Tottenham just bottled a game they should have won, and in doing so showed that the lessons that should have been learned last summer (and the summer before that) have yet to be learned (or applied).
Tottenham fans may point to the fact that it was an away game, that they had King, Dawson, Lennon and Bale out injured, that they were desperately unlucky to concede a goal so late in the game without any chance to come back into it.
Excuses, excuses, excuses.
The absence of King and Dawson and Bale did not cause Tottenham any problems – Sunderland’s attack was rusty (or rather, Stokes was rusty) and Tottenham were sound defensively (despite a couple of good saves by Robinson).
Surely a team that has Jenas, Zokora, Malbranque, Berbatov and Robbie Keane can score without Lennon’s help? There’s no doubt that Lennon’s pace was sorely missed, but Martin Jol has known since last summer that the squad needs backup for Lennon – the likes of Ghaly and Boateng aren’t going to cut it if Spurs want the Champions League.
Spurs’ problems can be summarised like this:
1) No backup to Lennon / no width without Lennon.
2) No experience in midfield (see the central midfield pairings of the top four sides and you’ll know what I’m talking about) to help in such games.
3) A tendency to be ‘dazed’ when teams show the fighting spirit that Sunderland did.
Who is responsible for this? The buck stops with Jol, but hey, you decide.
The above is critical, I know. There were positives that Tottenham could take away from this game, but with their aspirations (even if those aspirations are to qualify again for Europe) this was not a convincing performance. The side has plenty of talent but this Spurs side has been making the same mistakes from two seasons ago.
Tottenham will win many games and will get a lot of praise for their performances, but there are specific deficiencies in the squad and in their tactics that Jol hasn’t fixed over the summer.
Paul Robinson – Made two very good saves and had a good start to the season.
Younes Kaboul – Very impressed with him, it will be interesting to see how he fares against bigger clubs.
Berbatov / Keane / Bent / Defoe – Berba couldn’t deal too well with Paul McShane (although he’ll surely get sharper as the season goes on) while Robbie Keane did well but perhaps did not go as far forward as he should have. Bent was ok, Defoe as usual didn’t get much time.
Zokora / Jenas – Good at passing the ball around and creating straight-forward chances but lack the creativity of Robbie Keane or the sheer directness of Lennon. Tottenham have a talented central midfield pairing but they can’t break defenses down.
Steed Malbranque – Decent performance, hopefully he’ll play a lot more this season than the last.