After a brutal defeat at the hands of a Luis Suarez led Liverpool, questions about AVB’s future loom large. It’s to some extent justified, after all the result of this game was shocking, completely calling into question our fragile defense and fruitless attack throughout. But as I reflect on my expectations for this year, and how this year has, so far, played out, I still can’t help but think that sacking AVB would be a poor decision, one that would not in the least bit help our troubles. Responsibility almost always comes down upon the manager, and usually it’s rather justified, especially if team selections and transfer dealings are poor, however this Tottenham team isn’t struggling because of any reasons within the control of AVB. We’re struggling because of a ragged defense that has been absolutely demolished by injuries, leading to a breakdown of our back line and our crucial midfield balance.
AVB cannot be held responsible for this. Looking at the starting 11 before the Liverpool match, it’s clear that our current defensive set-up is potentially the weakest one I’ve seen in years. The Capoue and Dawson partnership is a pairing that I would consider to be our last option. Vertonghen, Kaboul, and Chiriches, all higher in the pecking order, have gone down. We literally have our 4th and 5th choice center backs in the heart of a defense combined with Kyle Naughton, and people expect them to stop an incredibly in form Liverpool side led by the hottest striker in the world right now? We need to be realistic in expectations here. We need to realize where this team’s problems are, and where they aren’t. Sandro going down with an injury is a problem. Capoue as a center back and therefore not able to take over his role as intended is a problem. Danny Rose injured is a problem. Vertonghen, Kaboul, Chiriches, and Eriksen carrying injuries is a problem. This is potentially the most injury plagued defense and defensive midfield I’ve seen from Tottenham, and AVB cannot be scrutinized under the same lens as if the entire team is functioning at full speed and with a squad filled with options. The one area where AVB could show class, in his substitutions, was not a problem.
Fryers was an immediate impact, and AVB was behind that. Townsend for a midfielder was the right decision as Chadli had been positive, and Holtby for Sandro was the only option he had. We were down 2-0 when the match became out of hand. As soon as Sandro went down, the entire midfield’s balance was thrown off, and facing a side boasting Coutinho and Suarez as primary threats, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of this. Yes, we were down by two goals, but I would argue that had AVB not had his hand forced, the game wouldn’t have turned to 5-0. That’s a scoreline that is obviously altered by a sending off, and an injury to our most crucial midfield position, the defensive anchor.
But to focus more on the game, I think Paulinho is a large reason why we struggled. He is still a bit of an enigma for me, and certainly I think AVB will have anticipated a bit more offensive class and defensive awareness from the Brazilian when he bought him for such a significant fee. That is my one complaint about AVB from this match, that without Dembele, we don’t have a classy midfielder who can genuinely beat a man consistently and bring the ball from the back. Paulinho hasn’t proved himself to warrant his inclusion in place of Dembele for me, and if our defense was healthy and at full strength, then I would say his sending off could potentially be beneficial. In the coming weeks, I hope that Dembele will flourish with a classier option in front of him like Eriksen, Sigurdsson, Chadli, or even Holtby, someone who can truly link our attack with style. Paulinho was the safe choice for AVB and it, in many ways, backfired. His defensive awareness was pathetic and his penchant for lingering the box completely undermined his significance to this team. Rather than similar to a prime box to box midfielder like Yaya Toure, he looked a bit like a past-his-prime Frank Lampard, deficient in touch and ignorant in defense.
But, even after our underwhelming start, I have to ask, was this season really supposed to be anything more than one in which we scrap into fourth? Manchester City and Chelsea were always going to be ahead of us, and I’d argue that Arsenal’s starting 11 with Ozil, rivals our own. Competition was always going to be fierce. With so many new faces, and the deployment of an entirely new style of play, I must ask if AVB really can be expected to transform this side in one half of a season? Especially after two losses at the hands of the most potent attacks in the league in which our back line was half strength at best? Gareth Bale is the most expensive footballer in the world, and that fact seems to have diminished in importance to many supporters. We’re a brand new team, and unfortunately, one that is dealing with an absolute injury crisis. This year was always going to be a bumpy one, and everyone supporter I’ve spoken with feels the same. This team can aspire to win the league next year, no question, but first, we need to maintain hope in AVB, because it’s not his system that’s failed us it’s just a patch of injuries that has affected this team’s development, and the actualization of AVB’s intended system from the start. Sack AVB risk a crisis that keeps us from 4th, keep him, and we can only improve. I imagine I’m feeling similar sentiments to AVB right now, I’m not thrilled with where we’re at, but, given what we have, I’m not sure we can do any better. All we have is to look forward to the future, because we can only improve. This injury plagued squad, a squad that’s largely out of the hands of AVB, cannot determine his end.
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