A game meandering to a one nil loss, at best. A season petering out into disappointment. Changed in seven minutes by one manager introducing three players and awakening another.
After an initial bright few minutes by the host, they looked up for it, Citeh broke forward, Tevez getting the better of Vertonghen who should have done better. The Argentinian then played a ball through to Milner, completely lost by Parker who finally caught up with his England colleague and fouled him in the box well after Milner had passed to Nasri for the opening goal.
From that moment it looked like game over as those in white meandered through the motions.
A pedestrian performance not helped by starting two players down. Yes the usual suspects. Scapegoats you scream. No, just two players who make the side worse. Parker and Adebayor.
Parker slows up everything and butchers any forward momentum. Prime example in acres of space in the Citeh half with plenty of simple forward outlets, running and passing, he does one of those inane pirouettes and proceeds to pass back half way into the Spurs half. Of course those simple forward outlets are simple for others but I lost count of the number of times Spurs players had to stretch out to take a five yard pass from Parker.
The other just loped around uninterested for most of the afternoon. Slow of thought and deed. Hiding in plain sight and with the amazing inability to trap a bag of sand. Footballers need a focal point. Even teams like Barcelona with their false nine have Messi, when playing, who is their focus. Look at the recent Champions League games against PSG, without the goal machine they lost focus. There’s no way you can focus on a big dolt dragging himself into places he can be of no danger.
With absolutely no pace – and no intention of putting a spurt in – it didn’t matter about the lack of width fans were screaming about. For width to work you need someone there in the middle to take advantage. When that player is yards from the box, hiding behind a couple of defenders what has wide player on the ball to do?
Spurs had the ball but did nothing with it. The odd half chance here and there but nothing to give you the confidence they were going to turn things about. While at the other end Lloris again was showing what an asset he is with some sharp saves and incisive smothering of danger.
Things were just going on smoothly for Citeh with help from the home side and the ref. The latter should have sent Nasri off for an over the ball challenge on Walker – but then he could have done BAE for a two footed that luckily for him Zabaleta didn’t overplay it.
Then with an hour gone AVB made the difference. Removing Sigurdsson who hadn’t featured really and well at first it looked like Dempsey – which brought a sigh here – but was in reality Parker – which brought a cheer – for Holtby and Huddlestone.
With the new personnel came a shift in formation. From 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 which has worked better lately. Bale was now on the right and there was more emphasis on looking forward. There was only one more thing required. The removal of Adebayor. That did take 10 minutes to come. It was the final piece of the puzzle.
With Holtby providing the snap in midfield, chasing down, harassing, harrying and causing Citeh more problems than Parker had in the previous hour, Huddlestone was providing the forward momentum that other player doesn’t give you.
Now yes I criticised Huddlestone early in the season. He did seem to come on late in games and Spurs immediately conceded a goal with him being close to the scorer. Parkeresque. But the last few games he’s come on and changed things for the better, providing some impetus. It also helps that his introduction results in Dembele moving forward and being far more influential in better areas. Don’t know why they seem to play with Parker more advanced than Dembele.
All three substitutes played a major part in what followed.
The Kraken awakes. But it all started with the awakening of the monster.
A ping out to BAE from Dawson – one thing not covered by the Adebayor apologists was the lack of aimless humps up the park once he was removed – His cross was cleared to Walker, initially looking like he would centre the ball he knock it out to Bale. A beautiful outside of the left boot cross right across the danger area was met by Dempsey at the back post.
All the Dempsey haters too busy celebrating that yet again he turned up in the right place at the right time. Three goals against the top two sides. Three important goals. One winner and two equalisers.
Four minutes later after more midfield harrying Hotly played a great ball to Defoe – a focal point and one with pace who could run the defence. Bizarrely shown inside by Kompany the striker struck. A glorious shot. The type that makes you think he should be undroppable until you remember all those offsides, hit ‘keepers and woodwork.
Citeh were gone. Spurs were flying and the coup de grâce was delivered three minutes on. Huddlestones sublime ball bisecting two Citeh defenders to Bale – speaking of flying – and the Welshman dinks the ball over Hart to finish things off in style.
It’s no embarrassment to lose to the current league champions who assembled at great cost were at the time were 10 points clear in second place but this was meek capitulation. A performance that would have signalled the end of the season’s hope. Seven minutes changed all that.
Yes AVB may have got his starting XI wrong but he changed that and changed it dramatically. Can, will he learn from it? I do hope so. The less defensive formation, with players who look forward first, players with pace, it’s when Spurs are at their best. It may have only lasted 7 minutes but it was enough to blow Citeh away. It would have done it to most teams.