Football: Klinsmann returns to find Spurs in disarray
Glenn Moore is Football Editor for The Independent and a Uefa B licence holder. Glenn has worked for the Independent newspapers since 1993, initially as cricket correspondent of the Independent on Sunday, subsequently as football correspondent of The Independent before becoming football editor in 2004.
Monday 29 December 1997
It looked like a decent result when Spurs walked off the pitch and Tottenham's fans could feel justified in applauding.
They headed home, a rare spring in the step, but had barely reached the High Road before it emerged that the score was not as good as it first appeared. In a delayed match Everton, like Barnsley and Coventry, had won and Tottenham were down in the bottom two.
It got worse. Christian Gross, manager for barely a month, confirmed that he may resign if his assistant, Fritz Schmid, failed to gain a work permit. Then he revealed that Darren Anderton had broken down again and suggested that his problem was now mental as well as physical. Oh, and Les Ferdinand currently has thigh, stomach and tooth problems, Andy Sinton a knee injury, and David Ginola a hamstring strain.
Ginola was the only one of the four to play yesterday forming an attacking partnership with Jurgen Klinsmann that looked better on the teamsheet than in reality. Klinsmann, barely fit after eight weeks without a full match, did lift the side but contributed relatively little.
He did have a hand, or rather a forehead, in Tottenham's 28th-minute goal. For once he got in front of the impressive Martin Keown at the near post to flick-on Ruel Fox's cross for Allan Nielsen to volley in.
After that his on-the-ball influence subsided though his willingness to keep working was one reason for Tottenham at last ending a game in threatening attack rather than ineffectual defence.
"My welcome sent shivers down the spine of my back," he said before rushing to the airport for the flight back to his Italian home. He misses this morning's training session but will be back at Tottenham for the next one on New Year's Day, by which time he hopes to be domiciled in London.
He added: "I was very nervous and it took me a while to get into the game. It was disappointing not to get a chance to score but I am happy with the performance. We need time to improve and there is a lot of hard work to be done but I am confident we'll get out of trouble."
Having criticised his team's "determination" after their abject collapse at Villa Park on Boxing Day, Gross was pleased with their commitment but, as Howard Kendall found with Everton, struggling teams can always lift themselves for derby matches, it is the other games that are a problem.
Tottenham's next match is against Manchester United at Old Trafford. By then, Ferdinand should be back and Klinsmann fitter, if not match-fit, but Anderton may be back on the operating table and Gross could be gone.
"I signed my contract on condition that Fritz came with me but it has not been easy to get him a work permit. We will have to fight hard off the pitch as well as on it. It is difficult now because the government [the Department of Employment] is shut."
Would he resign? "I cannot answer that question. I am prepared to wait but I cannot say how long. He is very important to me but I cannot say if I can work without him."
Schmid is a highly qualified fitness trainer, something Tottenham obviously need, but needs a work permit as Switzerland is not in the EU. "He is important for preparation and rehabilitation," Gross added. "I normally work only with fit players."
It is a long time since any Spurs manager had that luxury. Anderton has been a particular concern and, as if to illustrate the need for Schmid, Gross added: "He has broken down again and may need an operation. It is serious but he needs more self-belief."
That applies to the whole team. Tottenham's lack of confidence, Ginola apart, was obvious by the way they hit the ball long and often rather than passing it. Once Arsenal adjusted to the tactic this largely played into the heads of Keown and Steve Bould.
"I know everybody likes flowing football but at present not everybody is in the right mental condition for that," Gross said. "We have to find the balance. Jurgen was good. He is important to men as a leader. I'm pleased he is here but it will be three matches before he is fully fit."
"It was a battery and we had to cope with that," said Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager. "We were surprised by their commitment but they had few chances and we had many. We should have scored more."
For all this mid-match dominance, Arsenal rarely looked like scoring. Nicolas Anelka, playing in place of the suspended Ian Wright, is clearly not ready for the first team while Dennis Bergkamp, without a Premiership goal since early October, was not well.
Anelka did hit a post when released by Emmanuel Petit after 32 minutes but was otherwise easily held by Sol Campbell. Arsenal's goal was fortuitous, the impressive Ray Parlour's 25-yard shot being deflected in off Ramon Vega. Patrick Vieira, who was among the better performers, volleyed over and Jose Dominguez almost went clear for Spurs as both sides sought the winner neither deserved.
It was a scrappy match - these are two out-of-form teams - and the play rarely matched the status accorded north London's 122nd League derby. If there is to be a 123rd next season one of these teams needs to rediscover their form quickly.
Goals: Nielsen (28) 1-0; Parlour (62) 1-1.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Carr, Vega, Campbell, Wilson; Fox (Dominguez, 60), Nielsen, Calderwood, Clemence; Klinsmann, Ginola (Iversen, 66). Substitutes not used: Bardsen (gk), Scales, Mabbutt.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon (Grimaldi, 25), Keown, Bould, Winterburn; Parlour, Vieira, Petit, Overmars; Anelka (Rankin, 88), Bergkamp (Hughes, 79). Substitutes not used: Manninger (gk), Upson.
Referee: M Riley (Leeds).
Booked: Tottenham: Campbell, Wilson. Arsenal: Bould.
Man of the match: Keown.
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