The Doc's Diagnosis: Villa 1 Spurs 1

This, in many ways, was the game of the season. A game which promised to tackle so many big questions - and pretty much answered all of them.

Are Villa and Spurs knocking on the door of the Big 4? Which of the two is the better side? After their 9-1 win over Wigan, are Spurs the "real deal"? Or are Villa the genuine contenders for Liverpool's shaky Champions League status? Are Villa no more than long ball merchants? Can Spurs add robust defence to their undoubted attacking firepower?

Lots of questions. And I think we can tick all of them off with answers.

First of all, I think we must accept that the gap between the big four and the rest will widen this season. This was a game of unrelenting ordinariness, punctuated by brief spells of mediocrity. Some will write that the two teams "cancelled each other out" - the truth would be that neither side had the real quality needed to break the deadlock.


Villa were the better side in the first half and deserved their lead. But it was, once again, all huff and puff. Our midfield worked its socks off, our forwards applied pressure high up the pitch, and King Carlos swept all in front of him. Villa were first to every loose ball and won every 50-50. Spurs were never allowed to settle, and looked sluggish.

But the half-time break can work wonders or break hearts. And it was the North Londoners who were to show their mettle and gain the moral victory. With Villa presumably being told to "keep it going", Spurs decided to start passing the ball - and the game changed.

Passion, hunger, desire, aggression and fighting spirit are great attributes. But they only get you so far. Creativity, skill and vision turn good into great - and Spurs were a transformed team in the second half. Making the most of a Villa team determined at every opportunity to surrender possession, they started to move effectively and stretch the Villa defence time and time again. Only last-ditch defending and superb awareness from Carlos Cuellar prevented this game from being over much sooner than the 90th minute.

We should be mighty grateful for a point from this game, and also feel mildly embarrassed about the way in which we played it.

We were - once again - passed off the pitch in the second half of today's game. Spurs will fix their defensive frailties with the return of Woodgate and King. Villa have muscle, pace and fight - but little else at the moment.

And none of that is helped my Martin O'Neill's quite inexplicable preference for Carew over Heskey: in every recent game, Heskey has come on to link the play better, hold the ball up better, make better passes and show greater attacking urgency than John Carew.

My diagnosis is this: Spurs can't yet challenge for the Big 4, but they are much closer than Villa. And they're much closer because they play passing football, instead of athletics.

Questions need to be asked about the way Villa are going. I don't want to watch a team that fights its arse off, tackles like a demon, is bloody quick, but can't play football.