Blackburn v Tottenham, Premier League, February 2, 2011
There have been some pretty woeful first half collapses by Tottenham in 2010/2011. The Champions League play-off first leg against Young Boys was somehow rescued in the remaining 150 minutes of the tie after a disastrous start and Gareth Bale produced an incredible one-man attempted rescue act in the San Siro versus Inter Milan.
So, with Spursâ€™ soft centre in mind, the FA Cup collapse at Fulham was all too familiar and this time there was no comeback, and not even a hint of one after some desperate defending at Craven Cottage. With Tottenhamâ€™s supposed success in the FA Cup when the year ends in 1 now over and with both the Premier League and Champions League unlikely to be hoisted in May, there is a developing sense that the season could well fall apart for Harry Redknapp and his team.
Perhaps the incredible momentum built up by Harry Redknapp had to stop some time? Spurs have won just twice in six games in 2011, one of them against Charlton in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. Crucially, Gareth Bale is set to be out for a few more weeks as he rests his back injury to be fit for the AC Milan Champions League tie and a host of strong physical players are injured or now missing whilst there seems to be too many diminutive midfielders who all play in front of the opposition.
Tom Huddlestoneâ€™s ongoing absence is starting to be felt, especially with Wilson Palacios also out. The fact that Redknapp does not have much faith in Sandro also seems pretty clear. The likes of Luka Modric, Steven Pienaar and Rafael van der Vaart are all class players but the Cottagers did not have a great deal of problem dealing with them on Sunday afternoon.
Part of the problem is that when VDV comes deep, the lone striker role has not suited Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe or Roman Pavlyuchenko. The desperate late moves to sign a striker on transfer deadline day are typical Daniel Levy, but you have to wonder why the aforementioned strikers have failed to score goals this season and why Redknapp is so loath to play two out-and-out strikers? Crouch and Defoe have played their best football at Spurs (and previously at Portsmouth) when they formed a partnership over a long period of games.
Tottenhamâ€™s defending all season has not been good enough for a top four side and they are in grave danger of missing out on another season in the Champions League because of it. Michael Dawson was â€œhorrendousâ€ at Fulham, as described by Harry Redknapp but Sebastien Bassong was little better, as was shown by his attempts to stop Moussa Dembele for the fourth.
Question marks have been raised at various times over the full backs, Alan Huttonâ€™s challenge for the first penalty was poor and Benoit Assou-Ekotto always seems to produce a poor game every month with the most recent example at Everton. At least, despite Redknappâ€™s protestations, Bongani Khumalo and Jonathan Woodgate could beef up the central defensive options on Wednesday at Blackburn, a game Michael Dawson will miss out on due to suspension.
And there is plenty for Spurs to fear at Blackburn. Steve Keane has had a mixed time since taking over from Sam Allardyce but his side will fancy playing a team with a soft centre and goal shy forwards. They have won their last three home games and both West Brom and Liverpool have been bullied at Ewood Park in recent weeks. Spurs may have beaten Sam Allardyceâ€™s Blackburn in November but that was with two goals from Gareth Bale.
Roque Santa Cruz is a doubt for Blackburn after tweaking his thigh in the FA Cup fourth round defeat at Aston Villa. But the likes of Nikola Kalinic and David Hoilett must be sniffing blood.
101gg predicts: Blackburn 2 â€“ Tottenham 1