Tottenham’s win over Southampton lifted them into fourth position in the Premier League having lost only twice in nine League matches. Spurs’ performances, however, have been lacking in consistency with periods of quick, exciting football accompanied with times when the team appears to have lost its way. Against Southampton, the match followed a similar pattern with a display of controlled, creative football in the first half when Spurs deserved to be more than two goals ahead. After the interval it all fell away as Spurs allowed the home team to have the upper hand, dominating possession and play which could so easily have allowed Southampton to take at least a point from a match in which for forty five minutes, they were outclassed.
Tottenham have had to cope with a number of players absent through injury for most of the opening ten weeks of the season. Against Chelsea, five recognised first team players were absent – Younes Kaboul, Scott Parker, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Mousa Dembele and Gareth Bale. With Dembele injured and Bale absent on paternity leave, Spurs were unable to sustain their early second half recovery which troubled Chelsea, clearly missing both players, especially Bale’s pace and creative strength to trouble the visitors’ defence.
Bale returned against Southampton and provided the opening goal against his former club but as the team subsided in the second half, Tottenham’s difficulties have a more deep lying problem – a lack of leadership in the team. William Gallas gave his all in defence using every ounce of his vast experience to keep Southampton at bay when they looked capable of drawing level. Sandro was immense in midfield – a colossus who didn’t flinch when knocked to the ground by a powerful drive which hit him on the head in the final minutes. He was immediately on his feet, ready for the next threat from the home side. Such individual heroics are commendable and the team as a whole battled to the final whistle even though they had been involved in a tiring trip to Slovenia during the week. There was, however, no leader on the pitch to pull the players together and inspire greater endeavour throughout the team. In the past Dave Mackay, Steve Perryman or Graham Roberts were capable of doing that when they pulled on the Tottenham shirt.
Where’s Today’s ‘Dave Mackay’?
Twelve months ago after Spurs had defeated Queen’s Park Rangers at White Hart Lane, former manager Harry Redknapp, was lavish in his praise of Scott Parker who was the ‘Man of the Match’. His then manager compared Parker’s display with that of the Spurs’ legend from the successful era of the 1960s, Dave Mackay. Parker was thoroughly deserving of his award for an all round performance that allowed Spurs to showcase all their skills as they overcame their west London rivals.
Harry Redknapp said of Scott Parker in October, 2011,
“Parker was just amazing, I haven’t seen many displays like that. You hate to mention anyone in the same breath as Dave Mackay, who was one of finest players at this club, but it was right up there with the best. Dave would have been proud of that performance. He won every tackle, he broke things up, his all round play was top class. He’s made a big difference.”
Parker stepped into a dispirited and thoroughly disillusioned Tottenham team in September, 2011 after they had lost heavily to both Manchester clubs. That started the undefeated run which lasted until December and throughout the season Parker was a commanding presence in midfield. Having joined Tottenham from West Ham United, Parker was not every Spurs supporters’ favourite player and even though he’d won the Player of the Year award the previous season, many weren’t convinced about the thirty year old. He won many over through the season, however, and brought experience and an authority to central midfield. With his style of play, Parker’s presence in midfield granted a greater freedom to the more creative players to use their skills further up the pitch.
Composed on the ball, determined when not in possession, tough in the tackle and careful in his distribution, Parker brought a decade of Premier League experience to White Hart Lane and the team had a much better balance in its play. Parker captained the side on occasions in the absence of Ledley King and Michael Dawson but even without the armband he led by example, going in where it hurts and not afraid to hold back when looking to win the ball. His reading of the game enabled him to intercept passes that could have led to dangerous situations had the move developed. His energy throughout was such that he always appeared ‘out on his feet’ before the end of a gruelling match.
Who can forget his performance at Anfield last February as he almost single-handedly held Liverpool at bay? The stats from that game demonstrate Parker’s contribution to Spurs earning a point, with many of the blocks and clearances coming in the final minutes at a time in the match when Liverpool were making a final effort to take the three points and and when traditionally Spurs would have wilted under the pressure:
2 tackles, 5 interceptions, 7 clearances, 3 shots blocked, 89% passing accuracy
Parker’s attitude and performance were an important part of Tottenham’s play last year and he produced performances of a similar nature for England in the summer as he battled in midfield during the Euro 2012 tournament. His determination to represent his country probably exacerbated the injury problem which had troubled him in the final weeks of the season.
The ‘New’ Dave Mackay
To have been compared with the legendary Dave Mackay was an incredible accolade. Spurs supporters are only too aware of the tremendous influence Mackay brought to the ‘Double’ team and he received a tremendous reception when presented to the crowd at White Hart Lane in the Europa League game against Hearts last season. The success achieved during the 1960s was greatly dependent on his ‘never say die’ approach, his total commitment and his amazing skills. Such praise gave Parker an amazing standard to aspire to but it is perhaps those combative qualities that are missing from the current team.
Andre Villas-Boas is aware of the problem and spoke of it after the draw with Maribor,
“We did that much better in the second half. So far we have only played in one half or the other. We have not had a 90-minute performance, apart from Lazio. We have to get this right.’
Unfortunately, with Parker’s recovery date from injury having been extended to Christmas, Tottenham are going to have to battle on without him at present and find a way to overcome the problem of only producing their best for forty five minutes in every match.
Have your say: Vote in HotspurHQ Poll: Which Injured Player have Tottenham missed this season? Here