Last night embodied a lot of what being a Tottenham fan is all about. A European night under the lights, a journey into the unknown and 90 minutes of heart wrenching emotion; fans wouldn’t have it any other way would they?
It may not have been the glamour of the Champions League, but European football is special for a club like Spurs, and victory last night will hopefully be a catalyst now for a further assault on the Premier League top four. But for many Spurs fans last night did little to allay their fears and to convince them that Tim Sherwood is the right man to push them forward.
In cup football it rarely matters how you make it through, it is all about keeping your hopes live, but for a Spurs side looking for a return to the stylish football of old this just wasn’t it. Spurs have been lacklustre in recent weeks, and edging past what should have been simple opposition in Dnipro is no great achievement. Many were quick to write Dnipro off as complete fodder, but even so Spurs should be convincingly beating what are only a half decent European side.
In fact if it hadn’t have been a bit of good fortune Spurs may well have been facing the reality of a shock last 32 exit from the competition. In the first leg Dnipro could easily have been a couple of goals ahead, and had Soldado been rightfully sent off in the return we may well have been looking at a different outcome.
People may just say, so what? Spurs got through and that is all that matters.
They’d be right because in the end safe passage is all that matters, but for Sherwood’s side as a whole it clearly doesn’t bode well.
In fact before the sending off last night it didn’t really look like Spurs were going to be able to muster anything apart from a speculative set piece. It was yet another case of lots of talented cogs simply not clicking, players getting in the way of one another and simply not combining effectively. Man for man Spurs should have won that game with ease, but if anything it was Juande Ramos’ Dnipro that looked the more like scoring.
Most worry of all for Spurs fans was Sherwood’s continued inability to influence a match. More preoccupied with the 4th official and a rolling argument about the multi ball system, he seemed oblivious to the tactical inadequacies of his side.
The obvious change was to put another winger on and try to stretch Dnipro. The early exchanges either saw Eriksen plow down the middle or Townsend run into a barrage of defenders down the right.
But the game itself turned on a piece of individual brilliance, and a moment of idiocy from Zozulya and petulance from Vertonghen. Sherwood like so many games before has failed to anything than cheerlead, and if that’s what being a manger is all about I’m sure a lot of us would be quite successful.
Spurs fans have a right to celebrate what was both an impressive and dramatic comeback, but when the dust settles they will probably realise that they got away with one here. But the concern is that Sherwood doesn’t see it like this, and just isn’t learning, speaking after the game he said:
”We’ve come out and done it, won the tie, and we’re looking forward to the next game on Sunday. You’re only as good as your last game. Today we were very good. Last Sunday we weren’t very good”
Spurs were gutsy, but I certainly wouldn’t say they were very good. Hopefully what Sherwood thinks and says to the press are two wholly different things because from my point of view last night showed that very little is being learn by the young manager.
Next up is Benfica, a true test of Spurs’ European pedigree and one where hopefully the club can go a long way to proving their doubters wrong.
Is it a time for joyous celebration at Spurs or maybe time to just appreciate the fact that they got a bit lucky?