Spurs are the toast of London thanks to the oldest man in the league
With Harry Redknapp still recuperating following a heart operation Tottenham named an unchanged side from that which stylishly demolished QPR the week before, with Ledley King even going as far as to make back to back starting appearances. Fulham, without midweek hero Andy Johnson opted to play Moussa Dembele just off of Bobby Zamora up front.
Fulham started really well in front of their not so roaring home crowd with Danny Murphy outshining his high profile opposite numbers Luka Modric and Rafael Van Der Vaart in the opening exchanges. A finely weighted sliding pass down the inside left channel soon found Clint Dempsey who forced a corner. Murphy whipped the corner in to the near post to find the onrushing head of Steve Sidwell only to see Brad Friedel beat the ball away with all the disgust of a dad knocking a beach ball away at Glastonbury.
Modric and Murphy both exhibited their relative importance to how their sides play and took it in turns to dictate the tempo. Always looking for the ball, each is a constant outlet for their team mates and are comfortable enough with the ball to recycle the play constantly. As the chalkboard below shows, Modric attempted 57 passes, completing 48 whereas Murphy attempted 66 with 54 of them finding a team mate.
Emmanuel Adebayor had been dropping deep to collect the ball early on and it was his initially hopeful looking pass which was collected by the pacey Kyle Walker in the build up to the opening goal. The England right back got his head up well to cut the ball back for Aaron Lennon who’s cross eventually found Gareth Bale at the far post to smash the ball towards goal and deflect home off of Chris Baird.
It was another ruthlessly efficient and tidy goal from a side which are looking extremely clinical in the early part of this season and a harsh reminder to a Fulham side that had started well. Fulham may have dominated possession for the opening half hour but with little penetration and with an acute awareness of what Spurs can do on the break lingering uncomfortably they looked tentative in the final third and severely lacking in the sort of pace their opponents possess to get beyond players in key areas.
When given the chance Spurs looked to spread the ball wide at pace, with Modric so often the orchestrator from deep. All four of Spurs wide players have the pace to damage even the best sides and with neither Grygera nor Riise blessed with the sort of athleticism to deal with the threat this was was the avenue that looked the most fruitful for the away side.
Once given the chance to run at their men Spurs certainly showed their class, with Lennon twisting Baird inside out and smashing home confidentially with his left foot on the stroke of half time. The half eventually petered out to a hushed finale as Czech right back Grygera was stretchered off after going down clutching his knee with the screams of pain caught in high definition by the Sky pitch side microphones.
Fulham needed to respond after the break and they did, peppering Brad Friedel’s goal for long periods of the second half. The Tottenham defence did well to put their bodies in the way but it was from the resulting corners that Fulham looked the most likely to score, with the towering Brede Hangeland posing the most obvious aerial threat. Spurs didn’t help themselves with their marking and the comical nature of the goal, when it eventually came, was the fitting result for both parties, Ledley King and Younes Kaboul combining to put the ball into their own net from another corner.
Fulham kept pushing forward with the fancy footwork of Dembele, Zamora and the substitute Bryan Ruiz all looking capable of undoing a resilient Spurs backline. However it was the sharp reflexes of their 40 year old goalkeeper that eventually helped Tottenham take home three points. Fulham certainly deserved something from this game especially for their efforts in the final moments but the heroics of Friedel and then Modric clearing off the line deprived them of this piece of justice.
Andy Gray’s verdict: Not a vintage, buccaneering performance from one of the leagues most exciting sides but a solid defensive display and some quick, incisive break aways were enough to secure Tottenham’s position as the best side in London at the moment.
Walker; King; Kaboul; Assou Akotto
Lennon; Modric; Parker; Bale
Van der Vaart; Adebayor
Grygera; Hangelaand; Baird; Riise
Duff; Murphy; Sidwell; Dempsey;
Report by Scott Carey.
It’s early days for Emmanuel Adebayor in a Tottenham shirt but another good performance against Liverpool and a good reaction from the Spurs faithful may just give the enigmatic frontman the ego massage required to have him playing his best
For a man who can split public opinion so viciously Emmanuel Adebayor knows how to get a new set of fans on his side. Manu has scored a goal on debut for each of his Premier League clubs now, starting with Arsenal in 2006, then with Manchester City following his multimillion pound deal, and finally for Tottenham two weeks ago against Wolves.
The Spurs fans quickly seemed to forget that this was a player who used to relish pulling on the red and white of their arch-rivals Arsenal and more recently the team who have been their main competitors for that key fourth place in the table. However, City have since pushed on and signed their key transfer targets, especially with the likes of Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko in forward areas. Always the opportunist, and after failing to sign his top ten or so targets, Redknapp snapped up the now unappreciated Adebayor. The signing may have hinted of desperation but the loanee already appears to be the centre forward Tottenham need to finish off all of their promising build up play. Whatever his wages may be, he could yet be the bargain of the window.
Adebayor certainly looked like the player who scored 24 goals in 36 games for Arsenal in the 2007/8 season. The big striker was looking to hold up the ball, run the channels, drift out wide and flick the ball on to his strike partner Jermain Defoe. Adebayor’s link up play was first class and he pulled the Liverpool defence around the pitch at will, especially when drifting out wide, creating pockets of space for Bale and Modric to come inside and pose a threat.
Everyone knows it is this sort of play that Adebayor is capable of, he wouldn’t have attracted his £25m transfer fee to Manchester City or been given the time of day by Jose Mourinho if he wasn’t. However without the goals to go with his promising movement the big striker could be tarred with the same brush as his predecessors Roman Pavlyuchenko and Peter Crouch. With three goals in his first two games Spurs fans will hope he can kick on and be the top class striker they have been craving since Dimitar Berbatov left the club just over three years ago.
An elegant and clever player, the primary criticism that can be levelled at Adebayor is his seeming reluctance to finish off the easy ones, to be ruthless enough to surmount a serious goal tally come the season’s end. The Togolese hit man showed this early in the game against Liverpool on Sunday. Where his side came straight out of the blocks the best chance of the game was carved out for Adebayor, who snatched at the ball and saw it drift wide off his shin. However, as he said in the post match interview, another chance would surely come, and he went from strength to strength afterwards.
Finding space and dropping the ball off intelligently, Adebayor was constantly looking to get into goal scoring positions. Anticipating Pepe Reina’s spill from a Defoe strike he showed a touch reminiscent of his idol Kanu and worthy of little Leo, pulling the ball over the on rushing keeper before tapping into the empty net. The crowd went wild and his teammates mobbed him, he felt loved and was enjoying his football. Hungry for more goals, and more adulation, he refused to stop working and was rewarded when he collected a cross with another sumptuous touch and an instinctive volleyed finish to secure a man of the match award.
It is clear that Adebayor plays his best football when he is feeling confident and appreciated and it will be down to Harry Redknapp’s famous man management skills and the willingness of the Spurs fans to get on his side to see if he can maintain this early form.
His comments following the game were the clearest indication as to what makes the big man tick: “I know the fans all love me because that’s what they’re looking for, a player who can score goals. I’m very happy that everything is going well for me at this club. Hopefully I can keep up the hard work and keep going.” The question everyone will be asking is can he do it regularly enough to banish the memories of his face in an Arsenal and Manchester City shirt.
Scott Carey, follow him @scarey102