Tottenham Hotspur 2 - West Bromwich Albion 0
When I saw the starting lineup I had a faint hope that Allardyce was some sort of genius and could see things I couldn’t but all I felt was that the moment Spurs worked out we couldn’t run on our right hand side we’d be toast. I can’t have been the only one who wondered what he was playing at. Has there ever been a slower or combined age older right hand side in the league than that?
I think the idea was to have Sawyers there to try and hit it long or keep it without dwelling on it and that Gallagher and Niles were there just to chase down the 50/50s that our hoofs would lead to. Leaving out Pereira, our best outfield player by a mile and the only one who’d ever get near something like EPL player of the months, for ‘tactical reasons’ was questionable to put it mildly.
And despite us having a bit of energy in the middle and Diagne to hit, despite the commentators saying how solid we’d been really we were fortunate that Kane missed 3 one on ones, each from that right side, before we ended the half with our one decent move of the half that Diagne should’ve put away.
Second half we had a great opening when Niles inexplicably crossed the ball despite already being in the box collecting a second ball when he should’ve just taken a touch and smashed it to goal, and after Grant totally fluffed his back post action from that cross we were down a goal a few minutes later. Kane’s fourth one v one from our right this time out away as Peltier and Snodgrass vanished, Sawyers seemed to deliberately ignore him and Ajayi stayed as narrow as possible.
The second was also avoidable, coming soon after from our cross as we didn’t manage a tackle or foul and the entire team went to the ball instead of considering marking other players.
With the game over and beyond us the subs came on, Okay looked ok, Pereira looked our best player by miles, Phillips put a shift in and Diagne finished a couple of chances we’ll but marginally offside.
It was nice to see Allardyce have a joke at the end pretending to take a throw. Losing the little affordance of understanding the challenge he faced with each game as we look worse not better - he hasn’t improved any individual or the collective since he arrived and that is a failure on its own terms.
I thought that the players generally gave it everything they could to the best of their ability and what was asked of them, but the combination of those two things is a handicap too far and really this could’ve been another 3 or 4 nil easily.
When can it be over?
Like most I was amazed by the starting lineup, Peltier and Grant are just not good enough at this level. We battled away first half but in reality if we'd have gone in 3 down we couldn't have complained. We picked a team to park the bus when Brighton had showed how vulnerable Spurs are at the minute if you take the game to them. Not until the last ten minutes when we got Pereira on the ball did we actually look like asking any questions.
We probably still would have lost but could it really have been any worse?
There's no defence in the world that can keep a clean sheet if all you do for 90 minutes is defend. My opinion for what it's worth I felt Sawyers did OK before he got hooked, the centre backs and Townsend put in a shift but as an attacking force we were pretty much non existent until the last 10. Too early to judge if Maitland Niles will be a major improvement but unlike at Arsenal I think he's going to have to adapt to playing without the ball.
I'd like to be more positive but it's pretty depressing to be honest.
The Allardyce Era Begins
Not too much of a stretch to think of this as the first real outing of an "Allardyce Albion", in that Our Saviour got to pick a starting eleven using the players he brought in, to play his way, and, with the Albion looking to emulate the performances of the sides around them, in taking points off of a top-half sode, who better to start against than a Spurs team low on confidence.
Quite a bit to ponder as the era began, with our best player sitting on the bench alongside the holding midfielder we've been told we've been crying out for. No place either for Furlong, perhaps the other stand out player from the Bilic era, as Peltier jumped ahead of him and O'Shea in the right-back rankings, whilst in midfield, any offensive width would have to come from Snodgrass and Grant. the latter clearly now a player being groomed for the HRK role, a striker who won't score too many but can do the job of a willing runner out wide.
The first fifteen minutes was everything you might expect from an away side lined up 451 and clearly playing for the draw against a home side whose manager likes to play on the break: forgettable.
It's very tempting to say that Spurs lost the first quarter-hour, in that they simply couldn't find a way to sit as deep as the Albion and, from a "sit back and hit them on the break" standpoint, they'd certainly lost the plot completely by the time a slightly rusty Harry Cane had three chances inside five minutes when played in down the Albion's right but failed to get a decent shot off.
Indeed, Albion's "new-look" right side, Peltier, Snodgrass and Maitland-Niles, whose name I had seen in the line-up but whose name clearly wasn't on the team sheet we'd given to the commentary team, looked to be a problem all game.
It was getting so congested in the Albion box that Spurs players ahead of the ball were blocking their own shots, although Sam Johnstone would still need to pull off one fine save as a Spurs player headed the ball back across him as the corner count rose, before Albion would get the one chance the plan probably allowed for.
Snodgrass wove his magic down the right before checking back onto his weaker foot and clipping a ball just beyond the back post, where Diagne was free to pick his spot with a header, but although he got some power into it, he could only head it straight at Loris.
Johnstone would still need to make one more save, from Son, before the players left the field at half-time.
Five minutes into the second half and Snodgrass would get to weave some more magic down the right, although this time he was facing his own goal, and so only a foul spared his blushes as he attempted a weak backpass that went straight to a Spurs player who was then through on goal.
Three minutes later, and the three chances that Kane had had as practice just after the quarter hour were echoed as he was once again played in through a gap down the Albion right and this time he slotted it back across Johnstone to give Spurs the lead.
If the way Kane took his goal was class, his chested pass, made 25 yards from his own goal, that allowed Moura to rampage forwards without breaking stride was even better and allowed Spurs to show exactly how to to play on the break, wth Son, the second player committed to breaking forward at pace, leaving Albion's defenders trailing behind and unable to put any pressure on his finish.
Two-nil down with 30 minutes to go was surely time for Sam to make a change, although he could be forgiven for thinking his first choice eleven were about to turn it around, after Diagne had the ball in the net from an offside position, and so delaying the change for another ten minutes, but what a change it was, with right-winger Phillips coming on to play on the left-wing instead of Grant.
Clearly, the next seven minutes watching that minor tweak to his 451 was enough for Allarayce to believe that it still offered a way back into the game, because his next change was merely the like for like swap of the holding midfielder in the formation, Yokuslu replacing Sawyers.
In hindsight, it was probably a bit too early to sacrifice the experience of Snodgrass, let alone the 451 formation, so as to give your best player time to turn the game around, especially as it only took Pereira a minute of inspiration to have Diagne showing how he can finish after straying offside for a second time but at least the change didn't open us up enough, in those last ten minutes, to allow Tottenham to add a third.
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