What a load of s%$t. I honestly cannot work out how to describe this start to the season other than use obscenities such as this. Another summer of transfers, of players coming in, of building a team, of doing well in pre-season, and when the chips are down, what happens? The bloody same as always.
Played two, lost two, no points.
This was another tactically questionable and, for long periods, gutless, uninventive, unincisive performance.
In the lead-up to the game we heard that Berbatov had been left out of not only the starters, but also the squad. Not focused enough..... a negative influence on the dressing room..... a sure sign that he is on his way.
With traffic around The Lane a nightmare today we ended up arriving ten minutes late. A quick scan around and changes from last week included King starting (at last), Bale on the left wing, Bentley in the middle.
All a bit of an irrelevance however, since the first half was diabolical. Nothing much created - for either side - a total lack of incision up front (again), and while we looked better defensively in the middle, asking Zokora to play right back (again) was clearly not a smart move.
The closest anybody actually came to scoring was when Steed rifled a low shot from outside the box against the base of the post. Looked like Gomes had it covered, but there were questions asked (and rightly so) as to why he'd been given so much time and space on the edge of the box.
Steed had a decent half on his return. We let him dictate matters too much on the wing - BAE still less than convincing - but both sides lacked any real edge.
Playing Bentley in the middle really wasn't working, and while Lennon had one of his better games on the right wing, it really was plain for all to see that the ex-Blackburn lad was wasted.
We were also having the same problem at 'Boro last week with neither Modric nor Jenas far enough up the pitch to offer any support to Bent. Bentley had a tendency to drift towards either wing and that big gap between Bent and the midfield was just as big this week as last.
Not that it would have mattered too much I suppose. We were nowhere near good enough to get up in support!
Huddlestone warming up at half-time
Gio far side of the pitch obscured by the sprinklers
New reserve keeper Cesar - I think
All set for the second half
The second half started with a totally different tempo. Within two minutes we'd created the best chance of the game, Bale heading over from a free header no more than six yards out. That ball should have burst the net.
Still, we looked much brighter. Well, in saying that I should clarify..... we looked like we had more urgency and the midfield was finally beginning to get forward.
Sad, then, that as we began to assert some slight authority, Sunderland broke, fashioned a bit of space down the left, and Richardson let fly from probably twenty-five or thirty yards to score an absolute screamer. A very good strike indeed. Slightly against the run of play, but would have been difficult to suggest that the goal was undeserved.
The ranks of Mackems - and as usual, there were plenty - went nuts. It never ceases to amaze me how many travel away to watch Sunderland. It is impressive indeed and on the whole they tend to enjoy themselves. Taking the lead at White Hart Lane with a cracker of a goal on a sunny day would help I suppose.
The goal brought a swift change, which had probably been planned beforehand anyway. Huddlestone and Gio on in place of Lennon and BAE.
Huddlestone's introduction seemed to bring a bit more composure to the midfield, while Gio took up a position on the right wing.
We came close a couple of times before Jenas finally equalised. A scrappy bit of play in the six yard box following a corner saw Woody finally push wide of the post. Jenas made a determined run onto a bouncing ball and beat Craig Gordon to it, but his header ended up just wide.
The goal, when it did come, was scrappy again, Jenas netting from a rebound off a Modric shot that Gordon failed to hold.
Surely from here we would go on to win, having started to create the better chances, while not necessarily dominating the game.
Oh no. No chance.
Another Sunderland break down the left, a ball swung in and Cisse, on his debut, headed in what turned out to be the winner.
From there we just didn't get going again and the odd foray or two into the Sunderland box ended with no end product.
Another defeat then and we just were not good enough.
Defensively we looked much stronger - across the middle at least. King's presence makes a massive difference. Zokora at right back, though, is all wrong. Funnily enough, some of our best attacking moves in the first half actually came from Zokora making a couple of very direct runs. But that's not what he's there for as right back! Mind you, he isn't a right back.
As for BAE..... he's just not going to convince me I'm afraid. He still stands too far off the winger and a couple of times in the first half he got caught hopelessly out of position, on the wrong side of the Sunderland player when crosses were put in deep to that side of the pitch.
The midfield today was better. Marginally.
Lennon had an OK game. Not difficult I suppose when you compare it to a generally poor performance through the middle of the park. Bale was as willing as ever on the left and his delivery will, I hope, set us up for plenty of goals. It looked like he might have picked up a bad injury late in the second half, but thankfully he just nutted one of the Sunderland player's boots as he fell while challenging for a header.
Modric gave glimpses, again, that he can pull the strings in the middle, but for too long in this game he played much too deep. Just like last week. When he got forward and started to marshall things at the edge of the box the contribution he made was much enhanced.
Jenas had a thoroughly inconsistent game. He was missing in the first half and it took him too long to get going in the second, but for the last half hour he drove us forward with some decent runs, scored the equaliser, and made a reasonable contribution. But sixty minutes of performance lacking in all those qualities and the remaining half hour just can't make up for it.
As for the subs, well, Huddlestone brought some stability to the centre of the pitch. Kept the ball and played it around well, not misplacing short passes which he has so often done in the past. It was strange, though, that a couple of times when he had time and space a few yards outside the Sunderland box, he elected not to swing that boot into the ball.
Gio was bright. Bit like last week, though less involved.
And as for Darren Bent..... oh dear. Made no contribution that I could discern. He won one, maybe two headers, and just didn't get going with any runs. Having said that, we really didn't offer him any balls to run on to either! The one time he picked the ball up and beat Sunderland defenders for pace to get into the box there was nobody in midfield busting a gut to get up in support. Result? Shot into the side netting, although he did win a corner!
The dissatisfaction was all too evident. While the Mackems had their first win for ages at The Lane, for us, the results mirrored those of a year ago.
We are a long, long way short of what's expected. Sure, the Berbatov situation does nothing to help, but we really should not be losing points without him in the side in the way we have so far.
I have no doubt he will be gone before the window closes and that there will be one, two, maybe even three players brought in. Problem is we've already surrendered points and go into a game at Chelsea lacking form. Its all too easy to see us being rock bottom three games in.
My biggest gripe is that tactically it just looks wrong. Bent on his own up front is simply not working. We aren't playing balls through for him to run on to, and he isn't really offering that much as a target man to knock high balls down. Worst of all though, the gap between him and the two men in the centre of the pitch - Modric and Jenas - is massive. It took fully seventy minutes for us to close it today, but when you can't get your central, attacking midfielders up to support your lone striker you need to be delivering precise balls in from the wings.
Oh, and there we have another problem with Bentley playing left wing and central midfield but drifting to a semi-winger (inside half?) position. It just is not working.
There is much work still to do. This is not the start to the season any of us were looking for, and even knowing that we are slow starters, this is poor.
Like I said, for Tottenham Hotspur, there is still much work to do.