Ouch. Well at least it was only 5-0. What went wrong? Who is to blame?
Certainly there was a moanfest on the blog after the game with everybody from the players, the manager and even the chairman getting stick.
All justified of course.
Some said it was all about Spurs raising their game with the Harry effect. Could have been any or all of these. Personally, whilst I think it was more about Spurs than us, we can still learn a lot from this game. It will be interesting when the player stats go up at the training ground today.
I was reminded a bit of the Champions League final last year when Barcelona played so well Man Utd couldn’t even get close enough to foul their players. Yes we played 4-4-2 which many say is too attacking, but before the game some fans were of the “we’ll score more than you” school of defending. However we set out with defensive wingers so we actually were playing 8-2 which is still erring on the side of caution.
The real problem was that Spurs, like Barcelona, were able to move the ball well in possession, fast and accurately. This meant that the more we tried to close and press them the more space opened up for the pass to be made. Playing 9-1 would have been conceding the game from the start merely hoping to nick a goal on the counter.
So yes Alan Pardew got the tactics wrong, but to be honest I’m not sure that there was a right answer. It’s the same one that Ferguson and Mourinho have been looking for when tackling Barcelona.
Ok so were the players at fault? When I was watching the game it seemed that we couldn’t keep the ball for love or money. It wasn’t that we were being hustled off it, it’s just that every pass seemed that little bit off. We were trying things that were never on and constantly being caught out of position as a result. Things that normally work every time just didn’t and since we were expecting them to work we were not in position for when they didn’t. And Spurs can counter fast. Oh and yes there were some schoolboy howlers as well.
One of the main talking points was playing a high defensive line. Given that neither Fabricio Coloccini or Mike Williamson have pace, setting the right defensive line is important. When we get it wrong we get punished.
So are the players good enough? Well since we are looking at the defence rather than the total lack of chances created, we will focus on the centre of midfield and defence. Whilst Guthrie has proved to be an able deputy for Cabaye, Perch has shown that whilst he is no Tiote he is OK against the teams below us.
There is however pressure from the youngsters coming through to challenge these players. I’m not going to judge Gosling in yesterdays game, nobody looked good. Simpson has the qualities to be a very good full back and pulls of some great goal line clearances he still has so much to learn that I do not count him as a guaranteed start next season. Davide Santon looks the part and when he is fully settled I think he will be good for NUFC in the long term.
The Willo/Colo partnership lacks pace, and despite last season when there was some serious discussion as whether Steven Taylor would get his starting place back. I think we now know the answer. For me the question is should we be extending Colo’s contract or should we be looking for two new centre backs in the summer? Funnily enough Krul hardly put a foot wrong and hence could be my Man of the Match.
Should we have bought a centre back in January, of course, but we know that Samba was not for sale as we were not the only suitors. Unfortunately, Montpelier, Ajax and FC Twente were not prepared to sell either. So we could have gone the Arsenal Per Mertesacker route and paid well over the odds for a flop, buying someone who was not on our Graham Carr approved list, or buying back-up from the Championship, which fell through and would not have been playing yesterday anyway.
So what have we learned? Well, we still know that we are probably two or three players short of our starting XI for next season. We know that our squad depth is only good enough for playing those clubs outside the top six. We still haven’t found our best tactics or style. We are on a par with three of the top six. We are still in with a shout for Europe.
And even our full starting XI would have struggled on Saturday!