Middlesbrough v Spurs post-mortem

Middlesbrough 2 Spurs 1

Vantage Point: Setanta Sports, big screen TV.

Middlesbrough

Jones, Wheater, Huth, Pogatetz, Taylor, Aliadiere, Shawky, O’Neil, Downing, Alves (Mido 82), Sanli (Digard 72).
Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Emnes, Adam Johnson, Williams, Grounds.

Booked: Digard.

Goals: Wheater 71, Mido 86.

Spurs

Gomes, Zokora, Dawson, Woodgate, Assou-Ekotto (O’Hara 76), Lennon (Bale 65), Jenas, Modric, Bentley, Giovanni (Berbatov 65), Bent.
Subs Not Used: Cesar, Huddlestone, Gunter, King.

Booked: Jenas, Bentley.

Goals: Huth 90 o.g.

Over 32,000 fans, who packed in to what was, at times, a deserted Riverside Stadium last season, were rewarded by a stirring display by the home side.  Spurs arrived with allusions of grandeur but with few chances created this quickly became delusions.

It is of course early days for everyone in the Premier League and there’s reason why the top of the table now does not resemble how it will look in May.  Tottenham started four new signings: Gomes, Bentley, Giovanni dos Santos and Modric.  Middlesbrough two summer acquistions were on the bench.

Despite having plenty of possession at times, Spurs lacked a cutting edge.  Pre-season goal-machine Darren Bent was left isolated on his own up front – and when he did get the ball his first touch was poor.  The vision was that Spurs would break quickly with dos Santos, Bentley and Modric getting up in support of Bent, over-running Middlesbrough’s midfield and breaking behind their back-four.

But Modric looked unable to beat a player, easily knocked off the ball and rarely attempting a pass longer than 10 yards.  Bentley did a Michael Carrick, delivering poor set piece after set piece.  Giovanni dos Santos looked the best of the three but he’s so slight that the likes of Gary O’Neil and Andrew Taylor are not going to be intimidated.

For their part Middlesbrough were very impressive.  It would be disingenuous to describe them as a bunch of limited cloggers but when an absolute clown like Emanuel Pogatetz manages to look composed and in control you have to ask questions of their seeming more-illustrious opponents.  Gary O’Neil and Mohamed Shawky performed extremely well and in Tuncay Sanli and Afonso Alves they had two players who caused Spurs problems from the start. Ahmed Mido – a former Spurs striker – will have enjoyed his cameo appearance in which he effectively netted the winning goal.

Tottenham player-by-player recap

Goalkeeper

Gomes (Rating 7/10)
The former PSV goalkeeper is known to be a bit eccentric but I don’t think he did anything concerning at all yesterday.  He claimed high balls in to the box and had no chance with the goals.  His distribution was fine, played it short when possible.  The Paul Robinson long-kicks were a thing of the past.

Defence

Zokora (6/10)
He did ok considering he is playing out of position at right-back.  I’m not sure he’s ever going to be good enough to be a regular but he’s not a bad body to have around the place.  In reality he should have been holding in midfield yesterday though.

Assou-Ekotto (6/10)
Caught out of position now and again and given a tough time.  He didn’t do much going forward but wasn’t an embarrassment.  Would prefer if he would settle in and become a capable defender so we could put Gareth Bale in front of him.

Dawson (5/10)
Amazingly, not only got away with nearly rugby-tackling David Wheater in the first half, but had the subsequent goal chalked off for a foul the other way.  Made no sense.  He threw himself at a few balls and blocked well but overall he was as poor as last season.  I had hope for Dawson this year but he doesn’t seem up to it, sadly as he gets outwitted too easily and is too often caught out of position.

Woodgate (7/10)
A very solid performance.  A beacon of hope in a valley of darkness, as such.  Still looks like Gary Mabbutt.

Midfield

Jenas (5/10)
I really don’t buy this Jenas stuff.  There are people on Spurs message boards who swear by the guy, go on about his engine and his ability to notch half a dozen goals a season.  I don’t know why he got a new contract and the captain’s armband – which of course makes his selection more likely?  Really can’t figure him out at all.  Looked lethargic and totally exposed in his role as a holding midfielder.

Modric (4/10)
I’m probably being polite on the marks here.  Some nice touches but no pace, no penetration and no inspiration.  He obviously is a very good player but he’s going to have to get to the point where he’s so good he can just skip past tackles.  As soon as someone leans in to him he’s on his arse.  Must weigh about 7 stone.

Giovanni dos Santos (6/10)
Not bad, looked the best of the new outfield signings.  I didn’t think he would be ready for first-team football yet and he may not be.  But he has shown that he can do a job, maybe more effectively as a substitute right now.

Bentely (5/10)
Carrick II.  Can’t take a corner or free kick to save his life.  Ambled around oozing arrogance.  Thinks he’s Beckahm but he is to Beckham what Richard Digance is to Frank Zappa.

Lennon (6/10)
I don’t think he was exceptionally poor but, while marginally better than last season, was still lacking an end product.  Let’s see how he plays when the team starts to gel.

Attack

Bent (5/10)
Only a small bit of sympathy for him because when the ball did come his way he was guilty of poor control and making the wrong choice.  I don’t want to give up this idea that Bent will work (he’s got the number 10 shirt this season) but it’s going to take a hell of a lot of changes behind him for it to happen.

SUBS
Bale (for Lennon) (5/10)
Nya… linked well with Berbatov a few times.  Nothing special.  Needs to regain fitness after a period out with injury.

Berbatov (for dos Santos) (6.5/10)
You got to give him credit for making a difference when he came on.  Should start the next game, if he’s still here for it.

O’Hara (for Assou-Ekott-out-of-position) (6/10)
Almost scored.  That’s about the size of it.  Maybe not a bad option if Assou-Ekotto is looking exposed too much.

Team for next game at home to Sunderland

Just my own personal view…

Team v Sunderland

The return of Tottenham’s three most naturally gifted players – Berbatov, Bale and King – would make a big difference.  We also need a bona-fide tackler in the middle.  Jermaine Jenas is not the right man for that job (and some might say any job).  Sunderland will come to White Hart Lane in confidence after a good display against Liverpool.  They lack the forwards to trouble Spurs but they will bring three former Spurs players keen to show Ramos what he off-loaded.  Thankfully Chimbonda – judging by his display v Liverpool – is still a time-bomb.

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