Tottenham leave Ramos fast running out of excuses
Tottenham Hotspur 0 Wigan Athletic 0
One point is better than none but tell that to the Tottenham hordes who streamed out of White Hart Lane yesterday with increasing disenchantment about the plight of their under-performing, shapeless team.
This was the match in which Spurs were supposed to break their duck against a side they thumped 4-0 in the corresponding fixture last season. Instead, while their greatest rivals top the league, the blue and white half of north London have now equalled their worst ever start to a Premier League campaign by failing to win any of their first five games.
Juande Ramos keeps stressing the need for time to re-adapt after losing Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov. Nobody can deny they were hugely influential but the boos that rung out at half-time and the final whistle showed just what the fans feel about what are beginning to sound like lame excuses.
Lame is very much how a half-hearted Spurs performed for the best part of an hour yesterday, until the introduction of Aaron Lennon, whose pace and trickery at last threatened to unlock Wigan's defence.
As if looking for a starting XI – any starting XI – that would gel, Ramos made four changes from the narrow Uefa Cup victory over Wisla Krakow but still Spurs failed to show any consistent cohesion or rhythm. It took them 17 minutes to produce their first effort on target, Darren Bent's shot comfortably saved by Chris Kirkland.
In truth, Spurs were so tepid that Steve Bruce's team rarely looked in danger of returning without at least a share of the spoils. The visitors probably had just as many chances, though they were few and far between. The best of them came just prior to the interval when Heurelho Gomes had to produce an expert one-handed save to turn Paul Scharner's effort round the post.
Roman Pavlyuchenko must be wondering what he has let himself in for. The £14m Russian has an impressive goal-scoring record at international level but early signs of him finding his feet in the Premier League do not look good. His lack of presence forced Ramos into a half-time change, bringing on the on-loan Fraizer Campbell ,who Wigan coveted themselves in the transfer window. Indeed, only when Lennon arrived in place of the ineffective David Bentley did Spurs look threatening. Within a minute of his introduction, Lennon appeared to be clipped by Maynor Figueroa, Wigan's Honduran defender, but no penalty was awarded.
"It was a clear penalty but I agree it was not a great performance," said Ramos, who laughed off one newspaper report that he was homesick and wanted to return to Spain. "I am enjoying a marvellous experience but the pressure on the team is very high. It's not about me or any other individual. We still need to adapt. That is normal when there are big changes."
Bruce believes Spurs will eventually come good once the new-look squad has trained together for longer but could not hide his disappointment. "It does take time to settle at a big club but we had a really fantastic opportunity today because they were there for the taking."
Tottenham: (4-4-2) Gomes; Zokora, Woodgate, Corluka, Assou-Ekotto; Bentley (Lennon, 63), O'Hara, Jenas, Bale (Huddlestone, 79); Bent, Pavlyuchenko (Campbell, h-t). Substitutes not used: Cesar (gk), Gilberto, Gunter, Dos Santos
Wigan: (4-4-1-1): Kirkland; Melchiot, Boyce, Bramble, Figueroa; Palacios, Scharner, Valencia, Koumas (Kapo, 71); Heskey; Zaki (Camara, 81). Substitutes not used: Kingson (gk), Pollitt, Taylor, Kilbane, De Ridder
Referee: S Tanner (Somerset).
Booked: Tottenham Corluka, O'Hara; Wigan Boyce, Palacios
Man of the match: Scharner