Changing Face of Tottenham Means Struggle for an Identity

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

This strange, unstructured season of new realities has left Spurs lacking something. Certainly not lacking in midfielders, but curiously lacking in passion.

Why is this important? Identity is something all teams need- the football version of a cause worth fighting for, or a (don’t laugh) politician’s values, driving them to change the world. The ambition to fight the good fight as well as the desire and determination required, are key components for a sporting team to have a sporting chance.

Trying to analyse what the identity of this current Spurs team is proves to be more challenging than doing the same thing for rival clubs. There is no focal point- a Mourinho or a Wenger, no ethos running through the club that says “this is our team” . You could turn off the colour and turn down the volume watching Everton, but you would still know who it was, and that this is a team playing for their fans and playing in the image of their manager. The state of flux and confusion around Tottenham seems to have been something almost visible ever since the Harry for England campaign started. For 2 years, there has been a definite sense of instability that has manifested itself in ways that leave us today uneasy  about what it means for the future.

And the signs of unease are multiple. There can be little doubt that going to White Hart Lane has changed as an experience. Up to 2012, we could be proud of the noise and atmosphere generated at the club, the passion flowing from fans to players and having a material affect on results. In the 2009/10 season, we won 74% of our home matches, while 11/12 saw a 68% ratio (2010/11 did have a decline to 47%, however Champions league results had a clear affect across all fixtures in that memorable season). Compare this to 2012/13- 58%, and the current campaign where only 42% of home matches resulted in home wins. Goals scored stats are also revealing, showing a nigh-on 50% drop since 2011/12.  During this time, away form surged from 37% in 2010 to 67% this year. If home form had been even stable since last season we would comfortably fill one of the Champions League places right now.

Win Ratio (%)

Season

Home

Away

2006/07

63%

26%

2007/08

42%

16%

2008/09

53%

21%

2009/10

74%

37%

2010/11

47%

37%

2011/12

68%

37%

2012/13

58%

53%

2013/14

42%

67%

There is an argument of atmosphere following performances, however for anyone going to games now there is a definite sense of eerie calm over the crowd from far too early in a match for it to be purely about what we are watching on any given game day. We can of course talk about wider issues affecting all of football- the changes in who can actually afford to go to games had had a sanitising affect across all of English football- but the changes in the club since 2012 should be considered as far more convincing reasons for a disconnect between team and supporter. A malaise seems to infect every level – Stubhub rows in Parliament make us feel like we are being viewed as no more than cash cows to be exploited, managers come and go as do players, the feeling of a high water mark in our recent history frittered away in the pursuit of vendettas (Redknapp V Levy, AVB V Adebayor, Sherwood V the English language). And above everything, the Stadium that never is – a subject that will do more than anything else in helping to define the future of Tottenham.

The Chairman is a convincing (and in many ways appropriate) place to start when looking for reasons, and for many of the problems endemic in the club clearly responsibly can be traced to Daniel Levy’s door. What Tottenham IS, post-Bale, post-Modric, needs to be articulated. The supporters are still coming, the passion still remains but the direction seems to have been lost in the wash. New managers can stamp their personalities through strength of will or character, yet the environment for this to happen needs to exist first, and at present Sherwood feels like everything else- temporary. The signings seemed like temporary adrenalin boosts, although the outgoings last summer spoke of a very definite shift in direction from a British to a Continental soul.  For a club that has been a very British institution throughout its history, perhaps this as much as anything else can help to answer the riddle of a lost identity.

The only thing now is for Tottenham to know what it is as a club. Over to you, Daniel…..

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Since Harry went there has been no smile on any face.We do not seem to have a coherent plan just a hope that the next stab in the dark be it a new coach or batch of players will do the trick.
    While the loss of our best players was unavoidable once Real appeared we jumped far too quickly in getting inadequate replacements.
    One area of disagreement is Lewis Holtby,I just hope that his stay at Fulham will not be too disheartening as I'd hoped a bit of consistent PL action would have developed him for next season.

    • I disagree with you about the replacements, as we know the prices would have surged once clubs knew we were sitting on £80m+ – it had to be resolved quickly and if you compare Bale / Hudd / Parker / Caulker with Paulinho / Eriksen / Chiriches / Lamela / Capoue / Soldado / Chadli I think we've done a pretty good job (let's face it, a game changer is irreplaceable, but how many of those are there?), especially when added to the recent signings of Holtby, Fryers, Vertonghen, Lloris, Dembele and Siggy (that's all in the last year and a half – is anyone surprised they're taking a while to adapt to one another?)
      I do agree with you about Holtby, and also with those at the club who said they look forward to seeing him back in the summer. If he can play well enough to get himself into the Germany squad for Brazil then we'll get a much improved player back after the WC!

  2. I think the fans should look first at themselves James, before looking for someone else to blame. At the beginning of your list there was a 'Big Four' and we were heroic outsiders battling to break into the privileged elite that had dominated for far too long. But our squad has been constantly improving, despite losing key players, and we've managed to achieve results against the 'Big Four'. We actually got a CL place once (and did ourselves proud until capitulating to RM rather tamely) and only just missed out on a few unlucky occasions. And I've detected that there has indeed been a change amongst the fans, who are now expecting and demanding CL football. Let's face it, modern society in the developed world is riddled with a sense of entitlement and expectation that "what I want I must have" even if it's wrapped up in the excuse of new age 'positive thinking'.
    I'm not saying this IS the problem; it might be one of several, or maybe I'm being unfair, but I throw it out there as a point for examination. We should always examine our own behaviour first, before launching into attacks on others, and I feel DL is getting more than his fair share of criticism of late.
    I would like to add that I believe a CL spot IS attainable, but only if we're 100% behind the team, cheering them on and lifting them to perform out of their skins, not hurling demands and criticism at them. Whether we (notably our admittedly novice manager) can cope with a simultaneous EL campaign I don't know, but it's something we're going to have to learn how to do if we want regular CL football, because one still has to ensure qualification for the next one, and nobody's been able to do that simply by winning the previous ones. A top club has to be able to handle both, and the EPL is the most difficult environment to do it in, unfortunately.

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