The weekend’s most mouth-watering Premier League clash may have finished 0 – 0, but judging by the clamour in Berlin’s brilliant Blarney Pub, few who saw Tottenham Hotspur versus Manchester United were disappointed. This was a thrilling match and an accurate measure of each team’s current quality.
First off, despite the attacking talent on display, it was defenders who ruled at White Hart Lane. United’s Nemanja Vidic in particular deserves praise for an imperious 90 minutes. The Serbian hard nut, who could probably melt steel with his stare alone, made playing against a 6’7” striker (201cm) look easy. Okay, we all know by now that Peter Crouch can’t actually jump, but still the United centre-half bested him continually in the air and relished every second of this encounter.
At one point, Sky treated viewers to a super slow motion shot of Vidic challenging Rafael Van Der Vaar with a diving header. Horizontal, hanging for seemingly an age, turning his head mid leap to watch the ball sail safely out of play, Vidic really did look like Superman in flight, or perhaps a magnificent thrashing salmon. Either way, it was a frozen moment that typified Vidic’s performance and for once justified the flashy camera work. No wonder he finished the game for 10-man United crippled by cramp.
United are still unbeaten in the Premier League
Despite having problems elsewhere on the pitch (Wayne Rooney misplaced a disturbing 50 per cent of his passes for example), United are still unbeaten in the Premier League this season. With the Rio Ferdinand and Vidic partnership firing on all cylinders, there will certainly be more clean sheets for them between here and the end of the season and it is becoming increasingly questionable whether any side boasts the attacking talent to beat Sir Alex Ferguson’s table-toppers.
For moments in this game it looked like Spurs might have it in them to do so and momentarily interrupt United’s steady parade to the Premier League title (registering a first win against the Red Devils in 24 games in the process). They were certainly the slicker side going forward, with pint-sized Croatian schemer Luka Modric pulling the strings beautifully in the Spurs midfield. He has been moved to a deeper play-making role to accommodate Van Der Vaart, but much like Bastian Schweinsteiger at Bayern Munich last season, has demonstrated how beneficial it can be for a precision passer to see more of the pitch in front of him. Modric marries his exquisite delivery with industry and surprising strength on the ball. No wonder United themselves made enquiries about his availability during the summer.
On top of the Premier League with goal difference of 24
Spurs though were once again undone by their lack of a world-class striker, something the match statistics show clearly: Spurs had 55 per cent of the possession, more corners (eight to United’s two), and more shots than United (11 to United’s seven) – but less of those shots were on target (three to United’s four). The North Londoners are creating ample chances, but failing to adequately trouble opposition keepers.
For all the thrill of their approach play (which on Sunday was often electrifying), they are desperately poor up front. This scoreless result leaves them outside the top four and a quick glance at the table’s goal difference column shows that is where they belong. United are top of the Premier League today with a goal difference of 24, Manchester City in second have 18, Arsenal in third have 23 and Chelsea have 19. Spurs’ goal difference? A paltry six.
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The question is then, what do Spurs do about it? The obvious answer is buy a striker – and one who can play convincingly in the 4−5−1 that accommodates the ridiculous talents of Bale, Modric, Van Der Vaart and on his day, Aaron Lennon. Newcastle’s woolly strike mammoth Andy Carroll would certainly fit the bill but his club are reluctant to sell. Instead, Spurs are today being linked with a move for Ajax and Uruguay comic book villain Luis Suárez who would definitely add some bite to their attack. Perplexingly though, his favoured position is the deeper-lying second strikers’ role. He is also cup-tied for the Champions League and valued at £15 million, won’t come cheap. That said, David Bent’s ludicrous £24 million move from Sunderland to Aston Villa will boost Harry Redknapp’s transfer kitty – Spurs, Bent’s former club, will receive 10 per cent of the profit.
The larger problem for Spurs is that if they don’t invest in a top striker, the price they pay at the end of the Premier League season could be significant: In an age when few players are as loyal as Ryan Giggs, who made his 600th Premier League appearance for United here, stars such as Bale, Modric and Van Der Vaart would be hard-pressed to turn down Champions League football elsewhere, having so revelled in it this season. That leaves Spurs with a mighty conundrum. Break the bank in January or risk the disintegration of one of England’s most exciting squads. Because if they can’t crack the top four cabal, there will be only one other route back to Europe’s top table for next season: By becoming the first ever London club to win the European Cup, at Wembley, in May. Now there’s something for Spurs fans to think about…
An dieser Stelle erklärt Titus Chalk die englische Fußball-Kultur und Premier League auf Deutsch
Folge 22: Horror debut
Wayne Bridge hat am Wochenende versucht diese zwei peinliche Worte neu zu definieren mit einem des schlimmsten Debüts aller Zeit. Der Links-Verteidiger und dicke Freunde John Terrys, hat wahrend des Spiels vier Takels probiert, ohne Erfolg. Nicht nur das, er war für jeden Tor von Arsenals 3 – 0 Sieg gegen West Ham verantwortlich. Nur vielleicht der anrüchige Ali Dia hat schlechter gespielt – In 1996, hat Dia Graham Souness, der damalige Trainer von Southampton, erzählt, dass er George Weahs Cousin war, um einen Vertrag zu kriegen. Er hat als Einwechselspieler sein Debüt gegen Leeds gemacht – aber musste selbst nach 53 Minuten, ausgewechselt werden. Er sah aus, sagte Matthew LeTissier, »wie Bambi auf Eis«.