Football’s all about sequences sometimes. Look hard enough and you find pattern. A team regularly following the pattern of winning, will more than likely win the league. Particularly in the Premier League, a team following a pattern of defeats will see the league ruthlessly take advantage and heap more despair on the teams run.
And then there’s more subtle patterns. Details that somehow keep repeating. Thanks to fellow match reporter Rob Kaye in spotting this, the run of Premier league results at White Hart Lane follow a pattern. Starting with Geovanni’s winner in the 0-1. Boaz Myhill’s goalkeeping master class in the 0-0. Ahmed Elmohamady harshly penalised seeing us lose 1-0, then last time losing 2-0.
Yes there’s a Premier League pattern happening when City visit White Hart Lane.
Following the weekends much improved performance, Mike Phelan cards the same starting 11…
Maguire Dawson Davies
Livermore Clucas Huddlestone
December’s not a great month for a mid week fixture. Companies are holding Christmas parties, seeing staff wander in the next day with stinking hang-overs, barely able to function whilst drifting out of a slumber. The collective parties of Tottenham and Hull City must have had an effect on the pitch as the two sides dozed through the early exchanges.
Tottenham are very much playing within themselves, keeping tight possession at the back and occasionally playing forward. The ex-Spurs contingent in the City side are clearly stepping their own personal performances at their former footballing home.
The first action of the game sees Sissoko break clear, but as he shapes to shoot, Jake Livermore gets a block in. Soon after another Spurs break after they defend Tom Huddlestone’s free kick with Wanyama releasing Eriksen up the right, Huddlestone covering his defenders well to get the clearing block in.
It’s not long before Spurs take the lead. A long ball forward sees Rose charge up his left wing, to be faced by the backtracking Elmohamady. He cuts inside the Egyptian, before passing into Eriksen to side foot past the exposed David Marshall.
Fired up by this Spurs attack with more purpose, Alli trying a long shot that’s easily collected by Marshall. Sissoko also runs at the City back line before being felled by Curtis Davies, whose name is taken. The resulting free kick is put wide by Eriksen.
With the ex-Spurs players putting in the more eye catching performances, one who stands out in these early exchanges is Huddlestone. Tracking back to help his defence, driving forward to try and create something. This however comes to a very sudden stop, as he blocks another Spurs attack, before going down, screaming out and holding his hamstring. He was soon back up and ran this injury off, bur from that point in the game he very much became a shadow of his former self. However whilst Huddlestone was down, City managed their first attack. Maguire had put in a typical firm challenge and cleared the ball to the advancing Livermore, unfortunately his weak effort was easily claimed by Lloris.
By now, City are dragging themselves back into the game. Perhaps given more space by Spurs only pressing when we’re deep in their territory, the Tigers are passing the ball about with more confidence. However the one failing of the line-up is time and again exposed. Adama Diomande is expected to single handedly lead the front line. Whilst he does this, frustratingly he’s never given enough support to make this count.
Whilst City are enjoying more of the play, Spurs are playing with more purpose. Attacking with greater speed than we offer. Maybe that’s their game plan, try and draw out the back three before hitting City on the break. And it works, a long ball up finds Alli who initially wrong foots Marshall, before he contorts himself back to palm the shot wide of the post.
One feature of Harry Maguire is his once per match rampage up field, a sea of opposing players lay behind the young centre back as he powers through. Spurs have a player of their own doing this. Vertonghen tries his own ‘Maguire run’, turning the City side inside and out, until he reaches the past master of this art. Big Harry sticks out a firm boot, stopping the Belgian in his tracks.
Half time allows me to reflect on the match. Spurs are very much trying to pin City’s two wing backs back, yet are still in first gear. City for all their passing endeavour are still too deep and offering Diomande no support. As a result, City rarely threatening the Spurs goal.
Looking around, White Hart Lane is changing. The trip into the ground sees the skeleton of the new ground taking shape. Inside the corner opposite the one housing City’s away following has been demolished ready for the new stadium. Apparently the new stadium will be the biggest Football ground in London (Wembley aside). They also have plans to make this the most connected ground in the country, in a bid to aid the fan experience. Can you imagine that, a football club trying to improve a supporters match day experience. Now why would they want to do that? Do Tottenham not know how supporters should be treated? This does lead to a question for you Ground Tickers. Once Spurs start to use the new White Hart Lane ground, am I allowed to claim it as a ticked ground, or will I lose my Spurs claim until such time we visit the new layout? I guess this question has only really been posed once before when Bournemouth rotated Dean Court
The half time break also offered the usual chance for the substitutes to warm up on the field. Conspicuous by his absence, Ryan Mason is not taking part with his colleagues, offering a suggestion he may come on at half time. Spurs are taking this opportunity a little differently. Either their substitutes are extremely short, or they’ve just dragged out a bunch of local kids to have a half time pass about. As the teams returned to the field of play, City’s starting 11 lined up. Maybe Mason spent half time collecting his old belongings from his locker.
City start the second half well. A strange goal kick tactic from Spurs sees them pass the ball short, allowing Andy Roberson to nip in and win a corner. The corner is headed by Maguire off a Spurs head, winning another corner, this one finding Michael Dawson at the far post, going behind for a goal kick. Again Spurs try the short kick routine, giving Diomande a chance to catch them out. Soon after, Spurs abandon this tactic.
Other than the ex-Spurs players, the other stand out in the City side is Sam Clucas. Defensively he’s providing an effective shield to the back line, up front he’s a willing runner trying to support Diomande up front.
Robert Snodgrass’s newly acquired reputation precedes him after Wanyama concedes a soft free kick. Wanyama is clearly enrages at the Scot, claiming it wasn’t a foul, but the ref still awarding it. With this being one of the games that passes Snodgrass by, his woeful freekick is easily cleared.
Within minutes, City are offered a chance to get back on levels terms. A Spurs player is felled just inside the box, with them appealing for a penalty and the referee waving play on, City break with Livermore bursting through into the Spurs box. His first shot is blocked, before rebounding back out to him. His follow up shot is again goal bound before Vertonghen clears off the line.
After Alli is replaced by Winks, the match is up for City. Walker gets up his wing far too easily, playing the ball along the edge of the 6 yard box. With the static defence unable to clear, Eriksen pokes in at the back post.
This goal has knocked City’s confidence. Spurs are starting to step up a gear and take the game to the Tigers. Even Walker’s having pot shots from a distance
Despite his good performance, Clucas is removed for Mason to give our midfield trio a complete Spurs reunion. Whilst I’ve recently tried to defend Mason, claiming he’s playing out of position, he came on in his preferred position, hopefully fired up against his former side. He then proceeded to spend the next 24 minutes emulating the final appearance of Ben Arfa at Old Trafford. Rarely have I seen a player come on and offer so little. In effect, City may have played the rest of the match out with 10 players.
Topping this off, Spurs soon get their third. Whilst an amber tinted view may suggest Maguire cleanly tackles Rose, a free kick was given on the edge of the area. With Eriksen sensing a hat-trick, he positioned himself with a very angled run-up. As a result the City wall looked badly out of position. Eriksens shot looped over the bar and Marshall got his finger tips to the ball, but it crashed off the post and dropped down for Wanyama to tap in.
With City well beaten, Spurs started to rest players withdrawing Kane for Son. City did similarly, ready for the weekends trip to the Olympic Park with Livermore withdrawn for David Meyler.
Spurs tails are really up now. The City defence and midfield are lines up on the 18 yard line, leaving Diomande further isolated up front. Shots are still coming in and Marshall’s having to do well to save through the sea of legs in front of him.
The few times Diomande does get a chance, the Spurs defenders are able to double up on him, so his continual attempts to trick past them are very easily defended. Jarrod Bowen did come on in place of Snodgrass to at least give Diomande someone to talk to. However with the rest of the team so far back, even using semaphore wouldn’t get the message “Kick the flipping ball to me” would struggle to get the message to the rest of the team.
By now, Spurs were happy to see the game out. Onomah replaced Sissoko and their players finished off their job well done.
Leaving the ground on the train north from White Hart Lane, I was talking to another City fan. He’s remained in attendance this season, whereas I’ve given up funding the ghastly two at the head of the club. His view was that this was a good City performance, at least compared to recent matches at Middlesbrough. I saw this as a poor performance, not referencing other games.
And so the highlighted sequence continues. 0-1, 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 3-0. Is it worth putting money down now on a 4-0 defeat for our next visit to White Hart Lane? Or is it too optimistic to suggest City will return to a league fixture there any time soon?
James Lockwood (report first appeared on the Tiger Chat mailing list)