Spurs' inability to close out games was evident once again on Saturday, as what should have been three points were turned into one. Admittedly a draw was not a terrible result against a resolute if uninspiring Birmingham side, who have not lost at home since September and have the third highest number of clean sheets in the league. Although Spurs remain in fourth, both Villa - next week's opponents - and Man. City have games in hand. That match next Saturday and the FA Cup replay with Leeds that precedes it may play a substantial role in determining whether or not 2009/10 is a season to remember.
As has been the case too often this campaign, only a few of the team that faced Birmingham could be said to have played to anything like their potential. Palacios was superb in the middle of the field, the best Spurs player on the day by a mile. After a dip in form, it looks like he is now back to his very best. Bale also impressed, defending effectively and making a good contribution going forward. Having finally tasted victory as a member of the starting line-up against Fulham in midweek, he has not only removed that particular monkey from his back but is also displaying the kind of form that is going to make it difficult for the manager to take the left-back berth away from him - a fact that Harry Redknapp recognizes:
"My other left-back, Benoit, was playing as well as anyone in the country - but he has got his work cut out to get back in the team with the way this kid (Bale) is playing ... His heading is good, he is full of energy, he has got a great left foot, he gets forward. He has defended well. He has improved. The defensive side of his game is stronger and he has had to do that. He has learnt that. It has taken a bit of time, with stepping into the Premier League. It is alright going forward but you have to be able to defend as well and that side of his game has been improved. That is the difference in him now."
Those two aside - plus Gomes, whose name is becoming a byword for goalkeeping consistency - most of the team were not at their best. Although Bentley deservedly won plaudits for his energy and workrate, he once again looked liked someone playing for himself rather than the team. He frustrates by shooting when teammates are better placed, favoring the Hollywood pass over the simple one, and generally holding on to the ball too long. That being said, he was considerably more effective than Huddlestone, whose contribution in the middle of the field was negligible, with numerous passes going astray. While the fact that he is 6 foot 3 and "generously proportioned" may explain how slow and ponderous he often looks, it certainly does not account for how hesitant and lightweight he is in the tackle.
The manager has drafted in two new players, but neither of them is a goalkeeper, which is the obvious priority at the moment. In fairness, he has pursued Asmir Begović, but it appears that the Bosnian keeper prefers a move to Stoke. Eidur Gudjohnsen looks like a reasonable acquisition on loan, but bringing back Younes Kabul may prove to be a costly mistake, in every sense. Kaboul was frankly appalling during his first spell at the club, committing one blunder after another. The manager claims, however, that "he has improved a lot". Let's hope that it’s not a case of him looking better simply as a result of having had worse players around him in the side that currently prop up the Premier League.