Spurs faced Swansea City in an engaging affair between two dedicated footballing sides, although the 1-0 scoreline masked the disparity in attacking intent.
The match started with both teams passing the ball well, as expected, with each side looking comfortable in possession. The Swans quite often played the ball in their own half during the first 45 minutes and we almost took advantage on few occasions, such as when Dembélé nicked it from deep in the Swansea half and started a counter-attack. He set up Defoe whose shot was blocked, despite being in a position in which a shot on goal looked inevitable.
Spurs had plenty of possession, but Swansea were defending with every man including Michu who was defending very deep at times. We found it hard to break Swansea down as they were taking few risks going forward. Each time we did get the ball in a dangerous area the shots were blocked or high/wide. So went the first half. With each shot wasted, a Swansea goal against the run of play, and 0-1 robbery of a victory, was in the back of every Spurs fans’ mind.
The 2nd half wasn’t much different. Swansea had their best chance when Routledge made space to get away from Gallas and played a cross from the left with the outside of his right foot. He found Dyer who miss the header. If he had made better contact it would have been difficult for Lloris to deal with given the pace on the ball and how close Dyer was to goal. Eventually, substitute Townsend won a free-kick which Walker delivered into the box. It fell to Vertonghen who struck it sweetly on the half volley into the bottom corner with his right foot. The goal came out of nowhere but was taken well. The last 10 minutes weren’t as nervy as they have been before and the team held out for the win. Perhaps the team have fully recognised and cut-out the late lapses that have been our Achilles heel so far this season.
Although we didn’t display the penetrative, cutting edge as much as we would have liked, Swansea are no push-overs: they have beaten Arsenal, and taken points off Liverpool, Newcastle and Chelsea this season. Add to that their deep positioning and lack of will to get forward in this game and it makes for a great result. Whilst many Spurs fans are unhappy at us having 23 shots and scoring only 1 goal, they should be pleased that we were able to get off 23 shots, one of the highest shots totals in the Premier League so far this season. On another day, with better luck and finishing perhaps, we would have scored more. A further positive to be taken is the return of Parker: his influence could prove to be critical for the remainder of the season.
Lloris – As usual he looked alive, alert and never shy to come sprinting off of his line. He likes to come for crosses or at least punch them, and quite often we benefit as he gets a good hand on them, blunting the attack. He didn’t have too much to do today, but he looks confident, and there is a general sense that the defence is comfortable with him.
Walker – Made some good bursts forward and got into space well on the right hand side. Whilst he hasn’t been as effective attacking as last season (part of the reason being his growing reputation as he’s admitted recently) I feel that his partnership with Lennon has improved in terms of their link-up play. He did make some sloppy passes, especially in the first half, including one straight into the feet of the opposition near our own penalty area. He was better in the second half, however. Defensively, he played fairly well, although a couple of times he made some bad headers, which went straight to Swansea players. This is something he needs to work on. His overall form is definitely rising, though.
Vertonghen – Good performance, he showed some great tekkers for a right-footed goal. He didn’t have much time at all to hit it, and he finished it in a way most strikers would be pleased with. He also looked dangerous from other set piece opportunities with his trademark smashing of lay-offs. Willy and him worked well together, barely allowing Michu a sniff. When there was pressure from the Swans, the tackles came. His goal came at a time where the fans (and probably, the team) were frustrated with how the game was going. It was a very important late goal.
Gallas – One of his better games this season. Doesn’t always look comfortable on the ball but makes some good interceptions. He and Vertonghen managed to keep the high line throughout the full ninety minutes which was very pleasing. He didn’t do much wrong in this game, although, in the final few minutes, he headed a ball out for a corner which Lloris could have collected. I’m sure most Yids were very nervous!
Naughton – Did a pretty good job at left back, coped with the threat of Routledge and didn’t really get beaten. Going forward, he did manage to get the ball onto his right foot for some crosses, but they were nearly all over hit. He offered support well, though, and looked reliable despite being played on the “wrong” side (he is a natural right-footer).
Lennon – Maintained his consistency and tracked back well. I’m sure most fullbacks would like to play alongside a winger as disciplined as Lennon is with the protection he offers. He ran forward with the ball, covering a lot of distance at times, but quite often ran out of ideas at the last moment and played a poor ball. He passed well and contributed nicely to our possession generally. All-in-all a fairly good day at the office for him.
Sandro – Very effective today, he showed great positional discipline and stayed tight with his mark when necessary. His passing was not at its best today (it has improved heavily this season, nonetheless), but he more than made up for it with his defensive work. One of the most committed players wearing the Spurs shirt at the moment, it’s not hard to see why the fans love him.
Dembélé – Another great game from him. He was always there to collect the ball from nearly all areas of the pitch- something that we have really missed when he is out. He won the ball quite a few times and initiated many attacks. In one of these attacks, he robbed Michu from deep in the Swansea half and drove forward before laying it off to Defoe. Defoe’s shot was blocked but he should have done better given the quality of the ball from Dembélé. Dembélé did what he normally does, beating players with ease, driving forward, but it would be nice to see him go for goal a bit more often. It does say a lot about his teamwork, though. If most players had his ability to make space and ghost past players, they would only have eyes for goal. In my opinion he is one of the most hard working players in terms of the pressing we do; he always looks to limit the time and space of whoever has the ball. This is clearly seen from how many Spurs counter-attacks this season have come from him winning the ball from the opponents own half or in the centre of the pitch.
Dempsey – Like most of his games, he has these moments where things click and he gets involved in some good play, but these moments don’t come often enough. To be fair, he was being played on the left wing (not his preferred position), but he put in a shift and helped moving the ball around when he came in centrally. I’m not yet convinced that he can help Spurs play fluid football consistently. A good test now will be seeing what kind of impact he makes when our squad returns to full strength.
Adebayor – Held the ball up well at times, he has good feet and a nice change of pace for a big guy, but he never looked a goal threat. I felt he should have dropped a bit deeper than he was and got more involved. The Ade-Defoe combo works best when we have 2 natural wingers in my opinion. Without Bale to offer a threat down the left, the effectiveness of the Ade-Defoe pairing is compromised.
Defoe– He had lots of bad shots today. Quite a few chances came his way, including a one-on-one with the keeper, yet he failed to display the clinical touch that he’d seemingly found lately. His best bit of work was done defensively, chasing the Swansea defenders when they were in possession. Otherwise, he had quite a wasteful performance. On the positive side, he made space well for some shots. He’s still playing with confidence so he’s still dangerous. I expect he’ll do better next game.
Townsend – Came on and looked direct and dangerous. As a Townsend fan myself, I was very pleased that he won the free kick which led to the goal. He won another one deep in the opposition half and was a handful all around. His runs relieved a lot of pressure from the defence late on when pressure was mounting. Hopefully his strong substitute performance means that we will be seeing more of him in the future.
Sigurdsson– He pressed a lot better than Ade. In that sense, he came on at a great time where we usually sit back. He played a perfectly weighted through ball to Defoe (which he should have converted) and helped keep the ball well in the final minutes. I like Gylfi and have noticed that his best performances have come when playing in the Sandro/Dembélé/Sigurdsson midfield trio. I hope he manages to find his way back in to the starting XI because he has great ability.