Are the excuses at Spurs starting to wear thin – Have your say!

Football FanCast columnist Dan Mitchell attempts to dissect another
woeful Spurs performance and wonders if squad upheaval is really to blame.

So, after
yet another limp performance from Spurs Juande Ramos reckons the blame lies in
recent squad upheaval, much like he thought the Sunderland and Middlesbrough
showings did. Funny that. I thought the blame lay in poor defence, a lack of
creativity, a strong (though thankfully
misfiring
) opposition, and just a bit of poor management…

I truly
despaired watching Spurs Monday night clash with Villa. Here was a Spurs team
very near to full strength, playing at home against an Aston Villa side
determined to squander every chance they got to bury the game, and they still
couldn't muster a result. In fact they couldn't even manage a half decent stab
at gaining some points and shifting themselves from the foot of the table. What
is going so wrong with Spurs?

It's
early in the season are the cries of the optimists, and there were two
debutants playing who need to gel with a team full of new faces. This is true
of course. However is it a legitimate excuse for yet another poor choice of
line-up from Ramos? Is it an excuse for the fact that Spurs created only one
decent chance in 90 minutes of football? Is it an excuse for the fact that all
of the creative players that Spurs are meant to now have on their books could
barely pass the ball when they got near the Villa box? Not to me.

Many
things went wrong with Spurs today:

Line-up

The
line-up looked reasonably promising at first glance. Two strikers and the
strongest back 5 available to us are not something I'm used to seeing on a
Ramos teamsheet nowadays. However the strange midfield once again left the team
unbalanced. Playing Modric, Hudd and Zokora with Lennon meant that both flanks
were horribly exposed to Villa counterattacks. Something which happened in the
Boro game mere weeks ago.

The only
way to pull off that kind of formation is by having a strong tackling
midfielder who is prepared to move across to both sides to protect the full
backs when the opposition have the ball.

I am no
fan of Jenas, but I would certainly take him over Zokora in a midfield which
already contains Huddlestone. Bentley's exclusion was a strange one, but Lennon
did a decent job and I don't like it when Bentleys stuck out on the left.
However with 3 centre mids the team had no width or balance and suffered for
it.

There
were two men on to do the defensive job in the Spurs midfield, and they both
failed. Tom Huddlestone is about as mobile as a dump truck and, despite being
6'2 and 12 stone, is incredibly lightweight in a tackle. Alongside him was
Didier Zokora, a man who is much more mobile but who seems to spend the
majority of his time running aimlessly up and down the pitch without making any
significant offensive or defensive contributions.

The first
goal epitomised the failings of these two players in particular. Huddlestone,
having moved across to the right to offer Corluka some cover, merely stuck his
leg out at Ashley Young as he easily outmanoeuvred the Tottenham man. Corluka
was forced to move forwards to stop Young moving inside into a position which
Zokora should have been covering, but which he instead was jogging towards in a
disinterested sort of manner. Young consequently slipped the ball out to
Agbonlahor who drilled a ball low across the box where Spurs second major
failing came into play…

Defensive Frailties

The back
5 which I had been so happy to see on the team sheet had a very poor showing,
with the exception of Gareth Bale.

When that
Young ball came in from the left both centre backs allowed themselves to be
dragged across towards the near post and a miscued flick from Gareth Barry (who should have been shadowed by Modric)
ended at Reo-Coker's feet, who stuck the ball in the back of the net before
Bale and Gomes could recover their positions.

The back
5 were also responsible for Villas second goal, though Gomes in particular
obviously must take the largest portion of blame. Whilst Dawson did a miserable
job of closing down Ashley Young, you would have expected a Conference
goalkeeper to deal with Young's tepid shot, let alone the £8m Gomes. However
the Brazilian had a moment of indecision as to how to try and get to the ball
and in that moment the ball was under him.

On top of
the goal blunder Gomes again showed his penchant for punching the ball. Whilst
he generally did a good job of doing this there were many occasions when the
catch would have been the more simple and safe option. Call me old-fashioned
but I like my goalkeepers to catch crosses, something which Gomes displayed he
was fully capable of against Chelsea.

Corluka
and Dawson both had shaky games and even the usually imperious Woodgate had an
off day. Perhaps the added pressure of the captains' armband affected him, but
I would hope not as he does seem the perfect candidate to be wearing it on a
weekly basis when King is unfit.

Overall
the defence found themselves undone by Villa too frequently and were it not for
a couple of decent Gomes saves and some horrendous finishing, the game could
have been over at half time. As it was the final score of 1-2 was extremely
flattering to Spurs.

Villa's Performance

Whilst
Spurs were poor, Villa deserve plenty of credit for an assured display in which
their defence in particular was superb. In the periods of the game where Spurs
took control and began pumping crosses and long balls into the box Laursen and
Davies won almost every header. The one time they let Bent get away from them
turned out to be the one good chance Spurs had in the game, and Bent squandered
it.

Davies in
particular was fantastic and would have been my joint pick for MOTM along with
Gareth Barry.

Barry
epitomises what a good professional footballer should be. He wanted a move to
Liverpool this summer, and when he didn't get it he didn't kick up a fuss and
refuse to play. Instead he has knuckled down and continued to do the
outstanding job for Villa that he has been doing for years. He tracked back
wonderfully and muscled Spurs midfielders off the ball. He also initiated many
of Aston Villas counterattacks and showed off a wide array of passing skills
that no-one in the Spurs team came close to matching.

Villa
deserved a far better result that 2-1 and it was only a couple of superb pieces
of defensive work by Bale, a couple of big saves from Gomes, and one
particularly astounding block from Jenas which stopped the game being an
absolute drubbing. Whilst Spurs had a lot of possession they never ever looked
like scoring, whereas when Villa moved forwards they looked dangerous, if not
very clinical.

Villa
have a good manager, good chairman and a good squad and should certainly be
getting a UEFA cup spot. If they continue their progress then I feel along with
Man City they should be the big challengers to the top 4.

Lack of Spurs Creativity

Remember
the two 5th place finish seasons? How Spurs managed to play some
wonderful pass and move football and generally uphold our clubs fine tradition
of playing the right kind of football? Whatever happened to that? It said everything
about today's game that Spurs goal came from a deflection off of a player
facing the wrong way.

It is
only very occasionally now that you see Spurs playing with the kind of panache
they used to. Indeed when they do show some style they don't seem to be going
forward with it any more, instead just holding the ball in midfield waiting for
someone to do something with it.

In Modric
we have an established international playmaker, yet he is still to make a
significant contribution. Huddlestone can hit a wonderful pass but he simply
doesn't do it enough to justify his shortcomings. Zokora is Zokora, he runs a
lot and occasionally beats people, but if you want to create a goal he is not
the man to turn to.

With no
Berbatov and Keane the Spurs midfield can no longer rely on two world-class
strikers bailing them out with pieces of magic every game. Instead they have to
create the chances, and so far this season they have not looked particularly
good at it.

The 3
wide-men, Bentley, Lennon and Gio were the only real sources of excitement when
Spurs went forward. However the Villa defence generally did a good job of
stopping the runs getting too far and when they did get the ball in, all 3 did
a pretty poor job of it. Lennon's problems with crossing are well established
and I never expected much better from Gio. However Bentley was a superb crosser
of the ball at Blackburn and he simply hasn't shown it at Spurs yet. Whilst his
set pieces have improved somewhat since the Boro game they are still nowhere
near the standard of his Blackburn exploits.

The Good
Points

Set piece
delivery would go down as one of the crumbs of comfort in this game for Spurs
fans though. Tottenham have been poor at getting corners and free kicks into
the box since Anderton left but today it looked as though Spurs had 3 good
dead-ball men. Bale regularly whipped in good balls and Huddlestone did a
surprisingly good job on corners. When Bentley came on he was OK, but I expect
more to come from him. Had Spurs been up against a less well-marshalled defence
than that of Aston Villa they may well have had some joy from set pieces.

Gareth
Bale was probably the only major plus point to take from a poor game. He got
down the left flank well, put in some good crosses both in open play and from
dead-ball situations, and also made some wonderful defensive contributions.
Twice he was forced to track back Agbonlahor and both times he stayed with the
pacy Villa man and neutralised the threat.

Beyond
these things it was slim-pickings for Spurs fans looking for something to
savour. After a poor performance from both the players and the manager I only
hope that things will get better. Wigan is certainly a game Spurs should be
winning and may be the perfect springboard for Spurs to kick-start their
Premiership season.

However
after Monday's performance I find I am getting somewhat tired of the Ramos
Revolution. It may still be in its infancy, but it's looking more and more like
another false dawn with every passing game.

So, do
you agree with my views on the game? Am I just a cynical so and so or am I a
realist? Feel free to comment below and I will do my best to respond to any
interesting/relevant points.