The curious case of Tottenham Hotspur

I think it is time to admit it. We have been proper ropey this season so far. There have been a couple of bright games (City and Stoke) with the odd 10 minutes or so in other games but, by and large, compared to last season’s performances we have been way below the expected level.

That is what makes it all the more depressing. We know these players are capable of so much more, most are mere shadows in comparison to last year. We are 20 games into this season now (all competitions) and we still have not really seen the Spurs of last season we fell in love with. Last season’s identity has been lost or at least degraded and needs to be rediscovered.

Is it mental? Is it just unlucky? Is it Poch trying to change too much in search of a plan B? Honestly I do not know but feel free to give your opinion… Poch himself has said he thinks it is mental.

I’ll start with what I feel I have seen wrong with this team so far this year.

  1. Too often the centre backs or defensive midfielder have the ball look up and there is nothing on. They have plenty of time on the ball but either the opposition are all experts at marking or our players are simply not moving enough. This then results in them having the ball too long and then playing it to a full back who is usually facing their own goal with little option other than to play it back to the keeper.
  2. Lack of a first touch. Too often the players in the advanced position receive the ball in a decent position but their first touch is off and they fail to control the ball. This usually results in the opposition getting a sniff of the ball and either winning it or forcing the ball back to the defence and point 1 above. Take last night’s game against Monaco, when the control was there it usually resulted in a chance (like Alli’s through ball for Son’s chance) but this is not happening enough. More regularly we see Alli’s first touch be too heavy and he ends up on his backside or losing the ball. This is true of all the attacking players, not a dig at Alli.
  3. Way too narrow. This is not a debate about ‘traditional’ wingers versus ‘inverted’. Last season Eriksen and Lamela were the wide players in the three behind the striker. They always came inside but their start positions were wide which meant the opposition had to deal with them. Again looking at last night, Monaco’s full backs didn’t have an attacker to deal with, resulting in them being able to overload our full backs and create two on ones. The last few games have been a diamond midfield which is about the most narrow you could be which has not helped at all. Being too narrow has resulted in the middle of the pitch being so congested, would not be such an issue if there was fast one touch passing, triangles and movement but see point one again…
  4. Where has the pressing gone? Instead of pressing in packs it all seems very individual. Again this is made more annoying when opposition teams are pressing us how we feel we should be pressing them. And because of point 1 and 2 we are unable to beat the opposition press often enough for opposition to give up on that tactic. Whereas our press is currently being easily beaten resulting in us constantly appearing to be outnumbered in defence.

Excuses/Caveats

Let’s face it, injuries have not helped our cause at all this season. Lloris, Toby, Dier, Dembele, Alli, Lamela, Kane and more spring to mind. I don’t think we have been able to field what was the starting eleven last season this season as of yet. Some injuries have affected the team more than others, it is not a coincidence that we have hit our run of draws when Toby and Kane got injured. But our squad should be good enough to cope, whether it is or not is up to personal opinion.

Tactics have been odd to say the least. We needed to find a plan B but what has been odd is the amount of different plans that have been used from the start of the game. Plan B’s are either to change a game mid game because something is not working or to cater for a specific set of injuries. I understood the move to 4-1-4-1 when Dier and Dembele were injured. Unless we are facing an opposition that have a massive gulf in quality between us and them, we should be starting a game with our first choice tactics.

Perhaps opposition teams have simply worked us out. It is always an option. Perhaps the game against Chelsea at the end of last season simply affected these players more than we thought and hoped. Perhaps the game this weekend is the perfect tonic for the team, there is no doubt they have been looking forward to this one. The whole squad (well at least those from last season) know what this game means this season. A positive result and things may start clicking back into gear for Spurs.

In the last few games you could argue that the passion has gone from the team and, to be fair to Poch, he has mentioned this numerous times this season. It is up to Poch to get this passion back into the players psyche for all games but if we see a lack of passion this weekend then perhaps we are in for a long old season.

The plus side in all of this is we are four points off the top (and one point off fourth if that floats your boat) despite not playing particularly well yet, last season we were five points off top (three points off fourth) after the same amount of games. We know we haven’t played well for most of the season so far, problem is knowing which way it will go. Continue to play poorly and we will lose touch as it is impossible to continue picking the point up we have so far, start playing better and anything is possible. The season is a long way from being decided just yet… let’s keep the faith a little longer, the players deserve that a least.