The slow start to AVB’s reign continued yesterday with an uninspiring draw at home to Norwich, in much the same manner as last week’s draw with West Brom. The similarities were uncanny – greater possession and attempts on goal than the opposition failed to be converted into goals, and an eventual second-half breakthrough was rendered obsolete in the game’s final minutes by panicked defending and an approach that seemed altogether too conservative after we took the lead.
The booing at the final whistle from sections of the White Hart Lane crowd was grimly inevitable – there’s only one way AVB will win over the doubters, and that’s by winning games. To my mind, at least, he still had legitimate excuses for failing to secure the three points in this fixture, but once the international break passes, he might find himself under even tougher scrutiny.
To begin with, I’ll reiterate the point I’ve been making since the first game of the season. Jake Livermore has started all three games for Spurs now, and I still see nothing to convince me that he has a future place in Spurs’ starting eleven. He did well as a utility player from the bench last season, but in the three fixtures so far he’s brought very little to the table, and he certainly seems the most dispensable player in the starting line-up by a distance. You have to feel that, thus far, AVB has had little choice but to play Livermore, what with Dembele’s signing at the end of the week meaning he hasn’t had much time with the team, and Huddlestone’s lack of match fitness meaning he isn’t a viable option at present either. After the international break, I fully expect Livermore to cede his position to Dembele, for the forseeable future.
Lack of match fitness is AVB’s biggest problem right now. Jermain Defoe as a lone striker cuts and isolated and ineffectual figure, but with Adebayor joining Spurs off the back of a complete lack of pre-season, he’s still not ready to be thrown straight into the starting line-up. Will he be fit enough to start games once the international break has passed? Let’s hope so, because Spurs are badly missing his presence currently. Clint Dempsey is another who could be an answer to our lack of cutting edge, but again, a lack of match fitness is likely to plague him for at least a few games after he was frozen out at Fulham. The American might not do a bad job in place of Aaron Lennon, who’s come down with a bad case of Theo Walcott syndrome so far this season – flattering to deceive, all pace but no punch.
Huddlestone’s lack of match fitness, too, will be a frustration – not that he’d necessarily be starting games for Spurs, but he could’ve provided an alternative option to Jake Livermore in the absence of over choices. As it was, he fell victim to a harsh red card – the Hudd was around half an hour late to the ball, but there was a complete absence of malicious intent in the tackle, and with his feet planted firmly on the ground, it’d be a disappointment if the card wasn’t rescinded.
Dembele’s excellent debut goal was the one highlight in what was otherwise a largely dismal Spurs performance. The games against Newcastle and West Brom at least could lean on the excuse that Spurs probably deserved more from both games for their endeavours. Against Norwich, we probably deserved less. Brad Friedel was probably the sole reason we emerged with a draw instead of a loss, making a series of age-defying saves through the course of the game to keep out Norwich. The big American’s command of his area probably isn’t the greatest – he tends to remain anchored to his goal-line for the majority of the game – but there’s no doubt that he’s some shot stopper. You’d have to think that, unless he drops a clanger in the next few league games, Hugo Lloris will be starting his Spurs career in the cup competitions rather than in Premier League games.
As for Norwich’s goal – well, where to start? I’ve re-watched it several times, and I still can’t work out who was meant to be picking up Snodgrass, which can only mean whoever it was was doing an appalling job. It was poor from Livermore to give away the free-kick in the first place, and our defensive line looked pretty disordered when the ball that led directly to the goal came in from the left flank – Gallas was a few feet away from his man, and Assou-Ekotto was standing looking slightly bewildered in a position that gave no advantage what-so-ever. As a brief side note, Assou-Ekotto was lucky not to give away a penalty earlier in the game. He certainly hasn’t started the season on form, and it should perhaps be a bit of a concern that we have no-one to turn to as an alternative if his off-days continue.
I’ve already commented on the booing at the game’s conclusion, but it’s worth mentioning that it flies in the face of logic. Last season, many Spurs fans berated Chelsea for not giving AVB a chance, and getting on his back as soon as results started going against the team. It’s slightly puzzling as to how they think confronting the Portuguese with exactly the same problem at Spurs is going to assist his tenure, but the only way he’ll convince them and the media he’s the man for the job is by getting results. Until then, he’ll of course be subject to ridiculous and victimising media speculation – and if you don’t think that’s the case, just look at the lack of criticism being heaped on Brendan Rogers, despite his Liverpool side’s poor start to the season and even poorer transfer window. Everyone’s out to get AVB. Let’s get behind him, and prove them wrong.
On Twitter: @AEFSpurs.