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By London24’s Spurs blogger Daniel Grigg
Monday, April 16, 2012
Tottenham supporter Daniel Grigg gives his views on yesterday’s 5-1 FA Cup semi-final defeat at Wembley.
A 5-1 cup semi-final victory against a London rival was famously the highlight of Juande Ramos’ brief managerial career at Tottenham.
However, yesterday’s 5-1 score-line could spell doom for the man who replaced Ramos, after Harry Redknapp’s side went down big style to a Chelsea side who are supposedly not as strong these days.
This was the ultimate lowlight of his time at Spurs - even in a season of five-goal thrashings at the hands of locals rivals and Champions League contenders alike.
After the 5-1 home defeat against Manchester City and the 5-2 defeat at the Emirates, this was the third time that Spurs have conceded five goals this season.
Twenty goals have now been conceded in the last 11 games in all competitions, with only 15 scored.
Redknapp’s famed, or at least talked-up, ability to motivate no longer appears to be working as it once did. Perhaps he has been in the job too long? Maybe he is short of ideas tactically? Or his thoughts could be elsewhere.
Uncertainty and tension reign at Spurs right now, with none of the smooth, confident passing that we saw in the 5-0 victory over Newcastle in February, and in late 2011.
It would have been easy and reassuring to have blamed yesterday’s defeat on referee Martin Atkinson, whose mistake in awarding the ‘phantom goal’ certainly played a part.
But Tottenham were as much outperformed and outplayed by Chelsea as they were robbed by that decision - and Chelsea, as much as it sticks in the throat, deserved it on the night.
Redknapp picked his strongest available 11 with one exception - Carlo Cudicini, who is undeniably the reserve goalkeeper, was bafflingly chosen ahead of Brad Friedel, who was forced to watch from the bench.
Whether it was blind loyalty to Cudicini, who had played in every FA Cup game this season, or not, it proved an errant decision.
That said, Spurs clearly had more problems than just their goalkeeper. Doing away with 4-4-2 after that system’s failure against Norwich, Redknapp instead went with Rafael van der Vaart in a 4-5-1 system.
Unfortunately, the manager’s recent flip-flopping between both formations only seems to have added to Spurs’ uncertainty.
Despite matching Chelsea in terms of numbers in midfield, Tottenham failed to get any confidence going with their passing game early on. Giving away possession frequently, they looked rushed and uncomfortable, even when passes were finding their intended targets.
It was as cagey an opening as the recent goalless draw at Stamford Bridge, until close to the half-hour mark when Spurs got a sharp but ultimately unheeded warning not to let Chelsea in behind them on the counter-attack.
Kyle Walker lost the ball to Salomon Kalou and was very lucky that Juan Mata was off balance when he reached the ensuing cross.
Spurs struggled out wide defensively too - despite all the pre-match talk about Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa being the full-backs who were more likely to be on the back foot.
Too much room was given for Chelsea to float balls into the Tottenham box, although most were eventually dealt with well enough.
Spurs had their moments though, when things could have gone either way. Aaron Lennon drifted beyond David Luiz into the area, only to tap the ball tamely into the path of a Chelsea player.
Seconds later, John Terry was forced to clear off the line when Lennon pitched the ball up for Van der Vaart, who headed past Petr Cech but was still denied.
Emmanuel Adebayor wasted an even more glaring chance to make it 1-0, failing to get any sort of definitive touch on a stunningly curled and weighted cross from Van der Vaart, which instead bounced off the post.
For the first time, Chelsea were being pinned back – but suddenly a seemingly harmless long ball reached the lone frontman Dider Drogba on the edge of the box.
The Ivorian held off William Gallas before somehow beating Cudicini with a venomous strike at the near post, completely changing the whole direction of the match just before half-time.
Cudicini seemed to make amends early in the second half, getting down well to deny Mata’s low shot and, from the resulting corner, the Italian keeper also saved from Luiz.
The ball fell to Mata though and, when the Spaniard’s effort struck a bundle of bodies on the goal-line, all hell broke loose - Atkinson awarded a goal but replays showed it clearly hadn’t crossed the line.
Tottenham were rightly incensed and the supporters were both enraged and enlivened in equal measure. Spurs briefly came back in the best possible way, taking all the positives out of the injustice by redoubling their efforts as they pressed for a retaliatory strike.
Scott Parker found Adebayor with a perfect through ball, and he both outpaced and outmuscled Luiz before beating Cech and gifting Gareth Bale with an open goal.
Spurs switched to 4-4-2, introducing Jermain Defoe up front, but again poor defending through the middle cost them.
In fact it was horrific defending. Mata was given the time and space that Luka Modric could only have dreamt of, and this time Parker couldn’t close down the creaking gaps which were opening up everywhere. Ramires was able to nip in behind a defensive line that was nowhere near straight or organised enough, and made it 3-1.
Any credit that Cudicini may have got for his performance disappeared with his former club’s fourth goal.
Again wrong-footed - just as he had been against Bolton Wanderers for Kevin Davies’ late goal in the quarter-final - the Spurs keeper tried to pre-empt which way Frank Lampard’s long-range free-kick was heading but was beaten down the narrow side of his goal, which he should have had covered.
Even the normally good-natured Parker lost his rag and had to be restrained after a kick from John Obi Mikel, and Florent Malouda then nutmegged the rather sorry figure of Cudicini to complete the 5-1 mauling.
Put this result next to a league record of just six points from a possible 24 and Redknapp suddenly has a lot to answer for – and to sort out.
It’s all going horribly wrong but Spurs have to come back even stronger, as they did two years ago. Saturday’s trip to QPR at Loftus Road is now an enormous test.