It’s the hope that kills you

A personal reflection on Spurs 1 Arsenal 5 (Brisbane Road)

Last time out I was arguing that the North London Derby didn’t mean so much in the WSL given it the gulf between the sides, so I can only imagine how those who really hate Arsenal in whatever form must be feeling. 

But whichever way you cut it, that was about as bad as it gets. Only Tinni Korpela’s heroics kept it from being a score akin to the rugby match occurring at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium rather than Brisbane Road (still bitter).

I’ve got no criticism for the players – after all, it can’t be fair when they’re so regularly played in positions which serve only to expose their weaknesses. Early in the season Amy Turner was being played at right back and it seems plenty of fans have never forgiven her for being caught out when she simply doesn’t have the attributes for that role. Kerys Harrop times her tackles to perfection but – like Amy – when’s she’s put in a position where she has to get into foot races with faster opponents she just can’t win. 

And that has a domino effect. If the fullbacks can’t get back quickly enough then the centre backs have to shift over to cover and leave gaps elsewhere. Especially if the midfield don’t drop back to fill in. 

Which brings us to the system: what formation are we trying to play? Every time a team sheet gets released I find myself asking how the personnel will set up and often don’t know until kick off when you see them on the pitch. 

Bizet started in front of Neville. Image: @Spurswomen

Against Arsenal, just prior to kick off it looked like Amy, Molly and Kerys were forming a back 3 but seeing Ash and Celin both on the right didn’t look like the effective 3-5-2 we’d played a couple of times. Then, as soon as the whistle went we seemed to settle into a 4-2-3-1…

But whereas Eveliina puts in a lot of energy in a box-to-box role I don’t see much defensive endeavour from Angharad James. Now if the problem were that she was simply ignoring instructions you wouldn’t expect her to start game in game out, which she has been. So surely she’s doing what she’s instructed to… which I just can’t figure out. 

Which comes down to the coaching. We just don’t seem able to identify what’s repeatedly going wrong to fix it. There’s only so many bad results you can pin on the injury list. Enough time has gone past now for them surely to have figured out a way of playing talented players in positions that maximise their skill sets. Sacking Rehanne doesn’t seem to have served a purpose when the caretaker, Vicky Jepson, is playing the same players in the same positions and the midfield is overrun and the backline is exposed again and again. 

The problem seems encapsulated by the eight days it took between Conte publicly exploding and the club finally parting ways with him; this does not seem to be a club with a plan or sense of direction. This is a club frozen in panic and indecision while us fans can only look jealously over our shoulders at what Villa and even Everton have done. 

This should have been the season to push on but instead we’ve regressed and it doesn’t help when there’s so little information coming out of the club; contrast Aston Villa tweeting injury updates or Matt Beard giving comprehensive updates on player availability and injury progress with us: What’s happened to Ramona Petzelberger? What kept Jess Naz out for the last three months? I figured out Shelina wouldn’t be in the squad on Sunday as she’d been tweeting! It feels like the club have let the women’s team fall through the cracks…

Between darkness and defeat lies hope: Bethany England scores goals. 

Beth England takes (and scores) a penalty. Image: @spurswomen

David Puckridge is on twitter @DavidPuckridge

7 Replies to “It’s the hope that kills you”

  1. Great article and a good overview of how it was and how it still is. We have only 2 games that we can get points from if we are on song (Reading and Brighton) but both can easily beat us if the wrong players are used. No matter who takes the field, if the ingredients are not good, it will not taste well, and we have too many players and on the bench who are not skillful football players .. professional sports women yes but clearly not that good at football and the management structure seem the same. Total rethink and rebuild is necessary if we can stave off relegation.


    1. Thanks for the kind words!

      It’s the very definition of madness: repeating the same things in the same way hoping for a different outcome. The win against Leicester was far from comfortable but we set up in exactly the same manner against Arsenal who were able to exploit our weaknesses in a way that Leicester weren’t.

      And that’s why we end up thinking the Reading & Brighton games are our only realistic chances to pick up points.


  2. I worry that maybe the play system is a club problem (ala Conte) rather than a Manager style system problem but was has bothered me since the WSL promotional year with Man Utd (who formed their club in that same year unlike us) is that we have signed at best like for like players and not better. They started straight away in building a top 4 side (now 4 years old) – we have not, and we have only shown a turn now with the signing of Beth. That means we are still trying to serve her with players who clearly cannot because we are frightened to severe contracts and move them out if they are not good enough. It is as if we were building a holiday camp Butlins type club … all hi de ho but with zero footballing skill. This summer we have at least 9 players whose contracts are up and we have to move on these constantly underperforming players out and source top drawer ones if we want to stop this club rot. RS already handed out contract extentions to at least 3 out of 5 players recently who really should not be in the club (teacher pets probably) and this also needs to be looked into otherwise it will be a decade before we will ever create this upward ambition. What a 10Mill injection would do but we need top British and Euro players in now.


  3. I hoped we would fair better against Arsenal after winning by the scrape of our teeth against Leicester – No
    I hoped we would fair better against Everton, and at least we equalised before throwing the towel in – No
    I hope next we fair better against Villa – but the Daly show will well and truely paste us I’m sure
    That leaves Brighton ??? – really not sure anymore, but it has been moved to the Lane hoping to frighten them into a win and get the 15 points needed.
    The I hope we are not pasted too much by the new queens of the WSL (Man U) as that will throw us when the last home game against Reading comes along and they have beaten us before with ease.
    Then I hope we have staved off relegation by the time Wet Spam come along as I see another London derby loss.
    This season 15 points but we need 10 new players top drawer please and a totally new management team who can build a winning team and not a holiday camp side.


  4. Every game is nothing but hope as there is so much minimal skill built into this season’s team. Defence in disarray – very weak left wing and a midfield that rarely gels no matter who plays. We cannot play out from the back (we just do not have the skill) yet we continue to do this. Then we talk about up front ! .. Beth has been a saviour but our poor play in midfield and at the back throws away any chances of bagging points. Why VP keeps playing Spencer is beyond me when Korps is so much better. As soon as I see her on the teamsheet I feel we have lost before we even start as her distribution from goal is so bad. My hope is that we do not get relegated – thats it … we just do not have the players to do anymore even with star signing Beth. We could of won the Villa game but poor management decisions threw in the towell and let them back in and they could of so easily beaten us with the subs she made … Ayanne Naz and Cho just cannot defend – infact they bring nothing to the team when they play and need to be moed on this summer along with many others.


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