Mentally weak Spurs do it again

Chelsea 4 Spurs 0
Saturday 8th March 2014 - Chelsea 4 Spurs 0
Tim Sherwood threw a few surprises in his team selection with Paulinho rested after a long journey for internationals.

Vertonghen at left-back was always a possibility with Younes Kaboul passed fit to play but Kyle Walker in midfield was a gamble with Kyle Naughton at right-back. Aaron Lennon central or on the left switching with Sigurdsson. Dembele injured so Bentaleb lined up alongside Sandro.

The Sherwood merry-go-round of systems and formations continued. Yet again creatively little but after the first 4 minutes when the game could have been decided, Spurs were solid and Chelsea didn't look like scoring. Fifty percent of our previous games had been a draw and half-time and this was number 15. I demonstrated in a pre-match article how Liverpool have taken the games by the scruff of the neck in the first-half which has made their season. By comparison we have tried to keep it 0-0 and win games in the second half.

It's not a tactic I agree with but it is one we have used since Harry Redknapp deployed it. Roy Hodgson tries to use the same formula. It creates stalemate negative football, not a great spectacle for the spectator. The Spurs fans took to chanting how quiet it was to amuse themselves and the fact they could be quite clearly heard shows just how quiet the Chelsea fans were.

Half-time saw the anonymous Frank Lampard depart for the more creative Oscar but there appeared to be little change and no goal threat at either end.

Jan Vertonghen then slips and in trying to recover he simply kicked the ball towards the centre of the field aimlessly as he turned on the floor. You could say it was unlucky to go between two defenders to Eto'o but the 33 year-old striker had already read the possibility before it happened and had made a run on the off chance. His reward was a one-on-one and as Dawson got back with a lunging block tackle Eto'o shot. His luck held as it went threw Dawson's legs and through Lloris's as well.

With us being toothless lately 1-0 was probably always going to be enough but the referee had other ideas.

A ball played through and Eto'o decided to fall over. The ref awarded a penalty and sent Kaboul off where replays showed once again against a top side, that an official has decide the outcome of a game.

As a contest it was over and all that was left was to play the remainder of the game and concede as we always do now with 10 men.

Sherwood said: “I think it was a soft decision because I don’t think it was a penalty. Obviously the sending off comes with it but we’ll have to have a look at it a few more times. It’s a shame the referee doesn’t get that opportunity.

“I appreciate the referee has got a tough job and he’s got to make a call but it could have gone against us that one.”

The problem we have when the refs send -off a player, the same happened against Man City, is that players mentally give up. Once you have given up mistakes will always occur. If your only object is to then retain the ball or defend, never more clearly highlighted by Walker's crazy header back towards Lloris, you are simply asking for trouble.

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Dawson had to go off with a hamstring injury 20 minutes from the end leaving Sandro to partner Vertonghen in the centre with Zeki Fryers coming on at left-back.

That causes rather a concern for the next few games. Kaboul will be out for another 3 unless we decide to appeal. Danny Rose had his red card against Man City overturned, this one is a touch n go affair. The panel don't like to overturn them unless they have to, they will always try to back-up an official.

Vlad Chiriches is injured as is Danny Rose, so with Kaboul and Dawson missing the back four now looks like being Walker, Fryers, Vertonghen, Naughton, they are he only fit defenders we have!

“We’re struggling in that area (defence) so we’ll just have to have a look and see who’s fit. We’ve got a lot of big games coming up and we’ve got to win them” Sherwood said afterwards.

A point at Chelsea was imperative for any chance of a top four finish with wins against Arsenal and Liverpool, now winning both those games might be irreverent. It'll be tough with the back four we have left anyway.

The final scoreline in the end did no justice to the game. The annoying part apart from the the referee wanting a game was how yet again with 10 men we concede. It happens to often to be a coincidence and that is all down to the mental side of the game.

I have raised this very point before and am in full agreement with Sherwood, I expect more guts too.

“We have capitulated too often against the big sides and it’s disappointing to see. It’s difficult – when you’re 2-0 down with ten men at Chelsea you’re not going to win the game but you expect to see a bit more gut, a little bit more pride.

“I don’t want to be the only one who shouts at them – I think they need to dig each other out every now and again and get the best out of each other.

“It’s on to Benfica on the Thursday – we don’t have time to dwell on this now but I’m gutted, massively disappointed, not too much about the result and the performance in the first half but on the capitulation that the team showed and has shown too often this season.”

For years we have been a mentally weak side, when push comes to shove at the end of the season we bottle it. Giving up simply when you go down to 10 men tells everyone you don't think you can win and just demonstrates a mental weakness.

The policy of trying to play out time simply makes it worse, they play as if they no longer want to be there and that is hard to take as a supporter. Players don't want the ball, with space to turn and run at a defender they look to pass backwards.

Coaches around the world must call for tapes when Spurs go down to 10 men. 'Right lads, sit down and watch this, this is a masterclass on how not to defend with 10 men.'

Where is the pride, the only one I saw showing any in the last 15 minutes was Adebayor, who was clearly angry. Luckily he didn't do anything stupid but he looked at times as if he might.

There is much work to be done and with David Moyes under pressure the appointment of Louis Van Gaal can't come soon enough.

If the United position becomes available then we may yet be seeing Cesare Prandelli take the club forward.



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