Whilst watching the first seventy odd minutes of the game yesterday I had come to the conclusion that although we hadn't caused too many problems going forward we had managed to look fairly solid in defence.
I was delighted to see Gardner and Dawson form a decent centre back pairing. In light of just how little football Gardner has played this season I thought he was having a good game. Obviously this was not a sentiment shared by BMJ as he decided to haul him off and replace him with Rocha. This in my opinion was a huge tactical mistake.
I heard the opinion of Andy Gray, in that BMJ must have thought that Gardner was in danger of being sent off, but I can only say I saw little evidence of that happening.
The importance of a strong centre back partnership cannot be underestimated. All season we have suffered from missing Ledley and having only Davenport available. Now we find ourselves in a situation where BMJ has managed to upset two centre backs, the repercussions of which might ruin the rest of our season.
As Gardner left the pitch last night you could see from his face he was less than happy. He received a hand shake for his efforts and walked off with his head down. Did he deserve to leave the field? I would say no? Did he look more likely to receive a yellow card than Ghaly for example? Once again the answer has to be no. Did we benefit from this 'tactical substitution’? Definitely not.
What BMJ managed to do through this master stroke is damage what little confidence poor Anthony has got. I think any Spurs fan with knowledge of Gardner as a player must agree that his best form in the past has followed from playing regularly and building his confidence.
So what did BMJ indirectly say to him by removing him from the pitch yesterday? Answer: I don't have the confidence in you as a player to play out the rest of this game to the best of your ability without adversely affecting the team. There is absolutely no way that BMJ would have even considered removing Dawson or King in the same situation.
He was replaced by Ricardo Rocha with whom I have been reasonably impressed so far and that even includes last night. He is tough in the tackle, pacey and has good heading ability.
But football being football he will now be remembered for the mistake he made last night and must now suffer the pressure that follows from making a mistake in such a high profile game. How will he respond? We'll have to wait and see. Did BMJ really need to put Rocha into that pressure cooker environment when Gardner was already playing well? I am convinced that it was an unnecessary and potentially damaging substitution.
I can only finish by saying that in my limited opinion the substitution was ill thought out. It has needlessly affected two vital members of the squad at an important juncture in the season. BMJ got it wrong!