By Ryan Fleming
The English soccer world was up in arms one week ago over one of their most exciting, young clubs, Tottenham. But, for no good reason.
In its first European Cup appearance since 1962, the Spurs were upset, 3-2, by Swiss side Young Boys in the first leg of their Champions League Playoff. However, a pair of second half goals to shorten a three-goal deficit gave Spurs some confidence going into their second leg Wednesday at White Hart Lane.
The frenzy that the English tabloids have themselves caught in is utterly ridiculous.
Tottenham, thanks to the likes of striker Roman Pavlyuchenko, find themselves in a awkward, yet positive position despite coming back to England with a loss.
The two away goals are extremely significant in a stage where the home leg, back in North London, only needs to see the Spurs strike once while holding Young Boys scoreless – a task apparently complicated, if you listen to the talking heads in Jolly Old.
In order for that to happen, certain adjustments need to be made, namely, taking advantage of opportunities. Though it could be said for both sides, Spurs were extremely wasteful when the opportunity arose to close the gap. Pavlyuchenko, himself, could be pointed out for missing an array of chances or Jermain Defoe, who astonishingly failed to connect on a cross from the Russian striker.
Tottenham needs to play better overall defense. In this case I wouldn’t put the option of Gareth Bale coming back and playing left back instead of his now normal position, left midfield, in the past. Bale not only can play solid defensively, but he can add to the Spurs attack, adding another layer to the offense – further complicating a successful defense.
We’ve all seen what Bale can do when he is on – especially if you were watching Spurs against Stoke on Saturday. Despite scoring a goal, Sebastien Bassong and Spurs captain, Michael Dawson, need to wake up. Both were directly responsible for the second and third goals Spurs conceded to Young Boys last weeks. Dawson cannot afford to play so lax when the threat of manager, Harry Redknapp, removing the armband is ever so apparent – not to mention a ticket to the Europa League instead of the Champions League Group Stage.
Truth is, yes, this should have never happened and Spurs should be going into the second leg with a much favorable result against weaker opposition. Maybe it was the tension, maybe it was the jitters from still easing into competitive matches or maybe it was the turf after all. Putting silly excuses aside, this result, if Tottenham plays to its potential, was nothing but a fluke. Not taking anything away from what Young Boys have done here, but Spurs are a stronger side. This should have been a wake-up call.
With all of White Hart Lane behind them and the need to score only one goal (gathering that Young Boys don’t score) Spurs should send the Swiss side back with a deep sigh of relief rather than a deep sense of what should have been.
Ryan Fleming is an editor and a contributing writer for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at Ryan.Fleming@thesoccerguysonline.com.