No end to White Hart pain

After Santini exit, Spurs turn to Dutch touch - and fall again
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The Independent Football

There is never a dull moment at White Hart Lane. In response to Jacques Santini's resignation as head coach on Friday for "personal reasons", Frank Arnesen, Tottenham's sporting director, addressed the home fans before the match against Charlton Athletic and told them that, with Martin Jol assuming the throne at least in the short term, it was business as usual. And so it proved, for 50 minutes, as Charlton built a 3-0 lead.

Santini's first assistant coach Jol, who had shown a sense of adventure by naming three strikers, albeit with Robbie Keane in a withdrawn role, adjusted the line-up at half-time and after Charlton added their third Spurs launched an all-out assault that almost brought them a point. Charlton, reduced to 10 men by the dismissal of their double goalscorer Shaun Bartlett after 69 minutes, had to hang on for the 3-2 victory, but it was one they deserved.

"Don't blame me," was the other element of Arnesen's address as he denied that the reason for Santini's sudden departure was that he could not work with the Dane in Tottenham's Continental-style structure. "It was not a complete surprise because I knew for some time that Jacques had some problems in his private life," he said of the Frenchman. Saying that it was a sad day when Santini left, he added: "He took the decision, we worked well together. There has been a lot of talk and I can assure you there has never been a problem."

Not off the pitch, perhaps. But since Spurs' successful, if dour, start to the season things have gone awry. The goals have not flowed - yesterday's pair hauled the Premiership tally up to only eight - and once old defensive failings began to re-emerge defeat has followed defeat in the League. Yesterday's was the fifth in six games.

Arnesen tried his best to be upbeat before kick-off, stressing the quality of the staff, Jol's ability and success in Holland, and re-iterating that the club had a lot of new players and a young team. "I am very, very optimistic about this squad," he said and hinted at more new signings when the transfer window opens after Christmas. "We have good players and we think we will go very well. We are working every day very hard and if there is something we can change for the benefit of Tottenham we will do it in January."

That something will not be of Roman Abramovich proportions, though. The Chelsea side the Russian has financed won again, beating Everton with Arjen Robben, the new boy wonder, scoring the only goal of the game at Stamford Bridge.

That victory ratcheted up the contest with Arsenal at the top of the League, and that is a challenge that Jose Mourinho, Chelsea's coach, thinks his side, who have conceded only three goals in 12 League games, is well placed to cope with.

Right now, Spurs should not be measuring themselves against either Arsenal or Chelsea but against Charlton, and they fell short of those London rivals yesterday.