakho strike which was thumped away by the Swede’s leg. Unfortunately, Sakho was injured in the process and slowly limped off the pitch. On the balance of things, the game deserved to be a draw.
I am very concerned with our current strike force. We have Payet and Valencia out, as well as Sakho. I hope Sakho’s injury is no more than a fortnight, though I have a feeling it could be a bit longer. This means that we only have Carroll, Jelavic, and Zárate up front. We will have to change our style of play vastly to accommodate these changes. It doesn’t get easier, as we have Manchester United at Old Trafford next week. After that, we have Stoke, Swansea, and Villa.