Author Archives: waddiealex

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.

So what’s needed then

After the negative feelings felt towards the end of the season start to ebb away, perhaps it is time to look at what is needed if we are to improve next season. Not only to be title contenders again but to also perform well in the Champions League. I don’t think it is wrong in saying that, to the club at least, the two domestic cup competitions are very much secondary objectives. Fans will always want to win something but the club is more concerned with revenue streams.

I am sure Poch and co will come out and say that top 4 is the primary goal. That is probably the minimum expectation in reality despite other wealthier foes likely to spend big this summer. There will be pressure on Spurs next year but not as much as if a United or City had been champions and us second. The media will be focused on Leicester, not because they are champions but because they are looking for an end to the fairy tale. A point when they can say ‘told you so’ and that last season was a fluke. Only time will tell whether that will happen but it does deflect this sort of media scrutiny away from Spurs, at least initially.

What that does mean is that Spurs can go again, under the radar at the beginning of the season. You only have to look at all the headlines and pictures of next season’s managerial head to heads to see that Poch is frequently absent from the headline match ups. Mentioned eventually but only after the Sky 4, City and Leicester have been mentioned. Hopefully that will fire the players up.

So onto the squad improvements, there is a strong argument that we do not necessarily need to buy guaranteed starters. We are looking for competition and players who can come in and do a job better than the current reserves. This is true largely due to the age of the team, it is very young and still plenty of improvement is achievable. This need is greater because of Champions League commitments, not sure we can justify putting out youngsters or those that need a game in that competition like we have done in the Europa League.

Before I go into where I think we need strengthening, I am not going to put forward names as possible solutions as I honestly don’t watch enough foreign football to have an idea of whether someone will fit into Poch’s system.

Goalkeeper

Lloris is the number one with no questions asked. Vorm is ok but perhaps not good enough should Lloris get injured long term, one or two games will probably be survivable. Problem with goalkeepers is that they are rarely injured so you do need a backup that will be happy to sit on the bench and Vorm fits that bill currently. I don’t think anything will happen in this department unless a stunningly good young keeper becomes available.

Verdict: Probably nothing happening here

Defence

Fazio will be gone if everyone gets their way so there is a backup centre back needed. I think it is clear that Toby and Jan are the first choice pairing so Wimmer will need to be content with playing back up again. Dier can cover but given he is the first choice defensive midfielder currently I think it is clear we need another centre back. There are some promising youngsters coming through so it will be interesting to see if one of them is promoted or whether Poch dips into the market. Yedlin probably surplus to requirements given Walker and Trippier.

Verdict: Don’t be surprised if no one is bought, probably not through want of trying but because the player would have to be content to start as fourth choice. Fazio shipped out for sure and if the right offer comes in, Yedlin too.

Deep lying midfield

This is probably the biggest problem area in terms of effect on team dynamics. The backups to the first choice pair of Dier and Dembele have not performed. Alli has had a few games here (in Dembele’s role) but he is too important further up the pitch now to really be considered. Mason and Carrol have simply not been good enough in this role but I also feel that (in Masons case in particular) this position is too deep for them.

I have read many different articles and it is debateable whether Carrol is out of contract or not this summer however I can only see two of Carrol, Mason and Bentaleb staying and this is assuming we buy no one. Ah Bentaleb, so much promise but this season has not worked out how it was supposed to. Injuries have not helped but I also think he may be being used incorrectly.

Last season he was the defensive midfielder alongside Mason but in Poch’s system this year a defensive midfielder frequently becomes part of the defence as cover. I don’t think he is suited to that at all. I would like to see him in Dembele’s role (as backup to him) which may well negate the need for a signing there. Perhaps another youngster in Winks is the answer to Dembele when he is out but I get the impression if that was the case, Winks would have played a few more minutes this season.

What is clear is that another defensive midfielder is needed, whether this be from internal or bought in. When Dier was missing or being played at centre back it was clear there was a gaping hole in the middle of the park.

Verdict: A defensive minded midfielder will be bought but Bentaleb may get another shot at being Dembele’s competition. Mason will probably stay also (unless a couple of signings are made for this area) and Carrol moved on/released.

Attacking midfield

I think the first choice here are currently Eriksen, Alli and Lamela. Backups being Son, Chadli, Onomah, Njie, Winks, Pritchard and Mason (occasionally). That is ten players fighting it out for three places in the team. That’s probably a few too many. Mason and Winks may be considered deep lying while Son and Njie may be considered strikers – that would take it to a reasonable six for three places but I don’t think that is the case.

I think in this area we are missing someone with a bit of trickery, someone who will beat a player or two (with skill rather than pace or movement) to make space. This is most notable when teams set up with 10 men behind the ball. Pritchard may do this but we have yet to see what he can do at this level.

Verdict: I don’t think anybody will be coming in here despite saying we are missing something. Think one of Chadli or Pritchard will be lost.

Strikers

The most glaring shortage of options in the squad as Kane is pretty much all alone. Son and Njie were touted as strikers but they appear to be much more geared towards being attacking midfielders. Poch has named checked a youngster or two but I think if he were serious about them they would have appeared on the bench and got some minutes at the ends of games to save Kane and give them some experience.

The problem here is that we are being linked to some of the more sought after and high profile strikers around. I can’t see them wanting to come in and initially be playing second fiddle to Kane.

Verdict: One will come in, can’t go another window without another striker coming in. Perhaps two if there are some undiscovered youngsters around.

So there you have it. I think a minimum of two players inbound in the shape of a striker and defensive midfielder. Maximum would be four I feel with two strikers, a defensive mid and a defender. I think the key here is that we are not necessarily looking for people who need to hit the ground running as they go straight into the first team, this is different from previous years.

Poch Knew

He did. Poch knew the players had gone. Since the Southampton game we have heard how the teams mental state needs to improve and how finishing above the lot down the round is not important.

B*llocks.

Well to the finishing position bit anyhow. They were simply trying to soften the blow that they saw coming.

Poch hails from Argentina, a football mad nation where some of the most intense rivalries are based. He knows that when no competitions are won then bragging rights are the next thing. He KNOWS that.

Saying that finishing above your local rivals is not important is the rational argument. It is the business argument. Perhaps for Poch and some of the players, this may be true. What does it matter where you finish if it is not as the winner and are not relegated? It doesn’t. What is the difference between second and third for the club? Money.

But football fans are not rational. Football lives off rivalries between teams. Fans live and breathe for these derbies and rivalries. For the fans it is important no matter how childish or ultimately insignificant it turns out to be. That is what hurts so much at the moment.

Kane is the spokesmen for the team because he is one of our own, we trust what he says. So he was rolled out to tell us to ‘look at the bigger picture’ in that we will be in the Champions League next year.

Too soon, we are still too raw. Champions League qualification was secured a few games ago. One of my criticisms of the modern player is that playing in the Champion League is the be all and end all, for some it even appears more important that actually winning something. More important than winning their domestic league. It should never be more important than your domestic league. I hope, by some divine intervention, that this is not true for our lot.

Finishing above them (and the rest of London) was all that mattered after missing out on the league and, in a season where Spursy was not supposed to apply to us, we did the most Spursy thing possible. Got hammered by an already relegated team that went down to 10 men when only a point was needed. They did the double over us no less. Haven’t conceded more than two or lost by more than a single goal in a league game all season but we manage it against Newcastle. They are a much better team under Benitez but not so good to win 5-1.

I really hope Poch meant it when he says it was his worst day in management.

The close season will be an interesting one, the first XI are pretty solid and is perhaps only really missing a trick in the final third. A player that will beat defenders and make space for himself with skill. Outside of that it is really backups that will be able to come in and perform when needed. Backups for Dembele, Dier and Kane are a must.

It was a good season for Spurs, I don’t think anyone denies that, there is an identity from the club and a connection with the squad that has not been seen or felt for a while. The squad is young and able to improve both playing wise and mentally, the achievement this season is still valid. I think we all agree that Poch and this squad are going forward and upwards.

But those last few games do leave a very, very bitter taste. Best way to resolve that will be to put the wrongs right from day one next season, roll on to the final season at the Lane…

Not since 1960

To win the league I think we will need to do something we have not done since the double winning side of 1960/61. That is the last time we won 9 league games on the bounce, it went on to be 11 league games on the trot that year so no chance of beating that this season but I think we really need the 9.

Winning the 9 would give us 82 points and assuming we still have a better goal difference than Leicester at that point, we would need them to lose one and draw one of their last 9. Only 6 times in premier league history has 82 or fewer points won the league and it has only happened once in the last 10 years (2010/11). The lowest winning points total was 75 (1996/97) and I would not be surprised if the winning total is close to that number this time around given the unpredictability of the season so far. If you extrapolate our current points per game over the remaining 9 then we end with 72 which only matches our best ever points total in the premier league (and we finished 5th that year).

Of course, all of that means very little as it is historical and definitely not related to Spurs in the Premier league (our average points haul in the Premier league is 56). So who is left for each and their positions:

Spurs Leicester Nomads Man City
Villa 20th (a) Newcastle 19th (h) West Brom 13th (h) Norwich 18th (a)
Bournemouth 14th (h) Crystal Palace 15th (a) Everton 11th (a) United 6th (h)
Liverpool 9th (a) Southampton 8th (h) Watford 12th (h) Bournemouth 14th (a)
United 6th (h) Sunderland 17th (a) West Ham 5th (a) West Brom 13th (h)
Stoke 7th (a) West Ham 5th (h) Crystal Palace 15th (h) Chelsea 10th (a)
West Brom 13th (h) Swansea 16th (h) Sunderland 17th (a) Stoke 7th (h)
Chelsea 10th (a) United 6th (a) Norwich 18th (h) Southampton 8th (a)
Southampton 8th (h) Everton 11th (h) City 4th (a) Nomads 3rd (h)
Newcastle 19th (a) Chelsea 10th (a) Villa 20th (h) Swansea 16th (a)
Newcastle 19th (a) – still to be rearranged

Couple of points about our fixtures – the three games of Liverpool, United and Stoke will determine whether we are in a title battle or Champions League battle and Chelsea will clearly have the ability to derail whatever we are in with a few games to go. West Brom at home is also one of those where they will have 11 men behind the ball at all times and it will be up to us to break them down. That all sounds a little depressing!

But having said all that, I think that the run in for all the teams looks pretty even. Leicester’s first six games though all look winnable given their form – it is the last three games that will trip them up.

I thought before the last two games we needed 4 points from 6 to have a very good chance to win the league. We are still in it but with 5 points to make up it will be difficult.

This season has been fun so far, there is no reason why it couldn’t still be a great season.

Quick word on yesterday’s derby

I was worried before the game because everyone was making it out that we were overwhelming favourites. I hated that because it’s a derby, anything goes. Also they were a wounded animal, completely bashed about in the media and losing their best goalkeeper and defender. If there was ever a time they would be more up for it, it was then.

Did the team look a little tired – it’s hard to say. When the pressing game is broken through our players need to turn round and then accelerate, that is always going to look laboured against a fast moving team already moving forward. The lack of quality final ball could also be a sign of mental fatigue – not concentrating enough on what they were doing but this could be put down to the occasion and atmosphere. That also includes the amount of poor first touches we saw during the game.

I think the team perhaps let up a little after taking the lead, even time wasting a little. I didn’t like that – they had ten men. Waste time by playing the ball around them, there was always a man free. But that could just be my perception as I wanted another goal to put the tie to bed.

I understand why Lamela was replaced (on a yellow) but surely Son would have been replacement that would have kept the pressing going. Mason coming on meant he went central with Eriksen moving wide and I don’t think our pressing game copes without the intensity players like Lamela and Alli bring. I am not saying Mason and Eriksen do not press, simply saying it is not as dogged as the others.

Finally, I think Kane has reverted to beginning of season Kane for me. A few too many shots from positions that were unreasonable. Two that spring to mind were volleys from inside the box but quite wide and tight angled (less than 6 yards from the touchline). In those situations it would have been better to retain and recycle or at least put back into the danger zone. Now his goal did come from a tight angle but not as tight as the volleys and also far fewer players in path between ball and goal – also he was completely in control of the ball for the goal. But Kane, like most of the team, are young and still learning – they should only get better.

Again that sounds pretty negative (and it is) but that is because it is easier to pick on bits you consider bad. It is also because I want better and know that this team are capable of much better!

Nine massive games left in the league and a massive cup tie against Dortmund – win that and we will, rightly, be favourites for the Europa League.

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Pace is not the be all and end all

Now before I start, I can clearly see like everyone else that Spurs’ attack is lacking genuine pace. My point, which I will hopefully get across in the blog, is that pace alone may not suddenly fix everything that has made the start to the season feel a little damp squib.

So why do we want pace? With pace you can stretch the opposition in behind, getting the opposition to turn around and face their own goal. We clearly lack this with our current attacking options, well at least in those that Poch is willing to select.

We do have a couple of wingers on the books that do (or at least did) have genuine pace, Townsend and Lennon. Both of which have had plenty of abuse thrown their way because, despite their pace, they rarely (or at least are perceived to rarely) have an end product. So for pace to work there needs to be an end product involved as well. So what other options are there along with pace that will help us break the opposition down and recreate the Spurs way of playing?

Movement

This one is always linked with passing. Yes Spurs have made a load of successful passes so far this year but if they are all in front of two banks of four opposition players then what is the point? The keep ball or tiki taka football that is currently en vogue is primarily designed to wear the opposition down (along with the point that if you have the ball then the opposition cannot score). However if all you are doing is passing the ball in front of the opposition then all they need to do is shuffle left and right as needed, not really tiring for the elite professionals.

So this is where movement comes in, you need your players to be able to move to find the space. Not simply come deep to receive the ball but find space in advanced positions that will result in the opposition having to work hard to prevent an attack. Do the attacking three behind the striker really have the level of movement required currently?

Many of you will now be saying that teams set up against us to restrict space. That is true but good movers will still find space. Also pace is generally nullified by the same concept i.e. restrict space. Now many of you will probably be saying that pace will help on counter attacks and again this is true. But unfortunately for Spurs, we are still a massive scalp to the majority of the league – as such many teams will set up against us to try and avoid being beaten which would generally mean being open to a counter attack is pretty rarely.

Trickery

Being able to beat the man in front of you. Honestly, who in the players that have played so far this season have you looked at and said ‘he is going to beat the opposition here with a bit of skill’? It doesn’t have to leave the opposition on their backside but create that half a yard so they can do something useful with it.

Again it is about end product after beating the man because Dembele pretty much beats people for fun but then appears to not know what to do next. Yes if we have a tricky player the opposition would double up on them but that means there must be someone unmarked and this is where movement comes in to ensure that it is in an advanced position.

You need all four attributes in the attack

Yes there is four: pace, movement and trickery which have all been mentioned but also, and arguably the most important of all, an end product. With no end product then the advantage gained from the other three is nullified almost immediately.

If you look at City who are probably the best attacking team so far this season, they have all three in their attacking players. By attacking players I mean players who are there to score and create goals – yes they will and do defend but defending is not the priority. So far this season this has been Aguero, Silva, Sterling and Navas – clearly there is plenty of movement, pace and trickery there all combined with end product (ok you could argue that perhaps Navas and potentially Sterling may lack an end product enough of the time).

Now clearly we do not have the funds to spend £50 mil on a player but the players individually do not need all three, probably only two in reality to be able to really compete but even if you do one exceptionally well it will make a difference. The caveat is that it needs to be combined with an end product. All four in one player leads to a Messi or Ronaldo I suppose…

Now there are other issues as well at Spurs such as the lack of a specialist defensive midfielder, the individual mistakes being made and is Kane really an out and out striker but this article was purely based on the impression I was getting that pace is the ONLY missing ingredient in Spurs’ attack.

So to come back to the question that I suppose I am postulating. Is the glaring lack of pace in Spurs’ attack potentially hiding other flaws also present in the attack?

I fear it may – but perhaps not to the extent that this article has come across as. How very ‘sit on the fence of me’! I hope pace is the missing factor and that my fears are misplaced, it is early doors so there is plenty of time for me to be proved wrong.

Let us know what you think…

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Rock – Spurs – Hard Place

Spurs are between a rock and a hard place at the moment. It doesn’t really matter how we arrived at this spot, all that matters is we are there. Stuck, considering cutting through our own arm to move along the path which may not work out. The fork in the road lies ahead, both paths are difficult and no path guarantees the outcome that the stakeholders want. Us fans want glory and success, players and manager want to be recognised as the best in their relevant field and the board want profit. The next stops on each path? Mid table mediocrity or return to challenging for a top four spot.

Little depressing that, return to challenging for Champions League. Problem is, at a board level, getting Champions league (and keeping it) is the final destination, the Holy Grail of Premier League football existence. That will not change no matter who is running the club. Premier League football is a business first so profit comes first.

That’s an odd one though given how few clubs in the league actually make a substantial profit, there are a few exceptions of course but in the main it is difficult to make a profit. The option of not having a ‘business’ focused board is the sugar daddy model, it’ll be fun for a while and if it succeeds then it will continue to be fun. Problem is that it does not guarantee success and if success is not found then why does the sugar daddy stay? Nobody wants an Anzhi ‘fire sale’ situation…

The board appear to be convinced that it will be one simple decision that will help us achieve that goal they want. Whether that be a new manager, a big signing or a new corporate deal. We fans are not much different in reality, always a star striker is needed or playing conventional wingers rather than inverted wingers is the answer.

It is all guesswork at the end of the day, it always has been. Berbatov, Bale and Modric are examples of guesses that paid off. Bentley, Rebrov and Taarabt are examples of those that did not come good. Many will argue that the signings made over the last 18/24 months are yet more examples of those that did not pay off. In reality it is probably too early to tell – it is not as if Modric and Bale were world beaters straight out the gates.

The board really are stuck in a hard place at the moment, though it is of their own making. They have splashed the cash on occasion but it is always debatable as to whether they were backing the manager and getting his targets. They can either back the manager or sack him, whatever option they choose if it succeeds they will get little to no credit and if it fails they will be lambasted from twitter to blogs to national media.

The manager is also stuck. Stick to his principles in terms of formation and hope it comes good, great if it does and accused of being stubborn if it does not. Change his ways and be hailed as an adaptable young manager if it works or be accused of confusing the players by constantly changing how we set up if the punt fails.

Us fans are stuck. Do we continue to back the manager/players despite what we are watching, hoping that it will somehow transform into positive energy for them, being hailed as an amazing set of supporters (but deluded) by opposing fans and the media. Or moan and groan, creating an insipid atmosphere that will be roundly criticised and may affect how the players play (debatable). Hoping that bashing the players during the game will make them try harder.

We all have our own opinion about what guess we should make a reality. But no one truly knows how it will work out. One thing is for certain though, we are not a club who can simply throw away a few hundred million (a la United) to correct guesses that have gone wrong. The decisions now could well be the first nail in the coffin or the first step up the ladder, flipping a coin will have just as much chance of choosing the right path…

The league table could have looked a whole lot worse if lady luck had not smiled our way on Sunday. Let’s hope she continues to do so!

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Don’t worry there is always next year (and then another one after that)

Even the most optimistic of fans will have now consigned this season to the bin. It is not that the points difference is insurmountable, but that we all simply feel we won’t do it. Whether you blame AVB, Levy, Baldini or Sherwood doesn’t matter anymore. So let’s just enjoy what is left of the season as much as possible. We can still dream of a night in Turin, well for a few days at least. Perhaps without expectation the players may well show what they are capable of – just me then.

Sherwood’s post match chat has been the focus of much debate. Should he have kept it all in house like Hoddle suggests? I don’t know, most fans want the honesty to come out as we all like to see passion and hurt, it helps us relate to him. Sherwood was clearly upset and incredibly angry; he didn’t want to be there and perhaps we are fortunate he was holding back a lot due to being in front of the camera.

There were two points where I think he may have overstepped the line:

  1. His comment that he could rely on some players but not others. This could clearly be disruptive and divisive within the team and will lead to much debate about who he was referring to in the stands – it is probably not as obvious as it appears.
  2. Saying the club needs to wake up if reference to fourth place. If we had been continually finishing 6/7/8th then perhaps he would have a point but that has not been the case. To be fair, he may have come across wrong – more meaning that for this season fourth is not achievable and the club should wake up.

Sherwood also mentioned our inability to beat the teams currently in the top four, this is reminiscent of when Jol took over. There is clearly some form of mental block in place. Yes in some of the games events have conspired against us. A chance missed by ourselves that would clearly have affected what happened only moments later. We have conceded 37 goals in 29 games so far this season, 22 of them goals have come in the 6 games played against the top four. We have also scored 37 goals so far but only 2 have come in those same 6 games. One point from the eighteen available – it simply isn’t good enough for our apparent ambitions.

Hopefully that record improves in our favour this coming Sunday. I’ll be there to hopefully see some pride restored.

Sherwood clearly knows (or at least realises) that the likelihood of him staying as manager beyond the summer is close to nonexistent. Perhaps this is what fuelled his comments in papers regarding ‘silence is deafening’ in terms of support from Levy and the apparent touting of himself as the technical director. Is that not what his role was before? Albeit only up to U21 level. Given how quickly Levy can pull the trigger, Sherwood must be on his last legs if he starts having a pop at the board.

Apparently Ian Broomfield (chief scout) is back after leaving when Redknapp did. Having listened to this Greg Stobart interview I would suggest it is a little quick to say Baldini is gone. Essentially, Greg says that Balidini is a great people person who will get the deal done but scouting is not his strength. So why not Broomfield the scout with Baldini the deal broker? But who knows what goes through Levy’s head!

The problem next year is with a world cup in the summer, any new manager will not have the time to get his idea’s across prior to the season starting. Players will have time off after their exertions in Brazil and if the new manager is LVG, he’ll be having his own holidays. Next season is already looking like a slow starter…

So Benfica are next, let’s hope Tim did really give them one hell of a lashing after the game. Let’s hope the players respond in a positive manner. Let’s hope that this season of discontent can finish with a glorious flourish. Ok, still just me then!

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AVBs tactics working as we thought they should

Inverted wingers, high defensive line, a defensive midfielder and a lone striker, surely that reminds you of our Portuguese friend during his time at the Lane. The two key differences I saw was the inverted wingers not looking to shoot all the time and the speed at which the whole team looked to get things done.

The pre match meltdown on personnel chosen was again evident but perhaps a little more understandable given the 4 central midfielders in the line up (and Naughton at left back). Perhaps that was why the official twitter account felt the need to specify what was happening:

The official account also went on to add that Rose and Defoe were new injuries in addition to the already known absentees (Sandro, Lamela, Siggy and Chiriches). This explained Rose’s absence but didn’t explain why Fryers was not picked in his place. As it was, Newcastle didn’t seem to target Naughton when they did have the chance.

Spurs, for a change, started quick and were pressing Newcastle high up the pitch. This did, on occasion, fail which meant the opposition outnumbered us on a few occasions at the back however with practice this should become less frequent. And I would take high energy pressing over standing off any day of the week regardless of the chance of being outnumbered.

Capoue was great at winning the ball back but, in the first half at least, was a little wasteful once he had the ball back. The second half was much improved. The biggest benefit of Capoue playing appeared to be the freedom it gave Paulinho and Bentaleb, both were pressing high up the pitch and getting involved in attacking the final third, with Paulinho grabbing himself another goal and Bentaleb providing a couple of assists.

Much has been made of the apparent reluctance to play a defensive minded midfielder since Ferdinand’s comments. I agree with Ferdinand that the midfielders should be clever enough to see that if someone goes forward then they may have to hang back and cover them however if you have someone who will predominantly hang back then it is easier for the midfield to understand who should attack 90% of the time (therefore do it quicker) and then cover the defensive minded player on the odd occasion he does make a foray forward.

This was also true of Capoue covering his defence if one of them had the chance to bomb forward or was caught up field, Kaboul did this a few times. Kaboul was back to probably give the central defence pairing most would choose. His pace was crucial on a few occasions so it was great to see him back in the team. Hopefully he does not have any adverse reactions to it.

It was a good performance from the team, much more like what we want. Shots on target obviously helped the situation and, while we could have restricted Newcastle a little better perhaps (we did have Lloris to thank on two or three occasions), it will do the teams (and fans) confidence the world of good.

But we have been here before this season, I recall the good performance against Norwich that was also a joy to watch. On that occasion it was Norwich’s tactics that made us look good, I just hope we made Newcastle look far worse than they actually are rather than they made us look good.

The break may be a good thing as it will give Tim more time to get his methods across to the players – assuming they don’t get the weekend off to go get plastered somewhere. The next two league fixtures are crucial – Norwich away and Cardiff at home. City’s trip to Norwich showed they will be tough to break down while our home form makes the Cardiff game trickier than it should be.

However it is the games following these two that make them must win games – Chelski away, Woolwich home, Southampton home and Liverpool away – all before the end of March. Whatever happens, it certainly feels better chasing teams above us rather than trying to defend a top four place – feels like there is more freedom to the situation. We are heading into the Redknapp fall off period now – let’s hope Tim didn’t pick that bug up from Harry.

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Is it really the end of the world every time we don’t get three points?

That’s how it seems currently when gauging the reaction to a Spurs result. We seem to expect to win 95% of our games (annihilating the opposition while we are at it) like we have been champions for the last 5 years unchallenged. It is a sad state of affairs.

Confidence in the team is an asset – this is generally what happens away from home leading to one of the best away records in the league. Expectation simply leads to debilitating pressure – this is White Hart Lane at the moment.

There are always problems and Spurs seem to have more than others but this is relative. We have problems in relation to our position – our problems are nothing in comparison to say Fulham.

When AVB was in charge it was persistence with inverted wingers, the pedestrian pace or freezing out Ade (though many at the time were more than happy with Ade being nowhere near the team). Now, with Tim, it is his persistence of selecting Bentaleb over other more established players, how there are not enough bodies in the midfield or why did he leave us short up front once Defoe leaves.

We do love a moan and that is despite our results (in the league at least) appearing to have picked up – faster tempo, more goals, more points than prior to Tim’s appointment. These were all things that everyone wanted – even if you were pro AVB like me.

It feels bad, we cannot deny that. But this was due to expectation, assuming that because other teams were in a state of transition we’d be in a good state. The opening appeared to be there but we failed to take advantage of it.

Problem is we had our own transition of losing Bale and signing so many. If Bale had stayed we would have had that bit extra but would he have played as well if his heart was set on leaving? We’ll never know…

So what happened up north?

Hull, to their credit, have only conceded 9 goals at home so far this season – that is half as many as we have and yet we are considered top four potential while they are relegation contenders. Hull have gained one more point at home than we have managed at home. They were never going to be spanked at the KC.

We didn’t play well but was this because Hull played well or simply an off day on our part? In reality it was probably a bit of both. Long was a thorn in our side, Dawson always struggles against the small quick players while Vertonghen was always going to struggle with so little match practice under his belt.

Despite playing poorly there were a few glimpses of slick play that, given time, will grow into the style of play we all crave. Our goal was fortunate but at least it was taken, yet again we struggled to get shots on target.

Soldado is a broken man, confidence has been drained to the point where he’d probably miss an open goal. Is there a solution? I don’t know but he needs to keep playing otherwise we will never know. Perhaps he is simply not suited to the Premier League. Whatever happens we won’t recuperate anywhere near our outlay on the man so we can but hope he turns it around.

Lennon has reverted to being a passenger again but with the lack of natural wingers fit he is the only option. He kept appearing inside too often, it was almost as if the ghost of AVB was haunting him, telling him to play inverted. I am surprised Sherwood didn’t change it to 4-3-3 with Ade, Eriksen and Soldado as the front three with Paulinho, Bentaleb and another central midfielder.

The question in most people’s minds was ‘why were there no substitutions?’ Paulinho was knackered, Soldado and Lennon ineffective – surely a change was needed? Surely Kane or Chadli could have been given a go in place of Soldado for 15-20 minutes. But then Soldado does need to be on the pitch if he is to turn his fortunes around…

Next game is Everton at home, let’s hope some of the nearly fit guys are back. If they are then I think Bentaleb and Lennon may be benched for that game.

Enic out

Enic and Levy are getting a fair amount of stick at the moment, some of it justified but to say they should sell up is an overreaction. They have made mistakes like StubHub but have also provided us with a state of the art training complex.

News on the stadium is slow and tedious but that is the nature of development within London. This more than any other reason would be why the club pursued the Olympic stadium so strongly – it was a mistake to do so but in their eyes it was a quick(er) and cheap(er) way of increasing matchday revenue and subsequently the wage bill. And then hopefully success…

However, despite me saying it is too soon to want them out, they are at the tipping point. How they act over the coming 12 months will determine how fans truly react. The StubHub deal was a three year agreement so we have another two years of that but the club could announce now they will sever ties at that point. You would expect some movement on the Stadium situation over the timeframe mentioned and if Enic show they truly mean business here then fans will come round to them again.

The summer is when I truly see Enic going one way or the other in relation to how the masses perceive them. What happens to Sherwood and do we sell our best players. If say Lloris, Vertonghen or Sandro go, even for stupidly large fees, it will re-enforce the notion that we are no more than a feeder club – a stepping stone for players before they get their ‘big’ move.

Sherwood has said he needs fourth to remain in the job, seems harsh but this opens the door for Levy to get rid of Tim. If he gets a manager that can unite the fans then there will be a honeymoon period where we will be able to get on with improving with the full support of the fans.

Otherwise the infighting will continue and inevitably affect the players. AVB was divisive due to his Chelski links and the cloud he left under. Sherwood is divisive because of how he was appointed and being almost a polar opposite to AVB in perceived approach to tactics. The only way I see Sherwood uniting the two camps is by getting 3rd (or fourth easily) and winning the Europa League – unlikely.

So is it time to panic again? Is it time for ENIC to move on? What will it take to unite White Hart Lane with everyone pulling in the same direction?

You can follow the blog on twitter, @thfc1882dotcom and “like” our facebook page! We are even on instagram. If you are really bored you can follow my ramblings about anything and everything on twitter (@waddiealex) as well…

It was bad but we’ll learn

It was a bad result last night. City looked like world beaters while we looked like lower league opposition. Except had we been lower league then City would not have gone all out to annihilate us.

The opening exchanges were one way traffic, City glided through us with ease with our midfield being totally ineffective against the opposition. Misplaced passes and dallying on the ball being the biggest problems in our midfield along with City players easily finding space. The wide players simply didn’t have a chance to get involved.

The first goal from Aguero was a class finish – you can’t help but think that if Levy had succeeded with his audacious bid for him before City got him we would have somehow ruined him. Some are suggesting that Lloris should not have dashed out to meet him but that is Lloris’ game and probably works more often than fails.

Staying put on his line may have helped but Aguero would have simply smacked it rather than his delicate dink and Aguero has incredible power as his shot that hit the post testifies. Also once he is in that position there is very little defenders can do as they are flat footed and Aguero is sprinting.

After more City pressure and a ludicrous save from Lloris we started to edge more into the game. It was pleasing to see that the players did not let their heads drop and kept at it – even though for this game (or at least that half) they were not very good at ‘it’. Set pieces appeared to be our best bet as City looked suspect from them and a moment of controversy from one.

Dawson put the ball in from an Eriksen free kick but was ruled offside. BT Sport apparently asked the linesman what decision was given and the response was ‘Dawson offside’. What this didn’t address is whether it was directly from Erkisen’s free kick or from a flick from Ade. Now we know from replays that Ade did not touch it and that Dawson was not offside from the kick. It could be argued that Ade was interfering with play given he was directly in front of the keeper but if that was the case then most free kicks would result in an offside – plus the linesman explicitly said Dawson offside.

BT also showed a view from the linesman’s position (after the game) – don’t know how accurate that was but if they were using decent software then it should be pretty accurate. Dawson and Ade completely blocked his view of the City defender playing Dawson onside. We have got to be honest here and say that the linesman can only give based on what he can see. The decision was wrong and clearly a goal back would have changed the prospects of the game but to crucify the linesman for that decision is a little harsh.

Capoue coming on at half time was an obvious choice but perhaps it would have been Bentaleb had Dembele not picked up a niggle. Capoue quickly set about letting the opposition know that he was there the rough them up a bit and should have been booked early on. Spurs looked better and more composed at the beginning of the second half but then the second moment of controversy struck and it clearly had an effect on the game.

Rose tackled Dzeko in the area from behind, clipping the ball and Dzeko. Linesman (same as the offside decision) decided he had seen enough to give a penalty – the ref was unmoved by the challenge which is strange as from his position it would have been harder to see Rose’s touch on the ball. Rose was sent off for his efforts.

Now as a Spurs fan he got the ball therefore it was not a foul. Problem is football is not played that way now, the lino saw it as a tackle from behind (which is pretty much outlawed even if it is not reckless) in which Rose clipped Dzeko and was therefore a foul in his eyes. With my Spurs head on, it was a great challenge. My general football head says it was 50-50 and lady luck was elsewhere last night. What I really take offence with here was the red card, that was overkill and a penalty was punishment enough even though it was a little harsh. The red card decision however was totally the ref’s decision – just because a foul occurs in the area does not mean it was a red card.

After that there was only going to be one result. City got their third and eased off. Capoue, who run around like a nutter for the rest of the game and often the furthest forward, got one back from a corner. Fernandinho looked like he tried to block with his arm but missed, it would probably have made a better game had he blocked it with red card and penalty. However, some people suggest that the intent of an action is just as bad a carrying it out…

City are by far and away the best attacking team in the league and we can only thank Lloris for numerous saves preventing this from being a truly awful result. The players will learn from this (especially the younger ones) as will Sherwood. We just need to hope that they learn quick enough to ensure the rest of the season is a positive one.

The biggest fear is that if we miss out on Champions League football again then some of the players that have been here a few years may well leave, namely Jan and Hugo who both are pretty much irreplaceable. Three points though is nothing with 45 points still up for grabs.

I must also say that I am very surprised that none of the players returning from injury were on the bench last night, I can only assume that Tim is waiting for them to be fully fit and didn’t want to risk them in that game.

So what next

Well there are less than 48 hours left in the transfer window and while many of us predicted a quiet window for Spurs, the rumours are still flying around. Problem I see is if Levy does plan on moving Sherwood on in the summer then how can he possibly back him in the transfer market.

Despite Holtby and Capoue both featuring last night, both are still being linked with moves away. I am not saying they will not happen but I find it strange that Spurs would risk injuring them if they wanted to ship them out.
Berbatov coming in also keeps hanging around. He is not the player we sold and I still don’t see how he would fit in to any system Sherwood has used so far. That being said we do need another striker with Defoe’s departure so the rumour of a straight loan swap with Holtby makes some sense. It would give Holtby the league exposure he may need and gives us another striker.

The most recent rumour, which may have more to do with another club being linked , is Konoplyanka – he scored against England once. He is apparently a left winger predominantly but you would think with Chadli, Townsend and Lamela all trying to make that position their own (I am assuming Lennon is nailed on the right) that another player really is surplus to requirements. It would be very Spurs though to sign another one.

I still personally think that nothing will happen this window…. Don’t bother heading to the stadium/training ground kids, let the Sky Sports News man report nothing in peace.

So what do you think? Linesman was wrong but decisions understandable? Any movements in or out?

You can follow the blog on twitter, @thfc1882dotcom and “like” our facebook page! We are even on instagram. If you are really bored you can follow my ramblings about anything and everything on twitter (@waddiealex) as well…