Building the Grindhouse, a season review and commentary

Overview

With an unprecedented injury list throughout the squad, quite something to say at Tottenham, Harry somehow guided Spurs to 5th. Spurs managed to have as many as 11 of the squad injured at one time.

An unsettled back 4 caused by those injuries led to us conceding more than we needed, simple angled balls across the box from Wolves causing havoc in our defence is just one example and led to a 3-3 away draw against the lowest-scoring team in the Premier League (they scored 10% of their league goals against us in one game).

Injuries to strikers and a lack of confidence left us relying on midfielders for goals. Our highest scoring striker, Pavlyuchenko, squeezed into double figures with a brace on the final day. We still somehow managed to be the fifth highest scoring team in the league, 6 goals shy of Manchester City and 36 shy of Chelsea. A lot is said about van der Vaart and Bale but the rest of the team, minus strikers, contributed 29 goals.

Problems at both ends still only lost Spurs 8 games for the entire season. It was the draws, 14 of them, that stopped Tottenham finishing above Arsenal and left our boys, instead, 6 points adrift.

Where we lost points

At Chelsea. Away. Where there were three goals. Only one of them legitimate. And it was scored by Spurs. Robbed not by Chelsea and not by officials but by Sepp Blatter and his aversion to technology. The man is an arse and must be destroyed. Three points stolen by a corrupt arsehole in a corrupt organisation with no oversight. I am not at all emotional about this. Really.

A quick look at our season reveals that Tottenham play good football but cannot win against the bottom teams away from home. NerdyJester analysis says our Points Per Game (ppg) against the bottom 4 away from home is 0.5. This is worse than against the top 4 away from home at 0.75 ppg. We had the most fun against the teams finishing 6th to 9th in the Premier League, who presumably tried to play football against us rather than attack us savagely with improvised weapons. We fleeced them for 2.25 ppg away from home and 2.5 ppg at home.

According to Opta Stats

Gomes finished 4th best Keeper in the league according to Opta Stats. Only Foster at Birmingham has a higher saves to shots ratio. A notable 5th was “Englands number one” from the good old days, Paul Robinson, clawing back his respectability. Go Paul.

Second best passer in the league was a certain Luka Modric with 86% accuracy. Ahead of him was Michael Essien at 87% pass completion. Considering Modric plays much further up the field than him of them, and under a lot more pressure, I say well done.

No one in the Tottenham squad made it into the top 5 tacklers this season. The last Spurs player who did was Steed Malbranque in his final season. Sold, and not replaced, by some idiot Spaniard who couldn’t then work out why we couldn’t beat anyone…

Top goals to shots ratio, at 30% was, former Spurs Star Mr. Berbatov way ahead of 2nd place man Carlos Tevez at 24%. unsurprisingly no current Spurs strikers made the top 5…

Under-rated

Benoit Assou-Ekotto, the man who, when asked by the TV commentators looking for a short nickname, what they could call him, famously said, “You can call me Benoit Assou-Ekotto, it is my name.” I paraphrase since I am too lazy to hunt down the exact quote but you get the idea.

He called out all the sycophants who kiss the badge too easily. He is arrogant and imperious at left back. He makes me panic when he does little fancy moves under severe pressure with no cover but he almost always pulls them off. He scored a beautiful screamer, his only goal, from yards inside the halfway line. He costs us a goal, maybe 2, a season when he goes to sleep with a crossfield pass that was never on but he’s great to watch.

Honorable mention must go to Michael Dawson who has been working very hard on developing the rest of his game while still remaining a really top class (if slow) defender. A lot of people forget just how hard it is to be considered a top central defender without pace.

Over-rated

Blackpool’s Gary-Taylor Fletcher set up double the number of goals Gareth Bale did at Spurs. Bale scored a respectable 7 himself, though. Gareth Bale will be world class but it is worth remembering that he isn’t world-class yet. Do not misunderstand me- not since the days of David Ginola have I enjoyed watching a Tottenham footballer as much. He is quick and his skill is sublime but the plaudits he has received have more to do with media hype than ultimate performance on the pitch. Tottenham fans got it right when they made Modric, and not Bale, their footballer of the year.

Now to sit back and wait for the hate-mail…

Emergent talent of the Season

If you forget that Gareth Bale was an also-ran player last season raised to godlike status with his Champions League performances then the competition is between Danny Rose and Sandro. Kyle Walker would also be in there if not for the fact that he was on loan at Villa.

In the end I think we have to hand it to Sandro above Danny Rose, despite the kid’s incredible crossing ability and Harry playing him out of position. Danny, I am reliably informed, is a winger not a left back- and a better left back than Gareth Bale who, oddly enough, is meant to be a left back not a winger but is a fine winger.

Sandro looked out of place and off the pace when he first took to the field and the old “here we go again” feeling settled into the pit of my stomach. In the second-half of this season, however, the boy who was told in Brazil that he was actually born to be an English footballer because of his delight in the tackle, has shone. Pace, agility, aggression and skill make him a future Makelele or Essien.

Best signing of the Season

Rafael van der Vaart.

Flop signing of the Season

Steven Pienaar. Since his arrival he has offered nothing more than Jenas, Palacios, or O’Hara could have. However, I expect him to settle in and come good next season. He does have the ability to score, showed some great passing using both feet at Everton and bites constantly at the ankles of the opposition. Steed Malbranque without the age and Frenchness.

Why is this article called “Building the Grindhouse”?

Because that is what Spurs need to do. Of the top 5 teams only two cannot grind out results against determined, lower-league opposition and they sit 4th and 5th. Kenny Dalglish now has Liverpool doing it in 6th and you can bet they’re going to be mixing it up in the top4 next year. Key to grinding out results are hard workers and hard tacklers with a strong, skilled striker to hold up the ball and muscle out defenders. Creative players then come on between 70 and 80 minutes against tired opposition if the result isn’t yet safe.

Chelsea under Jose Mourinho and Bolton under Sam Allardyce were ultimate Grindhouses. If we had had Kevin Davies from Bolton instead of Peter Crouch from Mars (a lower gravity planet) I firmly believe we could be further up the log.

Grinding does not mean there is nothing to watch and no skill on display and with the exception of a striker we already have the players to grind out results. Replace Crouch, our only and gangly target man or Pavlyuchenko, who hasn’t the strength to hold off opponents, with a Drogba, van Persie, van Nistlerooy or Berbatov. Suddenly and we can turn the results against the bottom 4 into into the same results we got playing positions 6-9 on the log. We find ourselves with 19 points instead of 10.

Okay smartarse, who is your “Grindhouse” team?

Gomes

Hutton – King – Gallas – Ekotto (Hutton ahead of Corluka for width in attack)

Kaboul – Jenas – Sandro (Jenas can swop out with Palacios or Pienaar depending on form)

Modric – van der Vaart

Striker who is unknown

After 70 minutes a tired opposition could face any combination of Bale, Lennon, Defoe and Pavlyuchenko who all thrive on space so much they could be astronauts. This is basically what Chelsea have been doing since Jose Mourinho formed the team way back in the 17th century and the reason why Manchester United can win the league with, mostly, a very ordinary squad.

Final Words

It may well be Harry’s final season with us. England beckons and we can only hope that the Football Asociation continues to make derisory appointments and passes Harry up. Let’s enjoy it in case they do not.

Advertisements

About this entry