Tottenham still prone to old failings
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE: Tottenham 1 West Brom1:SO TOTTENHAM Hotspur’s season can now begin. By the time they play Norwich City on Saturday, the transfer window will have closed, their squad will be complete and all the muttering and manoeuvring in the background will have ceased. The trouble is they will not be able to recover the two games that have slipped away. Again.
It was difficult to ignore the ghosts of the recent past at White Hart Lane, and not only because of Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s gloriously off-message answer to the question of whether Harry Redknapp’s sacking in June had been a surprise.
“Yeah, I was very surprised,” the Tottenham left-back said. “Very surprised because I don’t think there are a lot of managers who finished fourth and they are sacked so . . . I was surprised, yeah.”
Andre Villas-Boas has replaced Redknapp but the similarities to the beginning of last season are plentiful.
Luka Modric wants a transfer and he is in no frame of mind to play; uncertainty clings to the future of other players; the club’s incoming business is unresolved. Under Redknapp last season, Tottenham lost their opening League fixtures to Manchester United and City and, following the latter, he bemoaned “a feeling round the place . . . for me, it’s not been right”.
The mood has been more upbeat under Villas-Boas and, as he pointed out, the team have one more point than last season, even if this draw against an upwardly mobile West Bromwich Albion represented a disappointment after the defeat at Newcastle United last Saturday.
Albion were full value for James Morrison’s injury-time side-footed equaliser which cancelled out Assou-Ekotto’s 25-yard deflected drive.
Tottenham’s slick and incisive moves in the first half only lacked a cutting edge in front of goal but the overriding impression was that something was missing. The crowd sensed it; for the opening home game of the season, the atmosphere was surprisingly flat for periods.
It was West Brom who finished with the bit between their teeth. They were rampant for the last 10 minutes or so, with Tottenham clinging on desperately to their one-goal advantage.
Tottenham anticipate a busy week leading to Friday night’s transfer deadline and, given their propensity to leave things late, there is no guarantee any new signings will be cleared to face Norwich. Striker Emmanuel Adebayor, a substitute against West Brom after signing on Tuesday, should at least be closer to match fitness.
Modric’s composure was missed and Villas-Boas said the midfielder’s transfer to Real Madrid was “just a question of time”. It feels as though the deal will be announced when Tottenham have secured a replacement.
Villas-Boas might reflect that he needs time and there was no sense of alarm over the club’s poor start.
Steve Clarke was determined to manage expectations after the dream start to his managerial career at West Brom. Getting to 40 points, the accepted survival cut-off, remained the priority, he said.
He was also determined to avoid building up Romelu Lukaku, the on-loan Chelsea striker, whose impact at White Hart Lane as a 63rd-minute substitute was immense. Lukaku had been a goalscoring substitute in the opening day win over Liverpool.