So we faced Spurs at the Turf – a daunting prospect against arguably one of the most free-flowing organised sides in the division. Or so we thought.
Personally, I thought we stifled Tottenham pretty well in the first 45. Dele Alli’s glorious chance aside, I didn’t see much in the first half effort from Spurs to be overly worried about. It wasn’t pretty from either side. In fact like many, I thought it was a rather dull opening half of football – but hey, it was 0-0 against a side that will be in the top 4 come the end of the season. We’d have taken that. The only criticism of our display for me was that of Joey Barton. Usually such a reliable character to have in the middle of the pitch but he looked a little lost and his distribution was largely poor. Other than that, we’d done OK.
There’s always a ‘but’ though isn’t there? That second half was poor. Really poor. Though personally, I don’t lay all the blame at the feet of the players. For the first time in his reign at Burnley, I seriously questioned Dyche’s tactics and substitutions. Yes, we’ve regularly scoffed at the timing of Dyche’s changes or his seeming lacking of willingness to make subs at all, but this time it wasn’t so much the timing of them, but the making of them. Taking off Andre Gray was a strange one. I thought Gray had performed pretty well that first half – I saw a hungrier Andre, wanting to chase lost causes, holding the ball up better, looking to bring midfield into the game more – some of the reasons why we invested in him. The main factor for me of Gray’s game on Saturday was that we saw him using his pace again. I do think it was an odd decision to take him off – playing Vokes and Barnes resulted in us playing long balls forward that were easily nullified by Spurs’ back three.
For their first goal, let’s be honest – it wasn’t great defending was it? Not only focussing on Hendrick’s poor clearance, but watching it back, Eric Dier shrugged off Keane too easily, was left a free yard to connect with the loose ball and smash the away side in to the lead.
Then came the next baffling sub. George Boyd was replaced on the right by Robbie Brady. A strange choice, when Arfield wasn’t having his best game on the left hand-side – and that Brady is by trade a left sided player. Anyway, it wasn’t long before the next goal came – two minutes in fact. The recently introduced Heung Min Son made it 2-0 and effectively killed the game off.
To complete the hat-trick of odd decisions, Steven Defour was reintroduced to league action at Turf Moor. His return isn’t the odd choice; in fact, I’m hoping to see more of a player that is arguably the most naturally gifted and talented central midfielder at the club. The baffling decision came to bring him on at left midfield in place of Scott Arfield, whilst two players who had had an ‘average-to-poor’ game in Barton and Hendrick remained on in centre mid. So we had a central midfielder wide left, a left midfielder on the right and two target men with little pace up front whilst 2-0 down. For me, I’ll be enjoying watching Defour whilst he’s here this season as you get the distinct impression he won’t be satisfied sitting around on the bench waiting for game time. Even when only on the field for 55-60 minutes, Defour’s quality has shone through. The Liverpool game at home he was sublime. His game – and goal – versus Hull at the Turf was superb. His calmness on the ball is what we need when we need to dictate the pace of the game, his vision is fantastic and there’s magic in those feet that can turn defence in to attack (as per the assist for the second goal versus Liverpool at home).
There’s no disgrace in losing to Spurs at all – they’re a decent side. The problem we’ve got is that we can reflect on the last let’s say 6 weeks and wonder if an extra couple of points here and there could prove to be dreadfully missed as we head towards the run in. This article has been put together ahead of the Stoke game – a game which could play a large part in how we end the season. Come the end of Saturday following the trip to Boro, we may look back and wonder what all the fuss was about after the Tottenham game. 4-6 points would be ‘almost there’ in regards to safety. Surely 38 points will do us for safety. 2-3 points from these two fixtures will be an ‘okay’ return, but just that. 0-1 point will keep us right in the mix of scrapping for survival – and if by the end of Saturday we’re reflecting on a poor week of results that drag us in to the mix further, I’m not sure the ‘twitterclarets’ handle is ready for a hammering. Again…
By Peter Davis – @peter_css_sales