Tottenham’s FA Cup 4th Round defeat to Leeds United at Elland Road was an upset but not a shock to long time Spurs supporter, Mark Rose. Mark travels the length and breadth of the country to follow Spurs and hasn’t missed a match, home, away or abroad in years. Mark (or Rosie as he’s known to many) posted his thoughts on the match on the From the Lane messageboard and gave me permission to publish them on HotspurHQ blog. Mark holds very definite views on Spurs and they make for interesting reading.
Article written by Tottenham supporter Mark Rose.
When something bad happens that was foreseeable it is usually as a result of a combination of factors. Those factors are usually all preventable and, if just one of those factors are prevented in advance, the bad thing will not happen. However if no preventative action is taken and given that time is infinite then, at some point, they will inevitably collide to produce a negative outcome that, ironically, most would think could not have been foreseeable.
I wasn’t thinking about negative outcomes when I left my house at 23.45 on Saturday evening though. I was thinking more about the journey ahead, particularly as I was going to be travelling on the overnight bus to Leeds and would be by myself for most of the day.
Spurs started brightly in terms of possession but created few clear cut chances. We often got to the edge of the penalty area or down the sides to cross but either our final ball was poor or we couldn’t create space such that our shots were too far out and were tamely saved. Despite this we still created a couple of decent efforts but we couldn’t put them away. Then, disaster, Naughton slipped, Leeds broke through and curled the ball past Friedel. We huffed and we puffed for the remainder of the first half but couldn’t get back into the game.
The second half kicked off and we continued huffing and puffing but then, deja vu, a high ball from Leeds pumped forward, both our central halves were caught flat footed, the Leeds striker ran in between the pair of them and again curled the ball past a flat footed Friedel. We then had a decent spell and Dempsey missed a brilliant chance to pull one back. Shortly later he did, converting with a header after an excellent Bale cross from the left. Then the game entered a different stage. Leeds increased their physicality and we struggled to maintain any momentum. In truth we created little of note in the last half an hour whilst Leeds actually broke through again thanks to another defensive slip only this time for Friedel to save with his leg.
Into injury time and everyone went up for the last chance of the game, a free-kick from the right but alas, Friedel of all players headed wide and that was that. Another season, another year of not winning the FA Cup.
After the return bus journey from Leeds, Mark arrived home after almost 24 hours on the road at 23.25.
So, out of the FA Cup once again. I wasn’t surprised. We don’t usually do well the season after losing in a semi-final and Leeds away was a tough fixture. I predicted a draw before the game but certainly thought a narrow defeat was a possibility. As was a narrow win. But what was more irking about our first defeat to a lower league team for a few years was the manner of it. Because there were a number of factors:
- The team selection. Lloris rested. Defoe rested. Huddlestone in the centre. Okay a team that still should have been strong enough to beat Leeds. But it sent out a message. A message to say that we didn’t need our strongest possible team because it wasn’t the most important game. The wrong attitude. The next game is always the most important.
- The lack of options. Defoe maybe needed a rest. Adebayor is not available. That just left Dempsey. Not an out an out striker. Sure, he scored our goal but he missed other chances. Obika came on but couldn’t take a late, difficult, chance. This squad needs another striker. The manager knows it, the other players know it, the fans know it and Levy knows it. But whether he does anything about it remains to be seen. With a decent one yesterday we may have nicked a draw;
- Our defending. Assou-Ekotto, Caulker, Vertonghen, Naughton. All of them, all at sea. The worst defensive unit I’ve seen from Spurs in a game for a long time. Compare that with the Leeds back four who were solid, crowded out the space, and kept their line and shape well. Part of the blame has to be pointed at Friedel. He didn’t come out to claim the ball. On more than occasion Leeds nearly got through because there was no communication between himself and the defence. Without the assuming Lloris at the back Spurs looked lost.
- Our attitude. Leeds were first to most 50/50 balls and then first to second balls when the ball became loose again. They hurried and hassled. They fought and they won. They wanted it more than we did and therefore deserved to beat us. This attitude is something that has always been bubbling under the surface, always hiding just beneath the carefree, fancy style of football that our fans like to see us play, under successive management and owners. It is something that, with a bit of coaching, could easily have been avoided.
The media call it an upset which it was, for a team a division below to beat us. But it wasn’t a surprise. It was bound to happen at some point. The question now is not to get too despondent with the defeat itself (although it remains disappointing) but to ask what are we going to do about it? How are we going to put preventative measures in place to stop it happening again? Because we need to. Otherwise we won’t win the Europa League. Otherwise we won’t finish in the top four. The obvious answer, the hole that is most easily pluggable, the quick win as it were, is investment. Investment in a quality midfielder. Investment in cover throughout the squad. Most importantly investment in a new striker. Will this happen before the transfer window closes later this week? I don’t know. Only time will tell.
Something bad has happened. Such is life. The key now is to prevent it happening again. Onwards and upwards. Let’s hope the club pushes for top 4 and the Europa League title.