Improvement or improvisation

Fortress

The White Hart Lane fortress continued to evolve this weekend as Mighty Spurs (sic) recorded a pretty good victory over an inconsistent Liverpool side whose title aspirations look to be disappearing as rapidly as Brad Friedel’s hairline (and career).

The line ups

Tottenham lined up as below

Sullivan
Perry Young Thelwell
Carr Clemence
Anderton King
Sherwood
Ferdinand Rebrov
Subs
Walker Freund Vega Armstrong Korsten

Liverpool tried this

Westerveld
Henchoz Hyppia Babbel
Traore Smicer
Murphy Hamann McAllister
Owen Fowler
Subs
Arphexad Gerrard Carragher Barmby Vignal

Statto!

Spurs have now beaten Liverpool at home for the last three seasons, each of the seasons that George Graham has been in charge. Interesting to note that in the 2-1 win in 1998, only three of the players that started that game, started this one (Young, Carr, Anderton). Even more interesting, the Liverpool team on that day in 1998 contains just Fowler and Owen who started yesterday. Even MORE interesting is that out of the sixteen in the Liverpool panel that day, only a further five are still at the club (eh, and Steve Staunton but he doesn’t count).

Ok, enough of the Statto stuff. On to the game.

Da Game

So was it an outstanding, and commanding performance? Eh, no. But it wasn’t bad. The first half hour, Tottenham were fairly dire. My confidence was very low after Liverpool continually twisted a dishevelled looking back three into knots and it was no surprise when Robbie Fowler put Liverpuddle ahead. I feared that the young Alton Thelwell would suffer from the stuffing Spurs were looking like taking, but thankfully the tide turned.

Not being the most confident of Spurs fan, it was of little relief when we drew level. Stephane Henchoz showed what a complete tool he is by playing himself into trouble down the left channel. The pretty quiet Rebrov won the ball and played an insightful back-heel to Stephen Clemence who incisively crossed low for Les Ferdinand to slide home in the six yard box. Westerveld also displayed more evidence of why Liverpool fans are losing confidence in him and calling for the oddly named Pegguy Arphexad (no, really) to get a run in the team. But fair play to Ferdinand, a man not known for MOVING, normally, who got off his arse and put it in the net.

Still Liverpool tried to forge a way through, Gary McAllister, a 36 year old pedestrian-style midfielder, rather embarrassingly one of the best players on show. But it was Spurs who went ahead before half-time.

A long diagonal pass from Carr found Stephen Clemence on the left wing (after an offside Les Ferdinand MOVED away from the goal) and he crossed beautifully for Tim Sherwood to nod a pretty nice goal. I felt a little more confident but still expected a second half onslaught from the Puddle.

It didn’t materialise. Liverpool in fact got worse after the break and while it wasn’t a canter, Spurs were worth their win.

Player by player – Spurs

Neil Sullivan

Pretty solid performance from Sully. He’s been getting a bit of stick recently but he’s probably one of the better keepers in what is a position that is difficult to fill with quality. Made some good saves either side of halftime from Hyppia and Owen, and claimed a couple of crosses very confidently. [Rating 7]

Chris Perry

Short he may be (for a centre back), but he packs a fairly good leap. Coped reasonably well with the pacy front-two of Owen and Fowler. Lucky to get away with a blatant foul on Fowler in the box, although he was fouled in the build up so justice was probably done. Frustrating to watch him pelt the ball into row ZZ in the second half when there was really no need. [Rating 6]

Luke Young

Left trailing by Robbie Fowler for the Liverpool goal, but apart from that put in an excellent performance making a number of superb, no-room-for-error tackles in the box, and tirelessly tidying up behind, and either side, of his centre-back partners. Has come on in leaps and bounds in the last two seasons. [Rating 8]

Alton Thelwell

Was worried about Alton early on, but composed himself after early nerves, and settled down to put in a very solid display. One particularly heart-stopping moment saw him facing his own goal 30-yards out, calmly holding off one of the Liverpool strikers before sliding the ball across his opponent, to a Spurs team-mate. An interception and subsequent goal could have destroyed the young lad but credit to him for the self-confidence he displayed throughout the game. [Rating 7]

Steve Carr

Another outstanding display from a player who has probably become the best right-back in the Premiership without a doubt. I saw a newspaper value him at 5m over the weekend in an attempt to link him to Manure again. Yeah, I reckon he’s worth about the same as Henning Berg and Gary Neville. Constantly bombed down the right wing, murdering any Liverpool opponent he came up against. Liverpool changed their tactics on his side a couple of times in order to try and counter-act his affect. Nothing worked. One particularly excellent moment came as Carr ran the length of the pitch, linking with Anderton and Sherwood before sending a 30-yard chip shot off a post. My man of the match. [Rating 9]

Stephen Clemence

It’s been a long time coming for Son of Ray, but he’s becoming a bit of a first-team star this season. Assisted for both goals and put in some tireless work on the left-hand side. Playing in that hybrid role known as ‘wing-back’, he neither exudes particularly outstanding defensive or attacking capabilities, so he slotted in rather well. Hopefully he’ll get a run ahead of the disappointing Thatcher – maybe you only get a game as a wing back if your initials are SC. [Rating 8]

Ledley King

Another excellent display from a youngster, this time the marginally more experienced Ledley King. Had a quiet first half but played a far more active and effective role in the second half, winning the Sky TV man of the match award. Although a central defender by “trade”, Graham sees him as a midfielder. Hopefully that will be the right decision to develop him along those lines. [Rating 7]

Darren Anderton

Not one of Dazza’s best games. Worked very hard and displayed a great attitude, but his passing, surprisingly, often let him down. Also did not get forward as much as usual and played well behind Tim Sherwood, along with King. [Rating 6]

Tim Sherwood

A slightly better display than of late from the captain. Don’t know what has happened to him this season, but he’s a shadow of himself. Scoring goals is something he has become very adept at and as long as he does that, he might warrant a place in the side. Still needs to get more involved and improve his passing though. [Rating 6]

Sergei Rebrov

It’s been disappointing so far from Sergei, and in fact an uncharacteristic two footed challenge on Danny Murphy, could have been a sign of his frustration. When on the ball, he is undoubted class, but he doesn’t get involved enough, whether that is his fault or his team mates faults. Personally I think it’s a mixture of blame, but we can only hope that such an obvious world-class talent will settle down soon and play to the level he is capable. [Rating 6]

Les Ferdinand

I’ve given Les a bit of stick above, and well, it’s warranted. He did however start MOVING today. Imagine. Played OK, but we should expect more from him. I mean he’s not 40, he’s only 33, and should be able to play to a level far above a present day Lee Chapman or Micky Quinn. Personally I’d play Chris Armstrong ahead of him. [Rating 6]

Subs

Armstrong (for Rebrov) 6

Freund (for Sherwood) 6

Manager

George Graham

Kudos to George for putting in King and Thelwell and they didn’t let him down. I fear that we’ll be back to Vega and Freund next week, but I hope that he has the guts to keep using the kids (at least it’ll give him someone to blame when we get murdered!]. The 3-5-2 tactic worked well once again at home, and much of this is due to the renewed freedom it gives Clemence and Carr on the wing. [Rating 7]

Player by player – Liverpool

Sander Westerveld

Not a hugely impressive performance from the Dutch man. Didn’t have too many saves to make, but when called upon he was slow down to intercept Clemence’s cross that led to the first goal. [Rating 6]

Stephane Henchoz

Poor performance from the former Blackburn player who is struggling in the Premiership. Had a hand in both Tottenham goals . [Rating 5]

Sami Hyppia

A calming, and considerable, influence on the Liverpool defence but is fighting a losing battle with the non-dependable Henchoz and Babbel alongside him. [Rating 6]

Marcus Babbel

Surprisingly poor player considering his reputation. Didn’t seem to do anything particularly well, and while moderately competent, looks to be another in the long line of mediocre centre backs that Liverpool have employed since the mid-80s team moved on. [Rating 5]

Djimi Traore

Young French player with much to learn. [Rating 5]

Vladimir Smicer

Completely outplayed by Carr, and booked for a very bad tackle on the Spurs full-back. Replaced in the second half after being totally ineffective. [Rating 5]

Dieter Hamann

Good player, gets about, very strong and dependable. [Rating 6]

Gary McAllister

Lovely passer of the ball, and displayed much of the little creativity from Liverpool. Probably only effective as a 90-minute player as his flashes of inspiration need time to come to fruition. [Rating 6]

Danny Murphy

For a player whose Liverpool career looked over after Roy Evans left, Murphy has done well to stay well in contention for the first XI. Had a good game but went through the wars after a clash of heads with Thelwell and being the recipient of an awful two-footed challenge from Rebrov. [Rating 6]

Michael Owen

Owen was quiet, but is still trying to get his fitness up. Didn’t look sharp and far too often took a tumble in the box. Not that I’m accusing him of anything… [Rating 5]

Robbie Fowler

Now Robert looked very sharp and was the far better of Liverpool’s two strikers. Clearly on current form he should be the first choice along with Heskey. [Rating 7]

Subs

Barmby(for Smicer] 6

Gerrard [for Traore] 7

Carragher [for Murphy] 6

Manager

Gerard Houllier

I’m not overly impressed with Houllier considering the 60m spent in his tenure so far. Henchoz, Westerveld, Smicer and Babbel do not at this moment look good enough to help Liverpool towards the title. Traore is not developed, Camara not consistent, and inherited players like Carragher and Berger are not the sort of players to set the pulse racing. Liverpool ended up resorting to the long ball in the last 20 minutes when they had run out of ideas. Very disappointing. [Rating 6]

Overview

To be honest, few Spurs fans will be tricked into believing this is anything more than three points in the bag. It’s not the beginning of anything new, or the end of the dismal away form, but it’s nice to get a home win over a real top five side. At home now in the last couple of seasons Spurs have beaten United, Arsenal and Liverpool – something we have struggled to do for many seasons.

The team still look quite shoddy and awkward. The play is not fluid, and the star performers (or potential star performers) can be counted on one hand. A few more TOP QUALITY players are badly needed. And by top quality we don’t mean the likes of Oyvind Leonhardsen, as decent a player as he may be.

And finally…

There is this demand in the British media that fans of all British clubs unite to support other British clubs in their European exploits. The delight and joy portrayed by newspaper headline writers after a particularly good win by Leeds, Arsenal, Chelsea, United or whoever, is meant to spur on the fans of Liverpool, Newcastle, Tottenham or Everton to feel great pride because their Premiership rivals have done it for the glory of Old Blighty.

What a load of toilet.

When United or Arsenal win a game, they win it for United or Arsenal. They don’t win it for England, or for the English game. I want every single other team to lose every game they play. If it was possible for two teams to lose in the same game because I disliked them both, it would be great.

I support one team, and under few circumstances will I root for another. Period. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

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