Yet another clean sheet – our 13th in all competitions this season – but no goals to show for it – for only the second time this term – means our first goalless draw of the campaign. That we dominated the first half and they the second gives the impression of it being a true game of two halves but was it simply that?
Everton made no great changes to their system at half time and waited well into the second period before making any changes in personnel – something which did admittedly have an immediate impact on the game with no ending result – so why was there such a difference in performance levels from both teams?
We started with exactly the same team which lumbered to a 1-0 victory against Hull last Sunday, while Everton had made just one change, but the telling statistic may be that while Everton enjoyed a match-free midweek, three of our starting eleven played the full 120 minutes against Hull again in midweek with Chiriches coming on for the final 50 minutes or so.
Were we simply getting tired – especially in defence and in the engine room of midfield?
We have seen Paulinho getting weary towards the end of some matches (not only does he play virtually every game for us but he also has had to travel half way around the globe for Brazilian friendlies) and whilst I am not singling him out for criticism it was a strange decision to keep him on and replace Sandro with Dembele – another of those who played the full stint in midweek.
Sandro is the rock on which our defensive core is based – we have not conceded a goal this season while he has been on the pitch – and he would have been fresh compared to our other two central midfielders.
But this is not the entire reason.
In the first half which we dominated with more possession, more territory, more chances, more corners, in fact more of everything, did we carve out any truly decent goalscoring opportunity. We had a number of long range efforts which tested their keeper, shots from Sandro, Walker and Townsend all spring to mind, while Lennon should have shot when inside the area yet opted to chip a cross, but none of these was a clear cut chance.
Yet, there was one true opportunity.
After six minutes Lennon got a yard of space, clipped the ball onto the head of Soldado who put it a yard wide. Had that gone in we could all be talking a totally different story.
Again I am not singling out Soldado for individual criticism – it is afterall about the only decent chance he has had all season apart from his goals against Tbilisi and from the penalty spot – but these type of chances need to be converted, yet we are simply not creating enough.
We have possession and generally use it well. We have creative players capable of delivering the telling balls, but we are simply not finding other Spurs players in the correct positions. Players like Soldado and Defoe – predatory goalscorers – need the ball to feet inside the penalty box to enable them to do their job. We are simply not doing that.
What was evident was that we lacked width – apart from overlaps from Walker and Vertonghen – as both Townsend and Lennon were employed on the wrong wings as inverted wingers, able to drift inside to get on their “stronger” foot, rather than get to the byeline and deliver a telling cross.
Whilst I accept the argument that inverted wingplay can be a bonus, we have – in those two players as well as others (Lamela is a prime example) on the bench – wingers more than capable of playing on both flanks, so why not swap them over for ten to fifteen minutes half way through each period, let them have a go at a different defender, pose different problems for the opposition.
But again this is not the biggest problem.
When we do get telling balls into the area, crosses or through balls, there is generally only one player – Soldado or Defoe depending on who is playing – available on the end of it. Eriksen and Holtby do not get into the area, you rarely see Townsend or Lennon, Siggy or Lamela, challenging for high balls, Paulinho does but Dembele and Sandro do not.
And that – in my humble opinion – is the problem.
With all our pressing and our creativity when we get the ball into the box there is no-one there to take advantage. If we are to employ box to box midfielders they need to get on the end of it. Our wingers and the “Number Ten” need to get in there as well.
Commit more players into the area, deliver the ball in there and more goals will come. Simples!
And whilst we are on the subject of scoring goals – did anyone notice some notable goalscorers from other games at the weekend? Caulker scored a corker and a MOTM performance in the Welsh derby. Jenas, of all people, opened the scoring for QPR and even Dawkins – the longest serving ever THFC player never to pull on a first team shirt – got on the scoresheet for Derby.
How difficult is it to put the ball in the back of the net?
BUT, having said all that, we are fourth in the Premiership, level on points with second placed Chelsea and third placed Liverpool. We are all but into the knock out stages of the Europa. We are in the Quarter Finals of the CapOneCup.
So, we are not playing that well. We are not scoring that many goals. BUT, we are getting results.
And results count. Bottom line. Results count.