Sunday, 20 March 2011
Not with a bang... but with a 0-0 draw at home to West Ham
Well that was utterly shit, thoroughly depressing and entirely predictable.
Let's start, annoyingly perhaps, with some credit for West Ham. They defended pretty well, created one or two more than decent chances, Robert Green made some maddeningly good saves and, yes, Scott Parker is a fucking pain to play against.
But, they could have had no complaints if we'd won. Our profligacy played as big a part as their obdurateness in keeping their goal in tact. It wasn't 'a classic away performance' - it was a limited team battling hard and getting (a bit) lucky. And it was frustrating as fuck.
The game threw up three main talking points: Jermain Defoe, the race for fourth and, perhaps less obviously, Rafael van der Vaart.
1) Jermain Defoe
It seems his two goals against Wolves may have been blips. The question being asked at the ground yesterday was, If he doesn't give us goals, what does he give us? Anyone?
He actually started off looking quite lively. When Bale got free down the left Defoe darted in front of the defender and improvised a very smart little angled shot that just rolled past the far post. After that, however...
The Lennon rebound chance? I mean sorry, but what the fuck happened there? It was an open goal from four yards. Rather than just side-foot it in he opted instead for the harder alternative, which was to have some sort of mini seizure. Astonishing.
In the second half, Luka put him in. Again he was four yards out, this time the keeper very kindly went to ground, and all he had to to was make proper contact. He scuffed it.
There were six or seven other misses, including two or three in the last 10 minutes. In golfing terms he's got 'the yips'. In footballing terms he's got 'the playing like a cunts'.
In the corresponding fixture last year we were 1-0 up going into the last 10 minutes and it was getting a bit squeaky. Then Robert Green parried a fierce shot from Defoe, the rebound went back to the striker on the edge of the box and he absolutely lashed it home. Where's that guy gone?
As for his fucking T-shirt. Fuck your 100 goals, yesterday should have been about Spurs three points.
Can I suggest one that says, "No, really, don't make too much fuss, I'm just doing what I'm paid an obscene amount of money to do and, actually, haven't been doing that well, if at all, lately."
2) The Race For Fourth
I haven't fancied us for fourth for some time. Two points from games against Blackpool, Wolves and West Ham have just confirmed it for me. Also as I've said before, this isn't a criticism or complaint, I think it's probably where we belong.
But, for those with a slightly sunnier outlook, here's something to hold on to. If Chelsea beat Man City this afternoon, then we'll actually have made up ground. (And City are the only viable target).
3) Van der Vaart
He's a talented player, of course he is. And he's weighed in with plenty of goals. But I think he has a disproportionate effect on the shape of our team and the way we play.
Yesterday we essentially had one short and out form striker up front against West Ham at home.
VdV came far too deep far too often and ended up taking balls from the back four, or trying to spray passes from central midfield.
When you've got players as good as Modric and Sandro there, he doesn't need to do that. He just thinks he does. Maybe he thinks he's slumming it a bit and doing it because, frankly, no one else could do it as well as him; like the best centre forward at school who ends up playing in midfield, and defence and grabbing the goalies' gloves when there's a penalty to be saved.
He'll be some people's player of the season, but I'm not convinced. I'm not convinced by his value to the team, his fitness or his committment (he disappeared off down the tunnel again yesterday when subbed).
And I think maybe we're in awe of him a little too much. Maybe Harry's a bit too deferential as well. Can you imagine him giving VdV a rollocking?
This might be well wide of the mark, I'm prepared to concede that. But I wouldn't be hugely upset if he left in the summer. I certainly wouldn't be hugely surprised. Especially if, as now seems horribly certain, we'll have no Champions League football.