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Monday, 14 December 2015

Weakness returns to haunt us

Well, there was the defeat some crazy Spurs fans were hoping for. Against Chelsea, we visibly tired in the second half, against Newcastle United we have now just witnessed the same thing.

In the first half, we were hungry, like a pack of wolves when we were hunting down the ball. We played with a pace and intensity Newcastle simply couldn't match. As ever when a side is in the ascendancy you have to score, we did. However apart from the goal we were looking good without being clinical again. 

Their keeper made a number of saves, particularly from Lamela, but in honesty. they were saves he should have made. There was a slow curling left-footer from a ball pulled back from the byline, exactly what we weren't doing against WBA. The shot needed more pace though. Then a smart move put Lamela through again, but, this time, it was only a toe poke the keeper had to save and it was probably going over the bar anyway.

The best chance fell to Danny Rose, but he showed a complete lack of composure in front of goal. He simply tried to blast the ball as hard as he could, hit and hope tactics. His technique went all wrong. By attempting just power, he pulled his leg off the right line and thus didn't connect with the ball correctly. The result was the ball was pulled and went for a throw-in on the other side.

The second saw Newcastle make adjustments, as you would expect them to do, and Tottenham ran out of energy. Tom Carroll had a good first half but disappeared in the second. It was his first Premier League start and he played Thursday night. You can do all the training you like but until you play in games you don't get that match fitness. It is no surprise he tired, the others are more hardened to it, just.

There was a Lamela drag onto his right foot and cross which was, while good, fruitless as the cross was far too high. Had Lennon done that people would complain he never finds a man. Wingers cross balls into areas, it is for the striker to get to that area. On this occasion, the ball wasn't played into the a dangerous area. It looked good but wasn't threatening at all. He should have either played the ball along the floor hoping the striker gets the first touch or at head height for an on-rushing forward to beat his man to the ball. In those situations, you can't pick out a man, but you can pick out an area and play it into that.

It is just that little bit extra, the fine margins that separate the very good players from the absolutely top notch players. There isn't a great difference, but they are important differences. That is the next step our players are looking to make. During the way will be trial and error as I wrote in an earlier piece. There will be ups and downs as we look to build a squad we can develop.

It is understandable people want the finished article now, but Tottenham are not the finished article, we are in a growing process. We have assessed, thrown out those we don't want, brought in those we do, with more to come, and are developing.

We take the lessons from the game, take the positives and move on. A lack of composure in front of goal is down to mental training, it is something you have to teach the brain. If you don't the same thing will keep occurring.

The other lesson is again mental. We lost intensity which suggests the players mentally relaxed when we were 1-0 up. Instead of striving to win a game, to score, we look as if we change mindset slightly. It is almost as if we decide we don't have to charge about, or play quickly. Our play slows down, our faster attacks become rarer and we resort to slower build-up and more prolonged build-up in advanced midfield and around their box. We seem to search for the perfect chance rather than a chance and the perfect chance is a rare beast. 

As I say this is a mindset thing, the players have to learn how to react when we go 1-0 up. Too many times we have failed to see out a 1-0 win or increased our lead. 

I have discussed clinical finishing many times for situations just like this, these are the times when it is needed. It has to be ingrained, not, as it is now, hit and miss. You can not keep turning a switch when you want clinical finishing, the body will revert to default, which for Danny Rose is to simply blast the ball. I use Rose merely as an example, I'm not putting him forward as the reason for defeat, that was a failure to cope with the required mentality change.

It is easy to write when things are going well and to assume all is right. Regular readers will know mentality has been a theme of mine since before Pochettino joined us and I have advocated the use of sports psychologists in varying roles. This game was an example why. Making those little mental differences are the keys to the next level. It's why they are used to a far greater degree in other sports with telling effect.

Pochettino has done wonders with our mentality to date, but he isn't a specialist, he can only do so much. Yes, he can build a winning team without a brain training regime, but not without brain training. For me, it should be a compulsory part of training, every day for 15 minutes. If it changes our mentality in situations like this, if it changes a players mentality, and Rose is an example, in front of goal they will have done their job, if they change the mentality when we are 1-0 up they will have done their job.

Complain all you like when I suggest we need to be more clinical when we have won, this game demonstrated why. Three points dropped, a Top 4 spot rejected. Look for all the scapegoats you like but train the brain and you train the body. Take the lessons, look forward and change the future, you can't change the past.

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