Looking Forward

 

MANCHESTER CITY (Home)

Premier League

Monday 12th April 2004

The chips are down with even more at stake than in the recent FA cup tie here.  Both sides need points to drag them away from the trap-door into Division One and with neither side having the most water-tight defence, you would think a high-scoring game will be on the cards again.  However, I believe this will be a much closer affair in terms of goals scored and that the nervousness will affect the general play of both sides.

With the teams having drawn two games and knocked each other out of one cup competition each this season, they are well aware of the threats in each other's sides.

For Tottenham, the main threat has been from Shaun Wright-Phillips.  The little right sided wide man provides a busy presence that causes Spurs problems and for that reason, we need to put a defender in at left back to see him off.  With Jackson and King having been given the run around by him, it might be time to put Taricco up against him (if fit) or to stick a player there who will be able to stick with him and not allow him the space to run.  Jackson might be able to do that job, given support from midfield, so that probably means playing Ricketts there, as Ziege does not have the defensive sensibilities to get back and help out regularly enough.

The City keeper David James has produced some very good saves, but also dropped some huge clangers, so the pressure on him is great and if Tottenham can produce some decent effort son target, he will (hopefully) not be able to stop them all.  It will be his first game against Tottenham this season in the Premier League, having played for West Ham against us ion the Carling Cup, he was cup-tied for the FA Cup ties.  In front of him, City will miss the commanding presence of van Buyten and although Dunne is a big lad, Keano might relish getting in under his feet.  Distin is prone to losing concentration on occasion, so pressure on him might pay off, but the return of Sun Jihai means that there will be a dynamic worker in defence and down the right hand side going forward.  We have made the Chinese international look world class in previous matches, so again, someone in the right hand midfield slot will have to frustrate his forward runs.  In Tarnat, City have a great dead-ball expert and a player who can deliver a fine ball into the box, so his supply will need to be nipped in the bud.

Steve McManaman has failed to hit the heights since his return to England, but can influence attacks with his perceptive passes, while Polish midfielder Sibierski is a rangy runner who gets on the end of passes and crosses in the box.  Our midfield will have to work hard to keep the City side at bay and to spark off our own attacks, but might find a resolute ball-winner there in Paul Bosvelt and someone is going to have to challenge him to ensure we win some of the ball there.

Up front, the enigma that is Nicholas Anelka will partner Robbie Fowler.  Anelka is almost the opposite of the Scouser Fowler.  Pacy, tall and knocking them in regularly, Anelka contrasts with Fowler, who is struggling to emulate his scoring record at Anfield at City.  Anelka's pace might find Gardner matching it, but with the Frenchman, it all depends on how he feels on the day.  With Fowler, it appears to depend on his luck rather than the effort he puts in.

Outside of the expected starting XI, there are Joey Barton and Trevor Sinclair in midfield who could come in.  Barton is competitive - sometimes to the detriment of the side - with Sinclair providing some wide play to supply the front men, but neither have been consistent this season.  Scorer of the last minute winner here in the FA Cup - Jonathan Macken is also around the team and could be used to come on if the front two are not cracking the Tottenham defence.

As far as Tottenham are concerned, there needs to be a 300% increase in willingness to battle after the capitulation against Everton.  Hard work looks to be below them as they strolled around, while the Toffees got stuck in.  It is time to graft and eek out results, starting with City.  Forty points might not be enough, so Tottenham need to start gathering points now, before the games start running out.  The supply to the front men has to be of better quality too, no long balls humped forward in hope and leaving them to it without supporting from midfield.  Most of all, there needs to be some changes in personnel to liven the team up.  Some awareness of players who are free at corners might also not go amiss !!  

With four losses on the trot, Tottenham need to step up a gear to stop the rot and match City man for man.  With the possibility of the Defoe/Keane partnership being split, that might be hard, but the presence of Kanoute up front might pose some problems the two short men can't.  Defoe will always be available to bring on from the bench and I predict he will do just that to grab the winner in a match that ends ...

PREDICTION : -   Tottenham  2     Manchester City   1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.

VIEW FROM THE OTHER SIDE

How do you think your team have played this season ?
City have underachieved spectacularly this season considering the players we brought in last summer. The defence is a shambles whilst our midfield lacks a bit of creativity with the exception of the superb Shaun Wright-Phillips, easily our player of the season. Some of our performances have been very good, notably the 4-1 derby win and our second half performance at WHL in the FA Cup but all too often we have dominated possession without finishing teams off.

What was the recent derby win like ?
Always nice to beat United and to do so in such a comprehensive manner made it all the sweeter, particularly as they'd beaten us twice earlier in the season.

Who do you think is your best player at the moment ?
Shaun Wright-Phillips, by a country mile.

Which player isn't playing as well in recent games ?
Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman have been very disappointing all season.

Any exciting new names in the squad that we should look out for ?
We have a number of youth players on the fringe of the first team squad who we have high hopes for. The ones to look out for are Stephen Elliot (an Irish U20 striker), Bradley Wright-Phillips (brother of Shaun) and Lee Croft.

Are City fans worried about the prospect of going down ?
Following on from the draw against Wolves City fans are getting nervous about our league position but few fans think we'll get relegated, thanks largely to the fact that there are four or five teams worse than us.

And how do they feel about the size of the club's debts at the moment ?
Our current debts (rumoured to be around 50m) are a cause for concern but our situation is different to that of Leeds United, as our loans have been taken out against the stadium and will be paid off through season ticket sales for the next 25 years. If we were to get relegated it would be disastrous financially but we would still avoid administration. Besides if today's papers are to be believed we have an Abramovic style saviour on hi way to Eastlands !

What is the line-up expected to be ?
James, Sun Jihai, Tarnat, Distin, Dunne, Wright-Phillips, McManaman, Bosvelt, Sibierski, Anelka, Fowler

What do you your fans think of Tottenham ?
There's a little bit of history between City fans and Spurs fans so it's fair to say that there's no love lost between the clubs. Having said that feelings towards Spurs are nowhere near as strong as those towards United, Middlesbrough & Leeds. 

Which Spurs player do you like ?
Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane are quality players.

What do you reckon the score will be ?
I'm going for 2-1 to City, more out of hope than anything else.

Thanks to Ric from
www.bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk

PLAYERS UNAVAILABLE

TOTTENHAM : -  Dean Richards (Achilles); Rob Burch (ankle); Darren Anderton (Achilles); Simon Davies (shin); Gus Poyet (back); Christian Ziege (groin)

MANCHESTER CITY : -  Gerard Wiekens (knee);  Daniel van Buyten (abductor strain); Nicky Weaver (knee); Kevin Keegan (back); Claudio Reyna (groin)

COVERAGE : 
TV :  -  No live coverage
Radio :  No live coverage
Internet :  www.spurs.co.uk   Live webcast  (subscription only)  

 

 

Tottenham   1      Manchester City   1     (Half-time score : 0-1)
Premier League
Monday 12th April 2004
Venue : -  White Hart Lane
Kick Off : -  15.00 p.m.
Weather : -  Mild, sunny, with some dark cloud later
Referee : -  C. Foy (St. Helens)
Crowd : -  35,282
Teams : -  
Tottenham : -  Keller; Carr (Kelly 32), Doherty, Gardner, Taricco (Bunjevcevic 65); Brown, Redknapp, Poyet (Keane 74), Davies; Kanoute, Defoe
Unused Subs : -  Hirschfeld, Ricketts

Manchester City : -  James; Tarnat, Distin, Dunne, Jihai (Sinclair 73); Sibierski, McManaman, Bosvelt, Wright-Phillips; Fowler (Wanchope 63), Anelka 
Unused Subs : -  Arason, Macken, Barton

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)
Tottenham Manchester City
Scorers : -  
Tottenham  -  Defoe 53

Manchester City -  Anelka 26

Cards : -  
Tottenham  -      Poyet (foul) 36

Manchester City -      Fowler (foul) 51

One moment summed up Tottenham in this draw that suited neither side but was better than a defeat in the rush for points before the matches dry up.  42 minutes and Fredi Kanoute wins a corner by the flag.  No-one rushes to take it !!  Davies runs half length of pitch to go and take the corner, but Fredi thinks it would be a good idea to take it short.  Good idea, but his execution was lacking, with him kicking the stick of the corner flag and the ball going about two feet, so Davies had to sprint to get there before a City defender and it all came to nothing.

It was a bit like too much of our play today.  Nobody wanting it badly enough and the final ball always lacking the quality needed.  Our crossing into the box either ended up safely in James' hands or went way over the players in the area.  It didn't look like we would score, although we did create some chances, but it needed a bit of individual skill to get us on the score-sheet.

But let's start at the beginning.  Outside, I heard that Keane was on the bench and Poyet in the starting eleven, which did not fill me with great hope.  That and the fact that Redknapp would also be filling one of the berths in the midfield.  However, Gus exhibited some determination during his time on the pitch and although he could not get back to defend, his play in the hole behind the front two was a threat to City at times.  Within the first ten minutes, he had got two headers in ... something not associated with our forward play !!  One went wide as he got his head to Taricco's ball in and the second more fortuitously arrived with him, after it had flicked off a defender's head and he directed a firm header at goal, but unfortunately, straight at James.  His next effort was not as close, as he hauled his old carcass into an arch to try an overhead kick that went almost straight up into the air and miles over the bar.

Without Keane, it was an opportunity for Defoe and Kanoute to revisit their partnership of their West Ham days and Fredi looked a lot more up for it today than at any time since his return from Africa.  In the 21st minute, Jermain dummied a Brown pass and Kanoute was left with a run on goal which ended with a shot forcing James to dive to save.  However, with their first effort on goal, City scored.  With 25 minutes on the clock, McManaman was allowed to run at the Tottenham defence and slipped the ball to Anelka on the edge of the area.  His shimmy put Doherty on his arse and his shot was stopped by Keller, but instead of trying to knock the ball wide, Kasey put the ball straight back in front of Anelka to poke home into the net.

Tottenham hit back with a good move involving Kanoute laying the ball back for Brown to square it to Davies, who hit a low shot, but it didn't provide any worry for James, who took it comfortably low down.  Then, Pleat made a change with Kelly coming on for Stephen Carr.  He didn't seem injured, but surely the switch wasn't tactical ?  It signalled a spell of pressure for the last fifteen minutes of the half from City as they looked to extend their lead.  Bosvelt hit a 25-yarder just wide of the goal, while just before half-time, McManaman crossed for Fowler to score from close range, but his effort was struck squarely into KK's stomach, in what, apart from the end result, was a replica of the goal Chelsea scored here last week.

Half-time saw the Spurs team troop off to boos and there was little to say about their performance.  Redknapp had failed to shine (again), while Brown struggled against his old side and the supply to the front two was poor.

Poyet's yellow card for a foul on McManaman was equalled out by Fowler's caution for a late tackle on Brown, but Spurs looked a bit more like they were up for it in the second half.  Five minutes in, Poyet headed a cross against the inside of the post and it bounced out, then two minutes after, Defoe got Tottenham back in it.  A long cross by Davies flew through the players in the area and Defoe was at the back post to pick it up.  He showed good skill to get past Dunne and Jihai and slotted his shot under James to put Spurs level.

Where Spurs had been second to almost everything in the first period, they were now competing better, although the midfield never seemed to be in the right place to pick up balls dropping outside the penalty area at either end.  So competitive did they get that when Kelly closed on Tarnat to go for a  loose ball, he German defender ended up tripping Kelly after the ball had long gone in a show of pique.  Kelly's partner in defence Taricco was having a good game, apart from his falling over act to win free-kicks, but he unleashed a hard shot from 30 yards, which flew up off James' chest and he grabbed it at the second attempt.  It was about the last thing he did before getting injured in going in for a fifty-fifty challenge.  On came Bunjy, while City made the change of Wanchope for Fowler.

A free-kick almost caught Tottenham  out, as they failed to be alert to the danger, when Tarnat floated a ball in and it was met by Sibierski, who headed inches wide, when he should have done better.  Two more changes, with Keano replacing Gus and Sinclair coming on for Sun Jihai, but it did little to stop the game swinging from end to end.  Kelly denied Wanchope at the far post with a glance off his head to prevent the ball reaching the Costa Rican, while Doherty did even better in pinching the ball off the toe of the lanky forward after he appeared to have set himself up for a clear volley on goal in injury time.  Keller had to make two saves, both fairly comfortable, but with the low drive from Anelka being a bit more difficult than the Tarnat free-kick straight at him.

As the game came to an end, it was Tottenham doing the pressing.  Redknapp set up Defoe in the box and his shot was charged down, but Robbie Keane toed it past James, only to find the linesman flagging for offside.  Then with three minutes left, Defoe was dragged back by his shirt in the area by Dunne, but the ref didn't want to know.  Hardly surprising, because earlier he had ignored pleas for a spot-kick when Dunne span Poyet round in the air as a cross flew across the penalty box.

At then end, there was a feeling of emptiness.  This is not the position we wanted to find ourselves in at this time of the season and the performances will have to improve to take the five more points we definitely need to be safe.  Looking at the other results coming in, you get the feeling that other teams are more up for it than Spurs.  With the team selection made by Pleat, it is hardly difficult to see where we are losing points.  Bolton next week will see them hyped up by Big Fat Sam and you sit and wonder if Pleat has the same effect on his charges ?  No.  Well, I probably tend to agree with you.

MEHSTG TOP MAN : - ANTHONY GARDNER

Barry Levington

 

DO YOU WANT IT ?

 

The lack of urgency in the Tottenham team appears to be causing great concern among the fans if not the management.  Pleat's comments about not minding being booed and that "They pay their money, but I'm only acting manager so I don't know why they are worried. It happens in football so I won't believe it's personal." is not a quote that shows much sensitivity or understanding of the situation as fans view it.

If he believes those words, I wish I shared his optimism.  What I saw was a rag-tag outfit with little cohesion and the side being opened up at times by a side who went on a run of fourteen games without a win earlier this season.  Until they beat us in the Cup, they had been wretched.  Now we are down with them thanks to the uninspired choices made by Pleat, who, it is rumoured, is a Director of Football because he knows so much about the game and that is why the club pay him approx. 300,000 a year for the privilege.

And as far as I am concerned that jerk Redknapp can head for Portsmouth now after his disgraceful antics today.  When Defoe scored, Mr. Louise turned to the East Stand to demand more vocal support for them.  Well, excuse me Mr. Redknapp, but while you have been sitting on beaches in the sun-kissed parts of the world, we have been here watching the "kiss my arse" attitude of too many players who don't want to get their boots dirty.  And the sight of the inside of treatment rooms might make you feel sick, but the sight of you gesticulating to the crowd who have patiently watched the dross served up by the team this season is not one that I want to see repeated by a Tottenham captain.  The day you do something to excite us, then we might get animated.  Until then, just stick to your job and start doing what you are paid for.

I am not convinced that this side is good enough to battle for survival and how we scored all those goals back in February, goodness knows.  It was with more or less the same team.  Perhaps that was before Pleat decided he might not be there next season, so he won't take it personally that we think he is wrecking our team.

I have not felt as sick watching a Tottenham team for a long time.  The years of mediocrity have come home to roost and not even Chirpy can save us, even though he managed to save two shots in the holiday shoot-out.  

Perhaps they should consider putting him in goal ?

Stan Chun

 

Other scores this Easter Sunday/Monday and midweek :

Newcastle United

0 Arsenal 0 Sunday
Aston Villa 3 Chelsea 2 Monday
Liverpool 0 Charlton Athletic 1 Monday
Middlesbrough 3 SCBC 1 Monday
Portsmouth 3 Birmingham City 1 Monday
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Bolton Wanderers 2 Monday
Fulham 3 Blackburn Rovers 4 Monday
Leeds United - Everton - Tuesday
Manchester United 1 Leicester City 0 Tuesday

 

League Table
 
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Arsenal 32 23 9 0 62 22 78 +40
2 Chelsea 33 22 5 6 60 27 71 +33
3 Manchester United 32 21 5 6 59 31 68 +28
4 Liverpool 33 13 10 10 48 36 49 +12
5 Newcastle United 32 12 13 7 45 33 49 +12
6 Aston Villa 33 13 9 11 44 40 48 +4
7 Charlton Athletic 32 13 8 11 43 40 47 +3
8 Birmingham City 33 12 10 11 39 41 46 -2
9 Middlesbrough 33 12 9 12 40 40 45 0
10 Fulham 33 12 8 13 47 44 44 +3
11 SCBC 32 11 9 12 35 32 42 +2
12 Bolton Wanderers 33 10 11 12 38 51 41 -11
13 Everton 33 9 11 13 42 47 38 -5
14 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 33 11 5 17 42 52 38 -10
15 Manchester City 33 7 13 13 46 47 34 -1
16 Blackburn Rovers 33 9 7 17 47 57 34 -10
17 Portsmouth 32 9 7 16 36 47 34 -11
18 Leeds United 33 8 8 17 35 64 32 -29
19 Leicester City 33 5 13 15 41 58 28 -17
20 Wolverhampton Wanderers 33 5 10 18 31 71 25 -40

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