From Milan to Blackpool: The Two Different Sides of Tottenham Hotspur
The euphoria of Tottenham’s midweek win against AC Milan last week was shared across the United Kingdom as Tottenham became only the third English team to beat AC at the San Siro. The Tottenham performance was the archetypal European away-leg performance. Neat and compact and with every player doing their job, they kept it simple and played on the counter, nullifying the Milan attack and finally getting the goal to take them back to White Hart Lane with a 1-0 win. It was a classic counter-attacking move.
Fast-forward to Bloomfield Road Tuesday night for Blackpool versus Tottenham. Blackpool were on a downward spiral having not won in six games including losses to fellow relegation candidates West Brom and West Ham. Tottenham had just won their last four games in all competitions; two hard away games in the Premier League and one home, as well as the historic AC Milan victory. The odds were stacked against Blackpool and if Tottenham won they would have move ahead of Man City into third place.
With everything to play for – for both teams – it was Blackpool that came out victorious. A vital three points for them in their struggle against relegation but ultimately, three points lost from Tottenham’s point of view. Blackpool were good but Tottenham despite dominating for large periods were error-prone and lacking concentration in defence and finally succumbed to a 3-1 loss.
The result doesn’t tell the whole story though. As with many times this season and I’m sure many more times, upfront Tottenham were lacking quality. All three strikers have a combined total of just eight goals with Russian striker Roman Pavlyuchenko leading that with six goals to his name, and he’s not even a starter. Peter Crouch has two and Jermain Defoe doesn’t have any. Tonight, Tottenham had 25 shots on goal with ten being on target. Blackpool meanwhile managed eight shots on goal with four being on target. It isn’t too hard to spot the difference between the two teams tonight. Needless to say, Roman Pavlyuchenko got Tottenham’s only goal.
The difference between the strikers in Europe and in the Premiership is terrifying. Even Defoe has scored in Europe. This though, is down to European defenders not knowing how to handle Peter Crouch. Currently, Crouch is joint fourth top goal scorer in the Champions League with five goals. Roman Pavlyuchenko has three and Defoe has two to his name. The Premiership though is much more physical and fast paced and teams know how to play against Crouch.
Tottenham’s lack of quality upfront has been apparent all season and had they had better options would have beaten Man United at home, Wigan at home and Newcastle away to name but a few. The January transfer window was a perfect time to acquire a player to start firing in some goals and a whole host of strikers were linked. From Diego Forlan to Luis Suarez, to Andy Carroll and to Giuseppe Rossi, though none ultimately turned up at the Lane. Apart from a late bid for Charlie Adam (instrumental in tonight’s loss to Blackpool) nothing happened at Tottenham and they entered the final leg of the season with no-striking upgrade.
Tottenham have rode their luck at times this season and have masked their lack of quality upfront by quality from other areas of the pitch. Goals have come in abundance from Gareth Bale and Rafael Van der Vaart (seven and ten goals respectively) while Niko Kranjcar has been amongst the goals the last few games, scoring winners against Bolton and Sunderland. It seemed tonight Tottenham’s luck ran out.
To repeat last season’s heroics as well as playing Champions League football was an extremely hard task for Redknapp’s men at the start of the season. Champions League place rivals, free spending Man City had strengthened in the summer and also strengthened in January. They now had arguably the most dangerous frontline in the Premiership. Chelsea had strengthened, acquiring Fernando Torres and David Luiz in January.
There are currently four points separating fifth place and third place with Tottenham in fourth, two points ahead of Chelsea having played a game more and two points behind Man City equal on games. The last two European places look to be going to the wire and we could be in for a very exciting finish. Has Tottenham’s luck run out and will Redknapp rue not upgrading his strike force?
Time will tell.