Zaman Siddiqui's Match Review

It’s not everyday that your country beats Germany 3-2. The last thing you want to associate that victory with is a long-term injury. Unfortunately, that was the case for Jack Butland who injured his ankle on that rather infamous night back in March 2016. For a 23 year old to get injured in that match was a cruel fate indeed, let alone the severity of it. Spending all that time in the gym trying to recover is actually more emotionally challenging than anything else: it is difficult to find light at the end of the tunnel. Gareth Southgate was watching that match 13 months ago. As the incumbent England manager, he must have kept a close eye on him. He came to see Butland play against us in what was his first home game since his recovery. It was like he’d never been away! As an admirer of football, I am glad that if any player was going to stop us, it was Jack Butland.

Stoke produced a vital draw reaching the 40-point mark. They have finished 9th in each of the past three seasons. Stoke tend to perform well in the business end of the season. Yep, it is all about the finishes. There is no point in doing the hard work at the start of the season only to flail about at the end. The city may be even better at finishing than initially thought as they have produced a lot of top darts players. They include: Phil Taylor (the 16 time World Champion), Adrian Lewis (winner of back-to-back World Championships), Ted Hankey and Andy ‘The Hammer’ Hamilton. I really like Andy’s nickname for some reason – his and Eric Bristow’s.

Anyway, even the best of darts players can go on a bad run and fail to finish. Adrian Lewis failed to finish completely on Thursday night against Michael van Gerwen in the Premier League of Darts getting whitewashed 7-0. Sure, he was having a stinker also losing to James Wade earlier in the evening, but it is worth keeping in mind that blips are normal. Okay, he lost to James, but he is certainly a better player than him (as indicated by the PDC rankings) and is likely to finish above him in the Premier League table. I think it is worth keeping in mind that poor form is commonplace but it is worth consolidating the position where you’re at. No player (not even James Wade) can get 100% on the doubles, ergo it would be ridiculous to expect the same in other sports. If Stoke don’t end in the top half for a fourth season running, it is not the end of the world. I say this because some Stoke supporters want Mark Hughes to be sacked because they are on a bad run of form.

Yet another clean sheet with Adrián in the side. Even someone as tactically inept as Bilic will now understand that he is the top-choice goalie. In fact, he has kept five clean sheets in his last 13 Premier League appearances. Also, today’s 0-0 draw ended a run of 13 away PL matches without a clean sheet. The number 13 may be unlucky for some, but it is evidently working for us: with Adrián on the pitch, nothing will go wrong. I personally believe that his inclusion has steadied the defenders who were out of sorts. His save against Arnautovic in the second half highlights just how invaluable he is. His footballing intelligence is what I highly rate about him. He has good reactions and can play quite traditionally and acrobatically depending on the situation.

Whilst Adrián kept his second consecutive clean sheet since his return, it is worth keeping in mind that the defence played a huge part in that. We made 40 clearances in the match with 83% on tackling. The one chance that stands out for me was for Berahino early on the match with Reid blocking him. Other than that, I don’t think we were really tested in defence. Playing three at the back seems to work for now. It should be interesting to see what formation the manager plays with when Ogbonna returns to action. Judging from his performance, I think it is too early to write Fonte off. As for Collins, I imagine we will only use him when he is truly needed. Long-term, I think we might play Reid and Fonte together with the other two making way.

Many will be quick to point out that this is a second goalless draw. I personally have to admit that I am a little bit disappointed. Not in regards to the defence, but the attack. A good number of fans thought that we could go without signing a striker in the January transfer window. It is safe to say that we desperately need one in the summer. If we don’t go and make a marquee signing, there is no way we will be able to compete for a top-half finish. The pundits have been saying it and now I will. The attacking options we have are not up to standard. For instance, players like Snodgrass and Feghouli aren’t in the starting XI. The only solution is to spend, spend, spend. That and to be discrete when it comes to talking about transfer targets. We already know the board are extremely honest without Jack Sullivan tweeting various names. Seriously, tweet when we’ve got the players for better reactions.

If Bilic wants to be our manager next season, he needs a tactical overhaul. Subbing Noble on for Ayew whilst Stoke made an attacking substitution made no sense. Firstly, Ayew was playing very well. As a matter of fact, he was annoyed being told to make way given that he nearly scored. Secondly, we were the more attacking side. Why did we choose to reverse roles with Stoke? If Slaven was fearing the worst in that match, I would also have to question his intuition. The Potters were never going to score. Also, why was Snodgrass subbed on? Just what we need: another player with who bark instructions to others whilst doing nothing (his relationship with Byram).

Next season, Tottenham will be playing their home games at Wembley. Anthony Joshua has got more wins in 2017 at Wembley than Spurs! Next season will be interesting with Wembley and the London Stadium the two venues between the two teams. Also, every PL team will be able to say they played at Wembley – ha! Jokes aside, playing at a new ground, as we’ve all learned, is very difficult. We need to show our rivals what the atmosphere should be like. If the crowd get behind the players, who knows? We ended Spurs’ title chase last season. The question is: can we do it again? Keep in mind, we led the reverse fixture 1-0 and 2-1 this season. If we hold on, we could also guarantee PL survival.