Sunday evening saw two mammoth games take place, and two mammoth results as well. After Chelsea outsmarted Arsenal to a win 2-1 victory, the attention shifted to the snow clad White Hart Lane, where two teams in red hot form took on each other. With Manchester City having picked up three points on Saturday, United were under a little bit of pressure to maintain their seven point lead.
With Arsenal having dropped points against Chelsea earlier in the day, it was up to Spurs to extend their lead over their rivals and put pressure on Everton who play Southampton on Monday. The Chelsea game set it up perfectly, and what came of it wasn’t short of a Super Sunday indeed.
A last minute equalizer from Clint Dempsey that almost felt like a winner for Spurs fans ensured that both teams got a deserved point from the game, but from those who witnessed it, Spurs were clearly the more dominant force throughout the game. Sir Alex learned from his mistakes at Old Trafford and set up his side extremely well against Spurs. With Carrick and Jones sitting in front of the back four in a free defensive role, Manchester United were able to put pressure on any Spurs player who had the ball.
While that limited the options up front for the Manchester side, Cleverley, Kagawa and Welbeck provided the energy and legs to feed the side going forward. However each time United did venture forward, they did seem a little thinly spread out and the mighty Dawson and Caulker ensured that Lloris wasn’t too troubled throughout the game.
The game was a battle in the midfield, one where Parker, Dembele, Jones and Carrick went at each other and as fans from both sides would put it, there was no foul play from either side. The game was played in good spirit, there weren’t any untoward moments and all in all it was a top class competition with a fitting result. But what do Spurs take away from this game?
One of the major takeaways is that Spurs rise to the occasion when needed. Players like Lennon, Dembele and Dawson realized that they needed to put in a shift today so they worked extra hard to ensure that United were kept at bay. Lennon and Bale tracked back and streaked forward, while the little fellow managed to wreak havoc on one of the flanks and set up the final crucial goal. Dawson, while slow, played to his strengths and ensured that nothing went past him, every time he got his boot to the ball it either went flat to his own player, or soared into the sky and landed within reach for De Gea to gather.
With Vertonghen not named in the starting eleven, eyebrows were raised at AVB not picking his top center back. However, as became increasingly obvious, the height and strength of Caulker was vital in the Spurs defence and the tackling and firing the ball away from goal coming from Dawson was crucial. Assou-Ekotto not in the starting line up was a wise choice as well, as in the final half hour in place of Naughton he looked rusty and a little bit lost at times.
But two things were blatantly obvious for Spurs. Firstly, with a stellar 25 shots against United’s 5 with both getting a goal each, something has to be said about the efficiency. Spurs had twice the amount of corners and four times the amount of shots on goal. One of the major problems for Spurs right now is Defoe. On his day, Defoe is a match-winner, and when it’s not his day, he’s the most frustrating player on the pitch.
The problem is, his days have again become few and far between.
The second problem for Spurs comes in the final third. While each attacking player in the Spurs side has great ability with the ball and would be regarded as a top player in the league; once they’re faced with a wall of defenders, they instantly run out of ideas and start going sideways or backwards. Dembele shows a little promise getting past players, but he has no one to set up with a final ball, given that Defoe is waiting for the ball 25 yards from goal so he can score a screamer.
Holtby couldn’t come sooner for Spurs, and the need for an out and out finisher is the need of the hour. A player like Ruud van Nistelrooy would get a hat-trick in each game he played for Spurs, the quality of service is just so high in that side right now. Someone who has the ability to get away from his marker, make a run and just tap the ball into the net would work wonders at the Lane.
If Spurs are unable to get their hands on a striker in the next ten days, the final few months in the league are going to be extremely testing and more trying that they need to be. They can only hope that Adebayor picks up on some form while he’s at the Africa Cup of Nations, because Defoe is adamant that he will not change his style of play and adapt.
That being said, if Spurs manage to hold on to Bale for another season and bolster their squad in the summer as has been planned by Levy, a fourth place finish wouldn’t be the height of their ambition in the league.