What a rollercoaster ride Tottenham Hotspur’s first Champions League game was away at Werder Bremen on Tuesday night. It did not appear to take Spurs long to settle in amongst the greats of European football, even though Bremen are not quite the Barcelonas of this world. Nonetheless, Bremen were supposed to be more than capable of giving Tottenham a tough night on their debut in this year’s competition. However, Tottenham fans found themselves in dreamland after taking a two-goal lead inside the first 20 minutes of the game. Although Spurs conceded just short of half-time, they still looked like pushing on and scoring a couple more but it was not to be. A revitalised Bremen came out flying in the second-half and soon equalised. What had happened to Spurs? They looked placid, shocked and a far different team to that which was creating chances a plenty in the first half. This is a problem Spurs must address, and fast.
First, you have to respect and admire the manner in which Spurs play their football under Harry Redknapp. Regardless of playing home or away, Tottenham rarely change their approach. Spurs often start matches very lively and play at a terrifying pace, which leaves many teams on the back foot from the first minute of the game. This is brilliant from an entertainment perspective, but how many times already this season have we seen Tottenham fail to replicate their first-half performance in the second-half of matches? You only have to go back to the first game of the season against Manchester City when Tottenham were held to a goalless draw at home. Spurs controlled the first half and could have easily have been four or five goals up at half-time. Nevertheless, Tottenham lacked that cutting edge in front of goal, and they were not helped by an impressive display that day from goalkeeper Joe Hart. In the second-half, Tottenham fizzled out and struggled to get anywhere near the tempo of which they played at during the first-half of the match.
The problem could be many factors, ranging from players stamina and the opposition adjusting to the way Tottenham play. Another problem is that not enough individuals in Tottenham’s starting XI are providing as much as they could. Gareth Bale has been the driving force behind their success in the past year, and he is usually at the centre of any activity in the oppositions half. Luka Modric has also aided Bale with some fine performances, but apart from Bale and Modric, who else has helped provide that cutting edge? You have Jermain Defoe, who will score a fair share of goals, but someone has to help create chances. Aaron Lennon has failed to push on this season and he has been far less of a threat to that of last season. It is surprising that Mexican international Giovanni dos Santos has not been given substantial chances in the side. Having impressed at the World Cup and performed well in pre-season he has struggled to force his way into the team. It has not helped that Bale has been performing so well in his position, but he could be a real threat as an impact substitution. It will be interesting to see how Rafael van der Vaart will perform over the next couple of weeks. He has started life in London very well and already has two assists to his name – along with some committed performances.
So far this season, Tottenham could have found themselves winning more games than they actually have. They should have beaten City comfortably on the opening day of the season, but quality evaded them in the first-half. And it was the same with the draw against Bremen on Tuesday. It was a great start and 2-0 was a brilliant score line, but if they could have scored a third the points would have been in the bag.
Spurs are a terrific team to watch, especially in the first-half. However, footballing greats play for 90 minutes. If Spurs are to succeed this season and in particular in the Champions League, they must perform consistently from the first minute to the last. A complete performance against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday would be ideal for Spurs, who must now kick on having started the season indifferently.