After the general despondency stoked by another disappointing and lack-lustre Europa League draw mid-week (the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed the lack of match reaction – there’s only so many times I can write about 1-1 draws without just glazing over), it was a relief to see a performance with a little more life against Southampton yesterday, even if it was inconsistent at times. As mediocre as our European performances might have been thus far, at least they don’t seem to be sucking any of the life from our Premier League campaign (as yet). There were still niggling problems, and the win could have been far more comfortable than it eventually was, but all in all it’s another three points safely in the bag, and we’re currently sitting pretty in fourth.
The performance from Spurs in the first and second halves made for a stark contrast. After the first half, we could easily have been heading in at the interval having scored three or four goals, but for some wasteful finishing; in the second, we seemed to struggle to regain the momentum we’d built up in the first 45 minutes, and at times struggled to threaten an awoken Southampton. Considering the Saints had won the previous five fixtures at St Mary’s, the win is a good result, but the manner of Spurs’ play in recent matches has had more than a little of the Jekyll and Hyde about it (yes, this is a tenuously shoe-horned, topical Halloween reference).
This nature was mirrored by the performances of the players – some had games to remember, such as Sandro, whilst others had games to forget (Defoe). One big question the game brought up is whether it’s time for Friedel to make way for Lloris in the Premier League starting XIs. Friedel has of course been a reliable servant for Spurs, but there were one or two flappy moments against Southampton, and you could maybe even argue that he was at fault for the Southampton goal. The American has also yet to keep a clean sheet for Spurs this season, a feat Lloris managed in his first Premier League game. There is little doubt that Friedel still has a part to play in Spurs’ season, but with Lloris chomping at the bit behind the scenes, perhaps his time has come.
Jermain Defoe also had something of an off day – he might have provided the prelude to Clint Dempsey’s close range finish for Spurs’ second goal, but aside from that his shooting was woeful. Every shot he took seemed to get further from being on target rather than closer, and he remains an unfathomable team-work vacuum; he may have gotten the assist re: Dempsey’s goal, but it was entirely unintentional. A performance of this variety from Defoe will have had Adebayor thinking he might still have a sniff at sneaking into the first team. Up until now, the big man’s chances have been somewhat thin on the ground, but you’d've thought he’d fancy his chances of getting some decent game time midweek against Norwich in the Carling Cup.
One player who acquitted himself well was Tom Huddlestone. I’m still not sure what to make of Thudd – he’s got all the manoeuvrability of a heavily armoured tank, and in one or two recent games has looked a little at sea, but his famed range of passing was on the mark against Southampton. The dinked assist for Bale’s opener was deftly executed, the likes of which we’ll hopefully see more of.
Elsewhere, what’s fast being dubbed ‘The Curse of Livermore’ once again reared its ugly head. You have to have a bit of sympathy for the guy, who’s introduction as a substitute on two or three occasions this season has prophetically heralded the Spurs defence rapidly conceding a goal. Sure enough, his arrival onto the pitch yesterday brought about the same result - at least it’s not as bad as the curse of Gareth Bale was. Livermore’s a player I have reservations about, and personally I think he’s only getting anywhere near the team as a consequence of Scott Parker’s extended injury lay off, but if AVB is going to insist on involving him on a relatively frequent basis, then hopefully he can banish this bugbear sharpish.
Finally, it’s worth putting in a word for Sandro’s extended excellent performances so far this season. He’s certainly cut a more disciplined figure than he was when he started life in Harry Redknapp’s Spurs side, and he’s right up there in the stats for successful tackles and interceptions. With the absence of Parker, he’s probably one of the players we can least afford an injury to – with Livermore the likely back-up, we’ll all have to hope that Sandro can keep himself fit and well for the majority of the season.
On Twitter: @AEFSpurs.