West Bromwich Albion 0 - Tottenham Hotspur 1
FFS!! Another heartbreaker. We deserved at least a point after a spirited response to the Fulham debacle. We had the better of the first half but couldn't turn decent possession into clear-cut chances. Mourinho, who went to the Donald Trump school of whining, was getting agitated. But Spurs grew in the second half and might have gone ahead before one of our few defensive lapses allowed Kane to head the winner.
We had looked fairly solid with three at the back and Krov and Gallagher working hard in midfield, although they did tire in the second. The big worry was our featherweight forward pair. The difference in the two sides today was the ability to turn a half chance into a goal.
Very different performance - same result. We can no longer say 'let's look at the positives.' Talking of positives, Ivanovic and Pereira both have Covid - can it get any worse?
In the run up to this one I was moved and inspired by the passion and desire shown by Bilic in his press conferences. There were no empty cliches, just an intelligent and thoughtful call to arms - you really got a sense of his spirit and fight and he wasn't talking like a coach who was looking for a way out; it was the stuff of a leader who really cares.
When the team was announced it was obviously a worry that Ivanovic and Pereira were out and I honestly thought Gibbs would be back in but other than that you felt there probably wasn't much else we could do with the resources available - and with O'Shea, Bartley and Robinson coming in at lest we knew the grit and fight in the team would be increased.
Within a few minutes it was clear we'd be in a sort of 5-3-2 system with the full backs pushing on when they could, Livermore thankfully at the base of the 3 and Robinson dropping deeper behind Grant. It's not exactly what I would have done but we were miles better.
The back three were horrible and brutal, Livermore and Gallagher covered loads of ground and were also nasty, Krovi threw himself into 50-50s and Robinson's selfless running to make himself available enabled us to pick up pockets of space and create things.
We were the better team in the first half even though Spurs were always a threat- it was just the quality that let us down which we cannot fault the players for. That final pass, cross, or giving the ball away cheaply was there but to a man they fought.
If I had to pick a player who probably wasn't up to the standard of the rest of them it was Grant - I still think for the deal he's a good signing and he does have pace but to play in a lower half EPL team as a striker you have to be able to look after the ball and keep it, and he wasn't able to do that for us enough.
In the second we again went toe to toe with them in the battle. I think throughout the game Spurs had their spells but on several occasions we showed we were capable of not only digging in but swinging the pendulum back and exerting our own pressure. For example, despite SJ making a smart save to keep us in it, Gallagher shaved the post with a great effort and I felt Grant really should have done a lot better with a high dropping ball falling a Loris save via our headed attempt from a corner.
It's fair to say though that as we tired and made subs, Spurs were able to bring on dangerous impact players whereas we went for players who might be able to break. I thought Robinson going off for Diangana instead of Grant was very harsh and invited more pressure.
At the very least we were worth a point so it was crushing to seep the park goal that won it for Spurs. A floated ball onto our six yard line allowed Kane to steal in between Bartley and SJ to head the ball on into the goal. SJ looked like he knew... he started coming and really should have carried on, coming through the man to claim it or punch clear.
We had a go thereafter but never looked like finding a late equaliser.
If anything there was massive regret, not for this game, but for the Fulham match where with a similar system and fight we'd have got something and possibly all 3 points. The issues between Bilic and the board are probably still there (Kipre not even on the bench!) but maybe he's earned a stay of execution with that performance and it's difficult to think of how anyone could have done any better with the squad today other than an anti-football proponent with the limited shelf-life that also brings.
I'm still maintaining that the lowest ever points tally should be our first target but they all deserved our support today.
Against all my principles I got my son to sort out the technology and actually paid to watch today's game. I have to say I don't think it was a waste of money. I felt the guys gave it everything, yes we might be lacking in the quality stakes but I reckon in front of a packed Hawthorns crowd we could well have won that one.
I was impressed with the football we played at times. We've a lot of young players who haven't played at this level before and they should be proud of today's effort. I'm under no illusions that we have enough to survive especially having not sorted out our lack of a striker or two for the last couple of seasons but definitely feel the lack of a home crowd is affecting the "lesser" teams more. Thought Gallagher, Krovinovic, Ajayi and O'Shea all performed really well but the introduction of Diangana lost us a bit of momentum.
We need a bit luck to nick a win and you never know. Maybe an empty Old Trafford will do the trick. Stay safe and keep the faith everyone.
Can the season get any weirder?
What an absolutely bizarre game. As if observing a minute's silence in an already silent stadium wasn't bizarre enough, Albion's attempts to hold onto a game that they might have actually won, saw them finally lose it to the same kind of "invite the other side on and hope not to get an unlucky bounce" approach that had, in the past, seen us eke out the odd point as well as throw points away.
With ex-Galtico Gareth Bale returning to the Spurs' starting line-up, one might have expected a game full of pace and drive, but what we witnessed early on suggested that Spurs had driven up the M1/6/5 on the morning of the game, and, after an early start, had then been struck in traffic long enough to have not been able to warm up, resulting in a game often being played at a walking pace.
As with the attempt to counter the threat of lone striker Vardy in the Leicester fixture, Albion chose to try and marshal lone striker Kane with a back three, albeit one missing Ivanovic who, along with Pereira, had succumbed to a COVID scare. Outside of Ajayi, Bartley and O'Shea were fullbacks, Townsend and Furlong, whilst ahead of them were another three, Livermore, Gallagher and Krovinovic, but up top, a distinct twin striker pattern could be seen with Grant and Robinson both pressing up on the Tottanham backline (the "an" is deliberate there and matches the mis-spelling in the material promoting the game on TV at the Inglewood - an a pretty empty Inglewood at that).
The was a fair bit of walking pace on display as no-one seemed all that bothered about getting back to track Son, who thus found himself with the whole of one side of our box to himself, however with none of the Albion players who were goalside going towards him, and so forcing him into a choice as to how to get off a shot, he took so much time to make his choice that, by the time he did, another Albion defender was able to get across and block the shot.
Despite the commentary team suggesting that Spurs were having most of the possession, it wasn't really counting for much in the attempts on goal column, and indeed, Albion had the best chance when our new number nine, fluffled his lines completely from six yards out, when failing to get enough on the end of a peach of a cross to send it forwards, let alone goalwards, or even on-target.
The game seemed predestined for a pedestrian 0-0 draw, and even though both sides had other half-chances that failed to trouble either keeper Lloris still had make a fine stop from a Furlong header that showed Grant how to do it, and indeed when Johnstone was finally troubled, he too pulled off another of his fine reaction saves, although sadly, within a minute of that save, Bilic withdrew his second striker, Grant, and replaced him with a second winger, Phillips, which effectively left Albion lined up in a 5-5-0 formation, Diangana having replaced Robinson with 20 minutes to go, and clearly now just looking to hold on to the point.
But hold on they couldn't, after Johnstone, right at the death, like Son near the start, having time to think about what he should do, as an innocuous floated ball towards Kane looked likely to land on the striker's head about 8-yards out, was unable to make any decision, let alone the right one, and so started to come, then stopped about five yards out, and could only watch as Kane's flick took the ball over him at a flaying snail's pace to nestle in the net. Not so much a "bursting of an old onion bag" as a "gentle caressing of a fishnet tight" (ooh-err!).
I think the fact that Bilic had two wingers on the pitch at the end, but had no striker for them to provide service for, just helps to add to the bizarre nature of this one, to which you could add that a subdued performance by Bale, their winger being subbed having made little impact with 10 to go, within a subdued performance overall by Spurs saw them go top of the division.
As for playing without a recognised striker and having two banks of five, can this season get anymore weird? And if does, is there anyone weird enough in the squad to turn pro?
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