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Positives and negatives: Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Fulham

Written by Cameron Ramsey on 24th October 2023

Our winless curse since promotion on Sky Sports continued on matchday number nine and Cam – ruined by London Underground exhaustion – has all the necessary info, like it or lump it.

We could see it coming. Pre-match optimism’s a killer. Venturing to the trenches of North London to face Agne Postecolglu’s high-flying Tottenham Hotspur, Marco Silva’s stuttering Fulham couldn’t cause an upset, live on MNF. Spurs are gonna Spurs at some point this season but we weren’t to spark a downfall, we just didn’t have it in us and it’s the type of loss we’ll have to get used to.

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is by far the best venue I’ve ever visited. They have urinals aplenty, pints that fill from the arse to the head – it’s modern engineering at its finest, but it cannot be home to Premier League champions, not to those irritable dipshits. I know it’s early doors but somebody’s got to give ’em a tanking and for that, we will be there.

Give me clappers over that pathetic trumpet every single time. Call me bitter, a sore loser, I just don’t care, but who’s off to Portman Road in a week’s time in a tournament Spurs simply had to win? That’s right, the super shaggin’ Whites from SW6 and in the meantime, we’re off to the beach with a gaffer that’s with us for the long haul. Catch you Sunday, folks!


The Lukic and Palhinha partnership

Silva fielded a midfield partnership of Sasa Lukic and João Palhinha from the off and truth be told, it actually looked like a pretty good collaboration, and I hope it’s given more time to develop. Lukic has flirted with a starting spot, dislodging Harrison Reed was never going to be straight forward but the Serb, returning from an excellent international break, was mindful in possession, as well as combative when he had to hold his own.

Palhinha was typically demanding of both his teammates and the opposition. Full blooded as ever in touch and go 50/50s, very nearly opening the scoring with a driven header that was pawed away superbly by Guglielmo Vicario, he was expectedly dominant and complicit to all we did well on the night, as he so often is.

As a collective, we didn’t distribute play promptly enough to truly hurt Spurs but both Lukic and our Portugal international were the tidiest contributors. When we had to expand, they lent possession shrewdly and they were constantly available to receive if, inevitably, we couldn’t build offensive patterns effectively. It’s a double pivot that maybe isn’t as gritty as the João and Reed duo we’re accustomed to but I appreciate the variation it provides.

Sasa is only slightly off the pace, extra minutes will certainly sharpen his reactions, nonetheless, there’s definitely a very useful player in the 28-year-old. His care and attention on the ball was evident throughout, Palhinha was duty-bound to disrupt and Lukic entrusted safety and sensibility above all else. He wasn’t a showstopper, his efforts were ordinary and he did the basics to the letter. That, given the clockwork potency of the opposition, was essential and it has to be acknowledged as a plus.


Bassey the blunderer

Piling in on a defender that was playing out of position isn’t entirely fair but escaping the cold fact that he was culpable for both goals is impossible. Calvin Bassey lined up alongside Tim Ream on the right of our central defence, he’s naturally left-sided and given James Maddison’s post-match words, they knew he was a sitting duck and they targeted him.

Bassey’s performance otherwise was actually okay. He was a nuisance in the air and relatively sturdy in physical duels but he was visibly uncomfortable while receiving possession. “C Bass”, in that respect, was very much a fish out of water. His hesitancy was our undoing and with Brighton and Hove Albion up next, Silva has to devise an alternative central defensive partnership because we cannot be subjected to Monday night’s blunderings again.

For Spurs’s first goal, Bassey hooked a doomed clearance into nowhere and the hosts capitalised within an instance, and it was a similar ordeal for their second of the night as well. Clearly, the Nigerian’s right peg is non-existent, as passes rolled across to his weaker foot his stance was awkward, clearances were hacked at and as an attacker, eyes would light up at the sight of his incapability, and so they did.

I understand that most have a preferred foot and are obviously more inclined to favour it but what I can’t comprehend is a professional footballer, worth twenty-odd million quid, that isn’t adept with both feet. It’s illogical. I’d completely understand if Dave down the rec was woeful with his right and a sculptor with his left but we’re talking about a fully fledged international that trains tirelessly day in, day out.

On both occasions where Tottenham pounced, his head was glued to the turf as well, he hadn’t a clue to whom or even where he was scuffing it into, so that twinned with a dodgy right was a recipe for disaster. Then again, there were hardly any unmarked outlets for him to aim for if he had lifted his noggin, perhaps he was trying to adopt the classic “if in doubt, twat it out” method all along, either way, he cannot continue to deputise in Issa Diop’s absence because he simply isn’t equipped to do so.

No bark, no teeth, no bite

Surely Silva’s starting to realise that our striking department is massively inferior. We have one of the lowest chance creation percentages in the division and when we do fashion an opportunity to alter the score line, as it was in north London, we’ve no bark, no teeth and we’ve definitely no bite. Scoring three against Sheffield United – the worst team in the league – shouldn’t gloss over our frigidness in front of the target and we should’ve made so much more of the situations that came our way.

Not much more can be said about Palhinha’s header in the first half, the ‘keeper was on his toes to deflect but moving forward as we overturned possession, passes were picked incorrectly on the counter, sequences fizzled out because we were indecisive and as good as Willian, Bobby De Cordova-Reid and Harry Wilson are in short bursts, hitting Spurs on the break wasn’t worthwhile because they were comprehensively outpaced and contained over any distance longer than 20 meters.

On both sides of the pitch, Antonee Robinson and Timothy Castagne frequently made overlapping runs which unsettled Tottenham’s fullbacks momentarily, but they were soon dealt with as their shape shifted in support and their crossing was either miscued or easily detected. Unzipping Spurs’s organised defence was going to take some serious doing, and there’s a golden opportunity late on in the second 45 that springs to mind, and retinas still sting hours later.

Replacing a suppressed Carlos Vinicius at half-time, Raul Jimenez was threaded into a prime scoring position by Wilson, the Mexican could set himself before boot was planted to ball but his execution stunk of Crystal Palace. Hard and low is always the best policy when lacing across the target, but his effort was struck at the perfect height for Vicario, it lacked venom and conviction and now excuses are running dry.

These aren’t speculative half chances, they’re commonplace, meat and drink scenarios and a striker of his dormant calibre has to be sticking them away, no questions asked. We probably would’ve still lost, pulling a goal back would’ve meant nothing in reality but Jimenez is a man that’s in the pits with zero confidence. Ending his drawn out drought will change everything but he obviously doesn’t back himself, and self-doubt is tough to shake off, especially when personal demons have tormented his performances for three years already.

It wasn’t just Raul that fluffed his lines, though, as in added time, Wilson also had two fairly manageable opportunities to work the target and he wasn’t proactive. Firstly, Willian floated a ball to the backstick and unmarked, the Welshman’s volley cushioned into a Spurs defender, if he’d had intent, it may have cannoned fortuitously. Secondly, in the final few moments, he was one-on-one with Vicario but he dawdled, he didn’t pull the trigger with purpose and it allowed Tottenham’s defence to blockade his effort. Overall our end product was nowhere near good enough and at Motspur Park during the week, shooting practice has to be top of the schedule.

Andreas isn’t irreplaceable

Can’t be sat on the fence here, people. Andreas Pereira has been a peripheral figure for us this season and his inactivity at the toilet seat stadium got him in Silva’s bad books, and it’s been a long time coming. Subbed for Alex Iwobi at half time, Pereira has to take stock of some hard truths and Silva has to make a statement to his team, even to those that were once perceived to be irreplaceable.

He’s never been a consistent creative source, and he’s intended to be a leading influence in the final third, which is worrying to say the least. Purple patches are few and far between, we’re yet to see what the Brazilian can really offer on a regular basis and at Spurs he was artless, one-dimensional and overpowered. A jolt to the system’s needed for Andreas, he has to understand that with Iwobi in contention, his starting spot isn’t a given and at the Amex on Sunday, Silva has to bench him.

Iwobi can cope with transition better than Andreas can. He was prepared to drop deep to retrieve possession and once he’d moved the ball, he searched for unmanned gaps and pockets, a connection between his midfield teammates and our attacking trio. The summer signing isn’t afraid of committing his marker, too, and as our offensive sequences have to become direct, particularly through the middle, Alex could keep Andreas in his shadow for the foreseeable. All it takes is greater game time, and then we’ll know for sure where both attacking midfielders stand in Silva’s set-up.

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