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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Martin Jol was sacked for less than this. With just one point from their opening four games, their worst start to a season since 1974, this new-look Tottenham Hotspur are rock bottom of the Premier League. Jol, meanwhile, is top of the German Bundesliga with his new club Hamburg. Ah, the irony.

Spurs were taken apart here on a chilly night at White Hart Lane, flattered by the deceptively narrow scoreline and well beaten by an Aston Villa side who get better with every game. Juande Ramos tried afterwards to pin the blame on the upheaval at the club after the unwanted departures of Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane, but the problems are much deeper than that. Spurs have won just three times since that Carling Cup victory at Wembley in February and it seems that the trophy now merely obscures the fact that they have gone backwards since Jol's merciless sacking.

Tottenham looked like a team of strangers flung into action for the first time in a formation that only half of them understood. Mind you, over the course of the night that formation changed from the initial 4-2-3-1, to a 4-4-2 and then to a rather hopeful 3-4-3, so it's no surprise that there was confusion. Darren Bent looked lost up front, unsure of the whereabouts of the lively Roman Pavlyuchenko, who shifted from support striker to strike-partner, apparently without keeping Bent in the loop. Luka Modric was withdrawn with an early injury, Aaron Lennon was all pace and no product, David Bentley remains only half as good as he thinks he is and Giovani's endeavour was introduced at far too late a stage. Tottenham are shapeless, clueless and, right now, rather hopeless.

Aston Villa, by contrast, are a joy to watch. O'Neill has steadily rebuilt the club since his arrival, installing a tireless work ethic and effective tactics. The Villains do the simple things really, really well and, what's more, they do them quickly. Tottenham had no answer to the pace of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young and, behind them, Gareth Barry and Nigel Reo-Coker pulled the strings with great composure. On this form, they are easily the best of that 'chasing pack' outside of the top four and, with a bit of a luck and a collapse at The Emirates or Anfield, they could even break into it this year.

That though, is precisely where Tottenham expected themselves to be, but unless there's a vast improvement at White Hart Lane in time for Wigan's weekend visit, it's not going to happen. There is no doubt over the quality of the new arrivals at the club, but they need to be deployed more effectively than this. Ramos appears to be stuck in pre-season, happy to tinker with formation and line-up, but his time is running out already. Booed off the pitch at half-time and full-time, the Tottenham fans were in a miserable mood and chairman Daniel Levy is not known for his patience. Still, if he does choose to swing the axe again, there's a man out in Germany who could do a decent job for him....