I think I speak for everyone when I say that I am absolutely gutted by yesterdays results. However, I know that I must bear some of the blame for Tottenham Hotspur's defeat to Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. You see, as I was getting ready for work yesterday morning I totally forgot to put on my lucky underpants and instead wore my regular ones. Laugh all you want, but Spurs are undefeated in the Champions League when I don those lucky drawers and I can only imagine how different the match would have been had I been wearing them.
Lucky underpants aside, there are certainly numerous other reasons why Tottenham Hotspur fell 4-0 to Real Madrid. Even a casual fan could rattle of Peter Crouch's early red card, Jermaine Jenas' failure to mark Emmanuel Adebayor, and Aaron Lennon's illness as reasons that Spurs were defeated so soundly. I want to take some time to look at these and some of the other reasons that Tottenham were beaten like a redheaded stepchild in Madrid.
However, before we get to those reasons, I want to mention two people I cannot blame for last nights loss are Michael Dawson and Heurelho Gomes. Tottenham were forced to defend for much of the match, Spurs had only 28% of the possession, and though he probably got away with a handball in the box Dawson defended admirably for 90 minutes, throwing himself in front of numerous Real Madrid shots. He and Gomes are due a lot of credit for only allowing four goals. Real Madrid had 36 total shots last night including 10 on goal. There wasn't much Gomes could do about the Madrid goals and he did make a couple of nice saves on some of the other shots. These two weren't reasons why we lost. They played well considering the circumstances.
Now, back to why Tottenham Hotspur lost; the first and most obvious reason Spurs were defeated is that we were playing REAL MADRID! Maybe these aren't the Galacticos of old, but did you see their bench yesterday? It included: Kaka, Lassana Diarra, Gonzalo Higauin, Alvaro Arbeloa, Esteban Granero, and Ezequiel Garay. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that all of those players could be in Tottenham's starting XI. Of course the team put out onto the field was even more intimidating. Xavi Alonso and Cristiano Ronaldo are two of the best players in the world and Mesut Ozil, Pepe, and Angel Di Maria aren't so bad. Add to that the best keeper in the world, Iker Casillas, and this was always going to be a tough match for Spurs to get a result from.
Secondly, Real Madrid is managed by the "Special One", Jose Mourinho. He's the best manager in all of football and if anyone was going to have an effective game plan to dismantle Tottenham it was going to be him. Who knows what sort of effect Mourinho's mind games had on the Spurs players and coaching staff, that something that's hard to quantify, but I think we can all agree that even if Tottenham hadn't played most of the game with ten men Mourinho's side would have succeeded in breaking Spurs down.
Additionally, this match was in Madrid. At the Bernabeu! If the game been at White Hart Lane, maybe a result would have been possible. Many Tottenham fans were dismissive of the setting for this match. After all, hadn't Spurs turned in several wonderful performances at the San Siro already this year? But Tuesday night in Madrid with 80,000 people packed into the stands the Bernabeu was incredibly intimidating, especially considering the events of the early match.
Aaron Lennon's illness and subsequent inability to play also threw a colossal wrench in the works. The key to this game was going to be Tottenham's pace on the flanks against the suspect defending of Real Madrid's fullbacks and with our Lennon on the right Spurs were a totally different team. Maybe it was dodgy lasagna that kept him out or maybe he still wasn't recovered from whatever illness kept him out of the England squad. Whatever it was he apparently felt as though he couldn't go forcing Harry to replace him with Jermaine Jenas, which brings me to my next point.
Jermaine Jenas deserves some blame for the game too. It was Jenas' poor marking that lead to Adebayor's opening goal. For a man that is supposed to be a good all-around midfielder and has 21 caps for England (I know! Hard to believe, right?) he's actually pretty awful and that's the nicest thing I can say about him. Jenas was out of his depth from the get-go. While he may be useful, and even then only marginally so, against the likes of Stoke City and Wolverhampton to expect him to perform against Real Madrid is utterly ridiculous.
Peter Crouch is quite clearly at fault for this result as well. Yes, Tottenham Hotspur were already down by a goal when he was sent off, but that doesn't mean that his presence or at the least the presence of eleven players on the pitch wouldn't have made the rest of the match very different. Peter Crouch has an excellent goal-scoring record in European competition and while I'm not sure he would have scored, having him as a targetman for our wingers to aim at would have been useful. Crouch's challenges were silly and he fully deserved his red card. By all accounts Crouch was gutted and said he was sorry, but that doesn't excuse the stupidity of his actions.
Finally, Harry Redknapp's tactics are also partly to blame for this result. Prior to the game we all knew that Harry would be coming out in the 4-4-1-1 formation that he favors for continental play, but with Aaron Lennon's pre-match withdrawal from the starting XI it was time to make a change. Tottenham didn't really have a natural replacement for Lennon on the wing. Jermaine Jenas is more of a central midfielder, Niko Kranjcar is a left sided midfield player, and while both Luka Modric or Rafael Van der Vaart could have played on the right, their tendency to drift inside would have deprived Tottenham of the required width. However, Harry had to do something and, in my opinion, he chose to do exactly the wrong thing. Another options would have been to insert Tom Huddlestone, though he may not have been fully fit, into central midfield and slide either Modric or Van der Vaart to the right. Though this formation would have lacked width Huddlestone is certainly a better player than Jenas. What I would have done was throw caution to the wind and replace Lennon with either Roman Pavlyuchenko or Jermain Defoe and return to the 4-4-2 with Van der Vaart on the right. Harry loves to attack and that formation would have allowed us to do just that.
I'm sure I could come up with more reasons why we lost this match (injuries, Gareth Bale's lack of fitness,etc.), but I know that the only real reason and the root cause of all the above reasons that we lost this game is because I forgot my lucky underpants and for that I apologize. I apologize to the readers of this blog and Tottenham Hotspur fans the world over. I also want to ask forgiveness from Peter Crouch and Aaron Lennon who's respective fortunes would certainly have been reversed if I'd been wearing the correct undergarments. I hope you all find it in your heart to forgive me.