Madrid defeat offers Tottenham some home truths

by admin

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
 

It had to end sometime. Spurs, perennially the plucky upstarts in this year’s Champions League, were exposed by Jose Mourinho’s brutally effective Real Madrid side on a sobering night in Madrid.

4-0 was the final scoreline in the Bernabeu but in truth the numbers mattered not one jot. If most observers were quick off the mark to praise Harry Redknapp’s team and their marauding style that endeared them to all on their European adventure, then the fresh night air in the Spanish capital bought sharply into focus what most knew but refused to admit. Spurs do not belong here.

The irony of an aerial threat doing most of the damage to a Spurs side with little else to offer beyond an aimless long ball will offer little comfort as their “big man up top” trudged of apologetically before a blow had been landed in anger from the visitors.

A brace from Emmanuel Adebayor, and a goal apiece for Christiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria all but put to bed Tottenham’s European dream, with more than a little help from their English opponents.

Simply put, too many areas of this Spurs side are not up to scratch. Both Vedran Corluka and Benoit Assou-Ekotto were exposed at the top level as they watched on ponderously as Marcelo and Sergio Ramos surged forward at will. There is no doubt that Luka Modric, Rafael Van der Vaart and Gareth Bale are talented but what use are three sets of hands plugging holes on a dam on the verge of collapse? Jermaine Jenas, Huerello Gomes, Peter Crouch. The list goes on.

The irony of an aerial threat doing most of the damage to a Spurs side with little else to offer beyond an aimless long ball will offer little comfort as their “big man up top” trudged of apologetically before a blow had been landed in anger from the visitors.

The memory of silencing an Italian crowd when Gareth Bale’s pneumatic  pace forced Maicon to wilt will offer nothing more than a rueful smile, even for those looking wistfully into the past whilst turning away from the present. It was like lambs to a slaughter as the sly professionals in royal white burst the Spurs bubble.

If everyone was willing to congratulate good ol’ Spurs for entertaining, then there was little to smile about as they repeated the same mistakes they had recovered from against Inter Milan so admirably earlier in the tournament, but this time failing to fight back. The party is over.

Redknapp will bemoan the sending off of Crouch for two mindless tackles inside the first 15 minutes. He will lament his team for carelessly gifting the ball back to a Madrid side not exactly pretty, but pretty effective. But in his hearts of hearts he will know that he does not have a squad on his hands capable of doing more than burning brightly ever so briefly before fading away.

Spurs have fulfilled the role of everybody’s second favourite in Europe wonderfully this season. They have gone forward, attempted to win games and left themselves open to attack. If everyone was willing to congratulate good ol’ Spurs for entertaining, then there was little to smile about as they repeated the same mistakes they had recovered from against Inter Milan so admirably earlier in the tournament, but this time failing to fight back. The party is over.

In truth Redknapp has been masking from the problems that ravage Spurs for some time. Games against Blackpool, Wolves, West Ham and Wigan came and went without a victory in the past month as their chance of a repeat performance in the Champions League next season evaporates into thin air. His strikeforce has failed to find the net so often of late that he is forced to rely on the most rudimentary form of attack – the long ball over the top.

Their one dimensional approach had been used to good effect in the past, but was never going to be enough to outfox a team of stars.

This defeat must be put into context, of course. Mourinho’s side cost over £200 million to assemble, while Spurs a relatively paltry £75 million. Ronaldo himself cost more than the entire Spurs eleven, and whether that is an indictment of the quality of the Tottenham side or a slight on the warped world of football transfers is an argument for another day.

But Redknapp thrust his side into the spotlight, spurred on by the belief that his side could sit comfortably at the European top table and ruffle feathers, and so they must be judged accordingly by that standard.

Injuries have played their part, but like their North London rivals they now find themselves with the remains of their season slipping through their hands in the space of a few weeks.

You had to feel for Spurs. As much as their (admittedly expected) naivety was the rope around their own neck, they found themselves bound, gagged and ready for the gallows from the off. Aaron Lennon’s last minute illness, Gareth Bale’s constant flirtation with injury, the game of catch up they were forced to play from three minutes onwards.

Tottenham will be left to wonder what might have been if Crouch hadn’t been sent off.

Could they have walked away with their Champions League hopes intact? Impossible to say,although I’m confident of which way the football bets would have gone. There are more serious issues for Redknapp to address however, broader problems that run to the heart of his squad which shouldn’t be ignored if they are to reach this stage on a regular basis, and warrant their place there without the circus that has followed them.

Injuries have played their part, but like their North London rivals they now find themselves with the remains of their season slipping through their hands in the space of a few weeks.

All credit goes to Real Madrid.  In boxing circles, coaches will often be heard shouting at their young charges to “cut off” the ring, counteracting their opponents every move to negate any speed they possess. Ever the fighter, Mourinho pushed and pulled his side around the pitch as they out-manoeuvred an ever tiring Spurs defence.

Xavi Alonso was the puppet master as ever, Christiano Ronaldo all flicks and jazz hands, and Marcelo doubling up as an attacking threat in both wide and central positions. Spurs were on the ropes and never looked like recovering, their legs wobbling under the weight of each lofty Madrid blow.

Still not in the same category as the suffocating Barcelona, Madrid still had more than enough to deal with a shell-shocked Spurs side. Tottenham mustered all they could of the memory from their remarkable defensive show against AC Milan in the previous round, but it wasn’t enough this time, not against a team of this quality with a manager like Mourinho.

Congratulate Spurs for their efforts this season and rejoice in the fact they made it to this stage. Offer a round of applause for the stoic attempts to slam the door shut in football betting favourites Real Madrid’s face. But Spurs must now face up to the harsh reality that they are not good enough, and if it took a lesson from a Spanish giant to learn then so be it. It is going to be a long, difficult end to the season.

 

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  • Jay

    If they qualified then they do belong there.

    Sentences like that are the reason i’m not going to bother reading the rest of your article.

  • http://thebeautifulgameweekly.blogspot.com/ Ben McAleer

    I feel compelled to agree with Jay. If Spurs didn’t belong in the Champions League, they wouldn’t have got 4th last season (at the expense of City), they would’ve lost to Young Boys, lost to Werder Bremen, Inter Milan and FC Twente in the group stages and not made it to the quarter finals beating AC Milan along the way

  • John

    I think the point is that they aren’t a good enough team overall to rub shoulders with the top teams in Europe, not that they don’t deserve their place this year specifically.

  • Josh

    I think it’s fair to say they deserved their shot, but what this has proven is that Spurs don’t currently have what it takes to balance a good run in the Champs League with everything else. Harry’s gaze was well and truly caught by Europe and so we have seen their league form drop, as well as any shot at winning silverware in a domestic cup. Whether it’s the depth of their squad, the manager or a combination of both, Spurs had their chance (deservedly) and they’ve made a pigs ear of making it back there next season. They better pull their socks up and pray that City slip.

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