For such a vociferous critic of the fixture calendar, paradoxically, Andre Villas-Boas will almost certainly, ahead of this tricky Capital One Cup tie, be grateful that Spurs have had two outings beforehand.
Those fixtures at Villa and at home to Sheriff in the Europa League will provide the biggest indicators possible that the Tottenham squad has overcome the shattering effect of the 3-0 home defeat to West Ham. In the same way one swallow doesn`t make a summer one reverse, so early in the campaign, isn`t a harbinger of doom and gloom but it certainly introduced an element of intense examination into the attitude of Spurs players and how they approach a game.
It was as much the manner of the West Ham defeat as the actual loss that worries Tottenham fans. West Ham hadn`t even scored an away goal before their three at the Lane. And the brilliant success of Sam Allardyce’s tactical plan, getting bodies behind the ball, clearly frustrated AVB’s lads who struggled to think of ways and means to break that approach down. The players seemed uncertain how to react to West Ham and were certainly unsettled by the Hammers.
West Ham boss Sam Allardyce said afterwards that he felt it was the home fans who perhaps expected an easy game, not the Spurs players, but let`s face it he was being diplomatic. That is why the way they approach the two games prior to Hull will be significant.
On the face of it Spurs at home to Hull would be a home win in most people’s minds but as Hull showed in winning at Newcastle they are not to be underestimated.
The success of Sam’s plan that bore such autumnal fruit at White Hart Lane will not have been lost on Steve Bruce. Pound for pound, and a lot of them have been spent at White Hart Lane in recent times, Spurs have the better squad which comprises better players. But hard work, as West Ham proved, augmented by skill, can win the day. Hull may have less able players, though Tom Huddlestone may have a particular axe to grind, but have enough ability to augment Bruce`s work ethic and again provide Spurs with a tough mental and physical examination.
Final word has to come from Sam Allardyce. He is a no-nonsense, pragmatic man who brought those attributes to his playing career. Steve Bruce is cast from the same mould. After his team`s hammering of Tottenham Sam said that if you went into a Premier League game thinking it was going to be easy “you get your backside kicked and Spurs got their backside kicked.”
Steve Bruce will no doubt suggest to his players, privately of course, that maybe Spurs will have a complacent element in their approach to the Capital One Cup tie but he will still insist on a work ethic.
Tottenham, as a club, seem to have a different mentality from the Premier League when it comes to cup football, as indicated by their trophy successes down the years. Maybe it`s time to adopt a more pragmatic `taking each game as it comes` approach. That way cup football may lead to greater success when it comes to chasing Premier League trophies. It may take less games to win a cup, the winners of this tie enter Round 5 of the Capital One Cup, but winning is a good habit to get into.
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