As you can tell by the title of this week’s entry, I’m fairly confident of success this Saturday against Spurs and fairly confident that in a few weeks time, they will be marching right out of the top 4. It’s not that I think Spurs are a weak side. I think they have a very good side. What I think is that Spurs don’t have the resources at this stage of the season to change the slump that they’re currently enjoying.
I know that the media likes to talk about Harry Redknapp for England manager and how that might be affecting the psyche of the team, but in reality, I think Mr. Redknapp and Mr. Daniel Levy consigned themselves to this fate around January 31st and simply stuck a couple nails in the coffin by the first week in March when United and Arsenal handled them easily as they still felt they could make a title push. That was the final nail in the coffin.
Meanwhile, I firmly believe that we’re on the upswing, and that the result against City might have been the best thing that could’ve happened to us. There’s a philosophy that says you learn more in defeat than in victory. Well, I believe that’s the case with us after the defeat to City. It was a rather bitter pill for all to swallow. But let’s get on with my reasons for why we shall beat Spurs Saturday and in the long run.
The biggest reason for Tottenham’s slide is mismanagement of a small squad.
So let’s with problem one for Spurs, and that’s the size of the squad. I want to ask a question to anyone that reads this. If you take the first 11 out of the equation, can you say that Spurs have adequate replacements that can come in and do a job at every position? I, for one, can’t.
Therein lies the biggest reason for Spurs slide and the reason that they’ll be out of the top 4 by the end of the season: They rely so heavily on their first 11 that rotation is almost non-existent.
For example, during the festive period this season, Spurs enjoyed a 6 point cushion on Arsenal and were within 5 points of City at the top. From December 22, when they played us, until January 3, when they met West Brom, Spurs played a total of four matches. Harry started virtually the same 11 players in each match, only making one change due to suspension (Scott Parker), and one due to injury (Ledley King). The other two teams they played in that period? Norwich and Swansea.
Now that that’s over with, let’s get on to danger men. Gareth Bale, need I say more?
I thought about putting Emmanuel Adebayor on this list, however, I think we’ve handled him quite well over his career because all of his strengths play right into the hands of our defence. He’s not overly quick and relies on strength the same as Drogba does now and our defence does now.
However, Gareth Bale is another proposition. Gareth Bale really may be the finest left sided player in the world right now. That’s not an exaggeration. The key to stopping Gareth Bale is that everything comes back to his left foot. That seems simplistic, but it’s completely true. Bale’s movements always bring him back to his left foot. When he has to use his right foot, he’s nowhere near as effective.
You have to take away his left foot, which is easier said than done, but it’s the biggest key to stopping him. He’s not as crafty as Arjen Robben though with how to get back to his left, and that’s what defenders have to remember, whether Jose Bosingwa plays or Branislav Ivanovic is fit.
If Bale’s Spurs’ biggest threat, their CBs are their biggest weakness.
If Spurs hadn’t bought Brad Friedel and were still playing Gomes in goal, can you imagine how many goals they’d have conceded? I can’t even name the two CBs that will start for Spurs because they’ve all either been injured or ineffective. More than likely Younes Kaboul and partner, and that speaks to the problem. There’s no consistency at their CB position, and if it wasn’t for Friedel’s ability in net, they’d probably be further down the table.
However, don’t underestimate Spurs in this match. They find ways to beat us all the time.
I don’t know why, but although I’m very confident that we’ll get fourth and Spurs will slide down the table, facing them directly always frightens me. It always seems that something strange happens in the match, whether it be dodgy penalties, sendings off for silly reasons, or wonder strikes out of the blue.
Tottenham have had this miraculous ability to play terrible football against everyone else, but manage to beat us in some way shape or form.
Like I said in the opening, they still have a very good first 11. They still have Luka Modric, Scott Parker, and Rafael van der Vaart. However, their first 11 have played a lot of games so far and will have to continue to play more with Arsenal having gotten ahead of them and Newcastle and us still pushing.
League tables may not lie, but one-match scenarios can.
Now to why I think the City loss was a good thing.
I think the loss to City was a learning experience for Roberto Di Matteo. He learned that Chelsea is not West Brom and we shouldn’t have expectations to play similar strategies. I’m referring to the substitution that saw Fernando Torres depart for Didier Drogba. While the tactical idea is clear: you bring on the bigger, stronger striker to hold the ball up, thus slowing down the game. We were only up 1-0 in the 73rd minute.
Until that point, I felt Torres was a great out ball to start the counter attacks. His distribution was good, but more importantly he was playing between the CB’s and the midfield, so he could tackle back or collect a pass and run at the backline, and he was happy to do it.
When Drogba came on, the shape and distribution changed. Instead of having a striker and a midfield in harmony with shorter passes, now Drogba pushed further up, while the midfield sank back to ping passes long to him. Over that period, we started to play like a mid-table side that was content to soak up pressure for 17 minutes. That was a mistake that Di Matteo won’t make again.
Now, for the prediction: I think there are goals in this game. I also think we got a glimpse into the mind of Di Matteo and who will play. I have a sneaky suspicion that Drogba will start on the bench again, but this time, Torres might find some joy against a team that doesn’t have the greatest defenders and doesn’t play with a holding midfielder.
3-2 to Chelsea with a late goal from Tottenham to make it close.