Tottenham secured a 2-1 away victory at Sunderland, courtesy of goals from Paulinho and an own goal from John O’Shea, with the former cancelling out Adam Johnson’s opening strike.
Pre-match, I must admit, I was worried. We lined up with a back line of Kyle Walker, Michael Dawson, Etienne Capoue and Kyle Naughton. Kyle Walker being our only true starter, with Michael Dawson increasingly struggling to fit into the system which Andre Villas Boas is pressuring the side to play. Etienne Capoue meanwhile came into the side due to an injury to Vlad Chiriches. As you know, Etienne Capoue typically plays as a defensive midfielder, yet has in the past, at Toulouse, played centre half. Finally, Kyle Naughton came in for the injured Jan Vertonghen, after the Belgium was injured midweek against Fulham.
We started the match brightly, looked to press the ball high and looked creative when in possession. But the same record began playing, we hit the Sunderland defensive line, and completely ran out of ideas. We were useless in the final third, with Jermaine Defoe hardly seeing the ball.
Now, Sunderland started with a very attacking line-up, starting two strikers, in Jozy Altidore and Steven Fletcher, with two wide men, in Seb Larsson and Adam Johnson. Despite Gus Poyet’s clear initial intentions to run at our players, they were the side which dropped off, with Altidore playing far deeper than expected and simply waited to catch us on the break, leading us to have many periods of sustained possession.
Regardless to say, Sunderland took the lead first. Hugo Lloris came out and attempted to clear his line with a punch away, but did so poorly, the ball dropping to Adam Johnson, who did well to knock the ball down and reacted well to swipe it into the back of the net.
We responded well, only six minutes later, Kyle Walker had a free kick wide on the right hand side, lofted the ball in for Nacer Chadli to nod down and Paulinho spiked at the ball for his second goal in the Premier League.
We started the second half brightly, Defoe going close straight after kick off, until the 50th minute where the impressive Moussa Dembele made a strong, purposeful run into the box, put the ball central, with caught Sunderland’s centre half, John O’Shea and went into the back of the net.
We then continued to dominate, but struggled to apply the finishing touches, with Jermaine Defoe hitting the post twice, as we struggled to truly kill off the match and gradually, Sunderland worked their way back into contention, exposing our make-shift defence on a number of occasions and harshly had a penalty call turned down after an incident with substitute Sandro.
There was a moment in the first half, where we cleared the ball from the back and Aaron Lennon broke away, he passed across the field to Kyle Naughton who cut back and completely slowed down the play and passed off to the deeper playing Dembele. This piece of play, typifies completely how we’ve done so far this season. Fantastic tempo in the midfield, build play strong, until we get into the final third, where we completely fall apart and run out of ideas.
Hugo Lloris is clearly lacking from confidence, ever since he suffered a head injury against Everton. And who can blame him? In his style of play, he is expected to be quick off his line and to clean up any balls swept past our centre halves and considering the backlash he received after that injury, he hasn’t been quite himself. He made a mistake in the Manchester City match, leading to them taking the lead after only 13 seconds, conceded a soft penalty against Manchester United and finally today a poor punch led to Sunderland’s goal. There’s no easy fix for this issue, especially with an constant rotating backline ahead of him and a lack of clean sheets.
It’s worth noting how unlucky we’ve been as far in terms of injuries, considering we currently have Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose, Vlad Chiriches and Younes Kaboul all injured from our backline, with Christian Eriksen also out, with Nacer Chadli, Sandro, Aaron Lennon and Hugo Lloris all receiving injuries at different times this season. Our defensive fragilities in particular being outlined, considering we had only one defender on our bench and that was Zeki Fryers.
Lloris 6, Walker 7, Capoue 7, Dawson 7, Naughton 5
Dembele 8, Paulinho 8
Lennon 9, Holtby 8, Chadli 6
A relative good performance, considering we started our third choice left sided full back, a defensive midfielder in the heart of defence, our third choice left sided winger, our back-up striker, no true anchor-man in midfield and no true #10. We are now only three points off second place, and who currently occupies second place? It’s the side who visits the lane next week. Let’s dream,