Stuttering Spurs


(Olivier Giroud 23)


JUST 30 minutes before Gareth Bale's world-record transfer to Real Madrid was confirmed Monday morning (Singapore time), Andre Villas-Boas was forced to sit in front of the media and explain why his team and those expensive replacements had performed so poorly against Arsenal.

Tottenham, without their star man, were well beaten.

Their fans left the stadium crestfallen. They will be taunted now for months. It was hardly fair on the Spurs manager.

No club could expect to replace a player of Bale's calibre easily, let alone bed their replacements down so swiftly that they could lead their new team to a famous victory at the home of their rivals.

It will take time for his new signings to gel and there is no reason to doubt their quality.

But this was a flat performance indeed.

Tottenham started well and made a point of targeting Carl Jenkinson, a late replacement for the ailing Bacary Sagna.

Break the deadlock

Their midfield looked strong and it seemed only a matter of time before they would break the deadlock.

Instead it was Arsenal who scored first and, despite Villas-Boas' protestations to the contrary, Tottenham never found their stride.

In fact, had it not been for an exceptional performance from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, the scoreline could have been more embarrassing.

Even the introduction of Erik Lamela failed to spark Spurs into life.

For this, there were two major reasons.

Firstly, the failure of their fullbacks.

Defensively Kyle Walker and Danny Rose were given problems, particularly in Rose's case given that he had an inspired Theo Walcott tearing at him.

Offensively they were both wasteful, particularly in Walker's case given that he kept launching wayward crosses and, on one occasion, walloped a good chance miles over the bar.

Secondly, there was no movement from their midfield into their attack.

Last season, this was rarely a problem because of the phenomenal form of Bale.

This season, it's a little harder.

Etienne Capoue, Paulinho and Moussa Dembele all struggled to impose themselves on the Arsenal midfield, being repeatedly caught flat-footed by their counter-attacks and never being able to threaten the defence as they did against Swansea last week.

Successful attacking moves are built on experience and understanding and that will take time to develop. It will take even longer now that Capoue has been ruled out for a lengthy period.

When the likes of Lamela and Paulinho get 10 or more games together, they will progress swiftly. Transitions like this are not completed overnight.

For Tottenham supporters, still stinging with frustration at the way their team fell short, it is important to keep in mind the great steps they have taken.

They have a physically powerful, talented squad of footballers and a sense of direction.

They have all aspects of the club working in unison, a connected director of football handling recruitment with the help of a supportive chairman.

A gifted, intelligent manager controlling coaching and tactics.

Bale's loss will hurt them grievously, but it would do the same to any club.

What matters is how they react and, by anyone's standards, they have reacted well. That good judgment will not be overturned by one bad performance and one painful result.

Tottenham lost the game, but they will push Arsenal all the way for a Champions League place.

Bale's departure will not be the end.

In north London, there is a feeling that this battle is only just beginning to heat up.

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