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Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Spurs v Hull City: Can Ramos's flops tame the rampant Tigers?

I bet when the fixture lists were released there weren't too many Tottenham fans bothered by the arrival of Hull City on October 5. After all Spurs were tipped to be fighting for a top four place while the Tigers were supposed to be the whipping boys of the Premiership. It's amazing what six games can do! After making their worst start to a league season for 53 years, and Phil Brown's Hull City making one of the best starts ever by a promoted team in the Premiership, this is going to be one hell of a test for the under-fire Spurs boss Juande Ramos - one that he surely must get a result from if he is to have any chance of remaining in charge at White Hart Lane past November.

Tottenham were simply awful against Portsmouth on Sunday. They showed no fight, no hunger or commitment. Even at 2-0 down the defenders were happy to just pass the ball around instead of launching it into the mix and hoping something might happen. Mind you, Ramos's decision to replace Pavlyuchenko with Darren Bent with 20 minutes remaining was hardly the most positive move in the world, especially when it's revealed later that the Spaniard thinks the two strikers are too similar to play with each other. Mind boggling just isn't the word.

Spurs fans need to see a drastic improvement on the pitch but they couldn't ask for a more difficult opponent at this particular time than Hull City. The Tigers return to north London after their stunning 2-1 win at the Emirates last week and they will be looking to make it four games unbeaten on the road in the top flight. A feat that was simply unthinkable in the summer. However, Hull City fan Robert Kelly, 50, who was at the Emirates on Saturday and had tipped Spurs for a great season, is not expecting Phil Brown to send out the same starting 11 against Tottenham as he did at Arsenal, but insists the level of commitment will be the same.

"It’s a truism that there won’t be any easy games at this level and in many ways Spurs will be trickier game than Arsenal as expectations will be higher. Brownie has proved over the last season and a half that he will make changes to the game plan for different opposition. For example at Arsenal he left out players who had done well the week before to change the formation. I don’t think you will see the same line-up as Saturday, but you will see the same commitment."

Hull City have disposed of Newcastle and Arsenal on their travels and achieved a well-earned point against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. But at home they have managed to pick up just four points. Not really the norm for a promoted team, so why are they so dangerous away from the KC Stadium? Robert, whose favourite Hull player of all time is captain Ian Ashbee, thinks it could have something to do with the fans' expectations at home.

"At home we tend to be under more pressure to perform and dictate the game whereas away we have been playing more on the counter as teams take the game to us. Wigan was something of an anomaly as there were several of the new signings missing and it was back to the Championship team more-or-less. Against Everton we decided to try and defend the 2-0 lead and invited them to attack for the last 20 minutes or so. That might have worked in lower leagues but there’s just a little more skill on show this season. I also think there is a lot of expectation from the crowd at the KC and they have a history of getting on the players backs if there isn’t instant success. You’ll probably find this hard to believe but there even people moaning at some of the players on Saturday."

Spurs fan Tony Bellew caused quite a stir on this site earlier this month when he stated that Ramos had two games to turn it around or the Spaniard should be sacked. However, despite losing the last two games, Tony admits that he may have got carried away.

"Maybe I was being harsh when I said that. After all we give Jacques Santini 12/13 games to prove himself. I have to admit this year is a bit of a roller coaster as far as Tottenham are concerned but the key to a team like Tottenham is not to judge a manager on six games especially when he has a proven track record.

"There is always pressure for managers in the Premier League. What can you say. Maybe he underestimated the most powerful league in the world. He's already proved he is a great manager, the Premiership will only reiterate that fact. With good managers come loyalty and respect. I feel he already has that from the players. This, even if it is our worst start since 1955, means nothing. Tottenham are a fighting force. Ramos deserves his chance like everybody else."

Tony, who insists that Spurs cannot keep playing with one man up front, may be willing to give Ramos more time to turn things around, but it appears that Ramos may not get that time with the Press reporting that Ramos has four games to transform the club's fortunes. With promoted sides Hull City and Stoke City following Thursday night's clash with Wisla Krakow, Ramos knows that he must get points on the board and Tony believes that four out of six would keep most fans happy.

"A lot of Spurs fans would probably say we expect to claim all six, but this is now not the case as it is now a competitive league. I’d like to think that we would get at least four – draw with Hull and a win against Stoke. But it is a tough call at the minute."

Fellow Tottenham fan Jo Ford, who says she is still shellshocked by the defeat at Portsmouth, believes it is way too early to think about relegation, but hopes Ramos goes on the offensive on Sunday.

"We need to win against Hull and I hope Ramos goes for a 4-4-2 formation. Just one up front is not working at the moment against a strong defence. Ramos will be under pressure to get a win but it's the players out there that have got to do their job. It was frustrating to watch them slowly passing the ball to each other with only minutes to go. A few long balls to the front would have been better and a bit of enthusiasm too thrown in.

"We can beat anyone one on our day and I certainly think Ramos and Poyet can turn it around but we need it sooner  rather than later. I'm longing for the January window to open so that we can get another striker in. We have quality in the team but their confidence is low so that needs sorting out fast. They are certainly  not earning their wages at present. Any team that loses three strikers at the start of the season is going to be in trouble. Ledley King is not able to play that much so hope Corluka will fill his place. The swapping around of players doesn't help either. I know Ramos wants to find his best team but I feel everyone should be playing in their best position then the confidence will grow quickly and the team will gel. I was very surprised to see Gilberto playing in the hole, I thought he was a defender!"

Derby County, who hold the record for the lowest points tally in the Premiership, had four points at this stage last season, but while it's way too early to consign Tottenham to a relegation battle, when you look around at the players at White Hart Lane it's hard to see who is willing to roll their sleeves up and put their career on the line for the club. Modric, Bentley, Huddlestone, Jenas etc are all ball players, they are not battlers, and that is what Spurs are crying out for at the moment. Somebody who's willing to make the crunching tackles, put themselves about and frighten the opposition. However, Tony Bellew is refusing to even consider the drop.

"I'm not even contemplating relegation. This is a phase we are going through. The players know themselves what they have to do. It's no longer a battle against the top four clubs. It has now developed into a very competitive league. Think about the results we've seen this season. Hull beat Arsenal, Manchester City hammer Portsmouth and then get beat by Wigan the following week. It's a league of survival of the fittest and it's too early to call this one after six games.

"I think the score will be 1-1"

Hull City stunned the football world by becoming only the second club to record a victory at the Emirates. Could they complete a north London double and pile more pressure on Juande Ramos? At this moment in time you wouldn't count against it.

* Calling all Spurs fans - How confident are you that Sunday will be the turning point in your season? How much faith do you have in Ramos? What do you think the score will be on Sunday?

* Calling all Hull fans - What would it mean to you if you were to beat both Arsenal and Tottenham in the space of eight days? Have you started dreaming of UEFA Cup football next season or are you still cautious of bagging another 30 points or so in order to remain in the Premiership? We'd love to hear from all of you.

COMMENTS

nickynicknick

The worst team spurs could play at the moment. They are well organised, confident and have got steel.
Spurs will fold like an old table cloth.

bigcat8150

I think city will win 3 1 against spurs because they have no fighters in the team i watched them against pompy they was not very good,our forwards put themselfs about a bit so it will trouble their defence. but on saying that ihope they do well rest of the season.

bobby spurs

I'm surprised Tony Bellew thinks we'll only concede one. We've conceded two goals in four out of seven games, and I think Hull will (quite rightly) fancy themselves against our defence, and set out a fairly attacking side. If we bring some passion to our game (sorely lacking at Pompey), I think we have enough in us to secure a draw at 2-2, but there's still every chance we could lose this one. At the moment, 3 points would be a dream come true.

Relegation can't really be seen as a worry. An awful lot of pundits are piling on pressure and making ridiculous claims, suggesting the first 15 points of the league are worth double or something. Ever since Enic stepped in and made clear their ambitions for Spurs, the media has been only too quick to point out when we're under-performing. We're at the foot of the league and that's not good enough, but at the moment two or three wins would probably pull us back up to mid-table, considering we're beneath several clubs with problems just as bad, if not worse.

There's every chance we could implode and end up in a relegation battle. There's every chance we could go down. But at this stage in the season, there's no club outside the big four for whom that's not true. With the sort of squad we have, we should be able to comfortably climb out of danger. Even if it means having to grind out 1-0 results playing negative defensive football, since we don't really have much of a strike force at the moment. I think this is the approach Ramos is resigned to - after the second goal went in at Pompey, he decided to write off the fixture as a loss and not risk further embarrassment by committing more players to attack, with the added bonus that it gave the players more time to get used to the new approach - try to keep the ball at all costs, frustrate the opposition.

Ramos' position shouldn't really be in question. Perhaps Levy is beginning to realise what a mistake he made firing Jol, but ultimately Ramos can't be held to account for his unconventional squad 'balance', and considering all the fuss the board went through to sign him, I can't see them showing him the door anytime soon. Our bewildering Director of Football, Damien Comolli may well be scapegoated, and maybe he should be. I find it hard to believe that all of his signings are completely useless - I suspect Ramos' decision to sell or else relegate to the reserves all the players Comolli brought in (except those he really can't live without - Zokora, Bent, etc) is a sly political effort to undermine Comolli and replace him with someone Ramos trusts.

Bob

Spurs will be lucky if Hull dont score 4...

Spurs 1 Hull 4

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