Tottenham Hotspur's Lessons Learned

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 13: Goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes of Spurs can't stop Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid scoring their first goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg match between Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid at White Hart Lane on April 13, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Upon our elimination from the UEFA Champions League last week at the hands of Real Madrid, I thought of the lessons we’ve learned whilst on our football ‘journey’ at the highest level of club football. For me, that’s been officiating, and how to gain a legal advantage to use to our benefit.

Often during our wondrous Champions League run, we were shooting ourselves in the foot (usually, through needless bookings). I’ve long felt that our players need to be cuter with the referee not only in European competition but on the domestic front also. I’m not saying that we should cheat per se, but I do think we should do as the so called ‘bigger’ teams do and learn how to aid our cause of winning a particular game (especially games with lots riding on it).

Gareth Bale, William Gallas and at times, Rafael van der Vaart are the only ones in our side who were able to be ‘cute’ with the referee in terms of drawing fouls and free kicks. In terms of Bale, he can anticipate when a tackle is coming, so he’s able to ‘roll’ the challenge and get the free kick. He did the same thing for our free kick which won the game at the Emirates. Now I’m not saying we should go diving around the place to gain an advantage, but we can use the opponent’s errors to facilitate a free kick, which we then can use to our advantage.

Our poor disciplinary record was something else that we didn’t really fix during our Champions League run. From Heurelho Gomes’ red card away at the San Siro, Van der Vaart’s at White Hart Lane and of course, Peter Crouch’s moment of madness in Madrid. These instances don’t help our team to win and we need to cut this out the next time we face our continental opponents.

Such amateurish behaviour from our players gives officials reason to book our players with increasing regularity. It has to stop, and the buck starts with Harry Redknapp. Yes, he’s not controlling them once their on the field, but if he’s not telling the players to cut out the silly tackles who is? Just a thought.

Simulation and constant dialogue with the referee is now the norm in modern football, especially at the highest level. We have to level the playing field and give our opponents a taste of their own medicine. Our inferiority complex will only get us so far.

When doubt is uppermost in a players mind, nerves begin to creep in. When the nerves creep in, so do the silly, needless tackles. Let’s cut out the unforced errors and increase our chances of winning in all competitions.
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