Date: 14 October 2017
Once again a good day out, and many positive signs to take from the game, but another defeat – and the ongoing question of where our goals are going to come from this season.
I’d seen one previous match at ‘New Wembley’, and I’d once watched the Cherries at ‘Old Wembley’, but I’d obviously never seen the Cherries at the new stadium, as this was their first visit! I enjoyed a West Country Pasty outside the ground, and had a chat to a couple of Spurs fans who said that the rebuilding of White Hart Lane is ahead of schedule and there’s no likelihood of their home games being at Wembley next season. So, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us?
Once inside the stadium, I must say the view was good. Though we were relatively low down behind the goal there aren’t the huge distances there were in the old Wembley. The total crowd would be over 73,000, making me wonder if this was the largest number ever present at a Cherries’ match. The pitch is in very poor condition, but I’d already spotted this in the recent England game. The programme revealed that Spurs hadn’t yet won a league match at this ground, which immediately boded badly (a record begging to be broken?) – especially considering the fact that we’d lost 0-4 in the equivalent match last season.
Pre-match speculation on the line-up had mainly concerned the fitness of King and Arter. In the end the former was fit to start but the latter was on the bench – as was Defoe! Interestingly, this move was generally welcomed by visiting fans, because it meant we could employ three centre backs and pack the central midfield to thwart Spurs’ advances. Francis and Ake, who’d both played so well at home to Leicester, kept their positions (Ake still on the left, as he was for Holland in the week), but with Steve Cook now between them as a kind of ‘sweeper’. Smith and Daniels were wing-backs, the latter often seemingly unsure what to do with the ball as he looked to pass to Pugh who wasn’t there! The four central midfielders were in a sort of diamond with Surman at the base, though both Gosling and Stanislas (in nothing like as wide as his usual position) were playing ‘box to box’, and really impressed me in the role they’d been given – rushing forward to meet crosses or passes from team-mates.
Our system worked well in the first half, frustrating Spurs, though we rarely got forward apart from – as already mentioned – a few good runs from Gosling or Stanislas. Spurs fans thought their team had scored once, when the ball landed on top of the net, but otherwise we reached half time with a very creditable 0-0 score line. (The half time entertainment has to be mentioned: genuine Punjabi dancers, with suitably ethnic drums, costumes and dance moves, performing what to the uninitiated looked like a rain dance, but with two idiosyncratic features. First, they faced the only section of the entire stadium where almost every seat was empty. And secondly, their backing track was Ed Sheeran; how un-Punjabi can you get?)
As so often happens, the other team changed their style of play for the second half while Eddie had evidently asked simply for “more of the same.” And we were punished almost immediately, Eriksen beating Francis and Steve Cook to place the ball in the corner of the net. I felt sorry for Begovic who dived the right way but couldn’t stop it. 1-0 at 48 minutes; and the Spurs fans started singing for the first time all afternoon. This buoyed their team on, and as a result they had the ball in the net again within the next ten minutes – but this ‘goal’ was fortunately (from our point of view) adjudged to be offside. Things didn’t really improve for us until Defoe and Ibe replaced Stanislas and Smith (the stadium announcer confusing us all by saying that Lewis Cook had come off when he hadn’t). Although officially right wing back, Ibe played further forward than Smith and one of his crosses found Defoe, at the near post, almost immediately. Defoe was unlucky as his shot hit Lloris’s legs. Sadly this was to be his best chance. Ibe and Defoe both looked very lively but I don’t think they would have done so if they’d played the whole game; I think Eddie got his team selection right. Nonetheless we had the frustration of pressing hard for the elusive equaliser but not getting it: Defoe forced one more save from Lloris; and at one point we heard that Sky Sports were now announcing our score as 1-1. If only! But in the end, if it hadn’t been for Begovic (who’d had an excellent game all afternoon) standing firm as Spurs continued to attack in injury time, it could easily have been 2-0.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
A Smith (6), Francis (6), S Cook (6), Ake (6), Daniels (6);
L Cook (6), Surman (6);
Gosling (7), Stanislas (7);
Ibe, Francis, S Cook, Ake, Daniels;
Mousset, Defoe, King.