Strength and depth

looks weak and shallow.

Keep hearing Spurs have great strength and depth to the squad then I keep seeing Steven Pienaar on the bench and the illusion is destroyed.

It was certainly tested yesterday as Spurs faced the resurgent Sunderland – can you be resurgent after just one win against Blackburn? Or just another case of Martin O’Neill’s media mates in full hyperbole? – without their wide men. Bale missing from the start, after spraining is ankle in training, and Lennon hobbling off with a hamstring injury half an hour into the game.

There might be some depth there if ‘Arry was more trusting of the youngsters rather than his normal modus operandi of shifting people out of position to deal with absentees. With Bale missing from the left it would have been preferable to stick someone out there other than Modric – and Pienaar, but that’s a given anyone but Pienaar. Modric needs to be in the middle, with Sandro and especially Parker in there the lack of guile really hampers the play. What is the point of making our most gifted play-maker a peripheral figure? Yes I want to see Sandro get games but not to disrupt the whole setup.

Stick a kid in there, yes I know they played in the Europa League on Thursday but it was only Shamrock Rovers and this was only Sunderland, O’Neill or not still the same bunch of bums that have struggled along this season. Stick Andros Townsend on the left as a replacement. OK it’s not a direct like for like job but he’s got pace, he can get a cross over and after that cracking goal against Shamrock he’ll be full of confidence, what better time to stick him in there. And it wouldn’t mean disrupting a winning formula. Or they could have used Rose who was on the bench, in front or behind BAE.

Anyway the way ‘Arry went wasn’t working. Spurs we were told by the commentators come out of the traps all guns blazing. Nope. ‘Arry may have banned the traditional Chrimbo knees up but it looked like those in white had had broken curfew. Greyhound nobbling 101, they looked like dogs that had been given a little tot of booze and had chewing gum stuck to their foot rather than a had hot mustard slapped on their bollocks.

Slow, lethargic, profligate. It was all there from the start. It all just started to get on the up when one burst from Lennon resulted in him looking to the sideline and indicating he wasn’t going to be carrying on. So more re-jigging was required by ‘Arry. Thoughts of Pienaar flashed through everyone’s mind. But no he was bringing on Pavlyuchenko, well once Pav had patted down his hair. Now with the way things were going a shift in formation like the previous game against Stoke could have been the way to go. Move Sandro into a back three alongside Gallas and Ledley, Modric inside and Assou-Ekotto/Walker further up as wing-backs. Though Benny’s crossing on the day left a lot to be desired, he did end up playing more as a winger but was let down by his final ball. One particular run he should have found the three Spurs players in the box early but waited and waited until the space was all cut down.

That’s if you brought on Pav, but personally I was wishing Iago Falque was on the bench. Would just love to see him given a run out. Let loose. As with what I said earlier it was only Sunderland and the kid has something about him, something that in a tight game likes this that can make a difference.

I was beginning to wish this more and more the more Pav touched the ball. Rusty and indifferent. One chance in particular he should have done a lot better with. His strike partner was doing much better either. Rusty and indifferent meet lazy and offside. Spurs had six offsides, pretty much all when the ball was played back and Adebayor was slowly making his way somewhere near an onside position. Something he did regularly without much haste.

Sunderland meanwhile had created some chances. Friedel had more to do in the first half, well that wasn’t hard as their ‘keeper didn’t have a single shot to save as Spurs didn’t get anything on target before the interval. Sunderland had one glorious chance to open the scoring but the cross was just behind the advancing Richardson.

Second half started just as sloppily, it was if they’d come out with a one or two goal lead. Some calling for Sandro to be hooked, yet his surging runs forward were the only things coming from the middle of the park. Oh but a couple of passes went astray, just as from Parker, who had offered far less than just stats padding back passes, but one of them gets a free pass. Sandro with few games under his belt was looking more and more like the beast he is.

After a good chance for Sunderland to open the scoring when Colback dithered instead of shooting, a nice bit of pressing saw the ball gifted to Parker, to Modric, nice ball to van der Vaart, lovely pass to Pav and bang. What we know we can get from Pav but what we know we don’t see enough of. It had taken an hour but Spurs were now bossing things, van der Vaart had been shifted right but was coming inside as had Modric, who should have wrapped it all up. Another beaut from van der Vaart – It wasn’t van der Vaart’s only lovely pass, one cross field ball to BAE was Hoddlesque – and Adebayor was through a good save from his shot fell to Modric who couldn’t control it and spooned it high over the bar.

As with so many games where Spurs had got on top of the opposition chances were being created but just not taken. In the end Spurs had about two thirds of possession but the shots on target was an equal four apiece – I really don’t know where the BBC got their stats of 12 attempts on target by Spurs.

So grinding out a win with a couple of key players missing – hopefully Bale back soon, Lennon may be missing for a bit – and the rest not playing at their best, back up to third and still that game in hand. Just all the Chrimbo games to get through now…

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