Regressing While Progressing


Ireceived a text yesterday from an old friend who is a long-time Man City supporter and fellow new dad. Before our sons were born but after he moved to Boston I’d often get a one word text from him at around 10PM: “FIFA?” I’d scurry over to my couch and fire up the PS3 and then call him up and we’d play around three matches — Tottenham v ManCity — before our very pregnant wives would demand our attention.

Yesterday the text was different: “Finally started watching Arsenal Spurs on the DVR. WTF? I don’t recognize a single Tottenham player!!”

My first reaction was, in all honesty, how in the world had he missed the drama of the transfer window? Didn’t it make headlines in the New York Times? I have long made The Guardian my first stop for news but surely The Boston Globe or the Ithaca Daily Town Bugler (or whatever the local rag is called where he has since moved) dedicated four color pages to photos of Gareth Bale in his pink v-neck (by the way, footballers really need to take a page out of the NBA nerd-chic handbook and stop dressing like they’re auditioning to be in Justin Beiber’s new video).

Then I remembered that he has a 4 month old and just moved for the second time in two years and maybe, just maybe, there are more important things in his life than the comings and goings in the Premier League.

“Seven in, two returned back from loan,” I responded, and then quickly added: “they need time to gel.”

“Don’t tell me how it ends,” he texted. A few seconds later he wrote, “oh, Giroux just scored,” and I changed the subject to the Belgian national side and how amazing they’re going to be this year, and he asked if I thought the World Cup would have day care, and if I wanted to go with him and possibly get murdered in a riot. And I laughed and then my battery ran out.

I wonder what he thought watching that game, a neutral, without the rollercoaster of the past two months informing his experience.

Did he watch Townsend and think he was dazzling? Or just a good, fast attacking winger? Did he watch Chadli and silently (or not so silently) weigh him against our record-breaking ex-merchandise? Did he wince when Capoue went down and think “what the hell are we going to do now???”

When the game ended did he rush to Facebook, Twitter, and the town square and join in the same chorus that smug Arsenal supporters and suicidal Spurs were both singing in a cruel harmony: “Bale is gone and Tottenham is screwed!”

Or did he see what I saw?
Townsend was delightful to watch, his linkup with Walker finally starting to gain that preternatural quality that Lennon and Walker enjoyed when they were at their best last year. But where Lennon’s attacks would fizzle Townsend’s seemed more pointed, more probing, and on occasion, more goal headed.

Chadli was big, strong, and fast, and will be a mighty fine cover for Lamela when he’s ready to join the first team. Is he a worldbeater? No. Did anyone expect him to be? I certainly hope not. He is the sacrificial lamb, the man to take our departed Welshman’s position, to fill it while the team figures out how to build a new attack.

And when Capoue went down I saw Sandro bounce to his feet and join the battle. Sandro, our beloved Sandro, whose return from injury couldn’t be better timed. Who will prove to be a much better option than Big Tom Huddleston or Timeless Doughboy Scotty Parker.

All last year the Tottenham faithful moaned and flagellated themselves at the feet of Daniel Levy: “A striker! A striker! My kingdom for a striker!” He went and bought us Soldado, and we rejoiced. For a nano-second. Then three games into the season without a goal scored from open-play (a fact the NBC announcers gleefully proclaimed while simultaneously marking the “end of the crisis at the emirates”) and the faithful moaned “A #10! A #10 Levy’s contract for a #10!”

It’s times like these that I’m grateful to be 3,000 miles away. And I count myself lucky to have spent the weekend on Cape Cod, away from TV and WiFi, having watched the game by pacing the backyard in search of two bars of reception, at times barely able to make out the ball from the pixelated pitch.


Being “disconnected” also meant I haven’t been able to read all the moans — though clearly I’ve read a few. I didn’t squirm through the closing of the transfer window, and so I didn’t watch Özil go to that other team in London, and I didn’t pray not-so-silently that Levy would pull yet another rabbit out of his hat. And, perhaps, most importantly I didn’t have to watch the snake literally eat its head as my fellow fanatic supporters went from “Assou-Ekotto isn’t good enough,” to “NO!!! WE’VE LOST DISCO BENNY! LEVY SHOULD HAVE STRENGTHENED LEFT BACK!!! WE’RE DOOMED!” All in the course of twenty-four hours.

I didn’t mind missing all that, because I don’t care. I don’t care because it won’t matter.

As I’ve previously written about a team is only as good as its weak-link. Literally, every single corner of the team that had the slightest weakness in it has been replaced by a massive upgrade. And the one, the ONE, place that we’re still slightly weak (the fabled LB position of BAE), has the cover of Danny Rose, Naughton, and of course Vertonghen (who also should be our cover in a number of other positions including possibly Vice President of the United States of America).

Statisticians believe in something call “a regression to the mean.” It means that after an unexpected statistical streak eventually the norm will return. The rookie phenom will start missing field-goals again, housing prices will plummet, and teams that should be losing will lose again, while teams that should be winning but aren’t will start winning again.

There are two possible ways to view Sunday’s result: the regression to the mean or the aberration. In other words, did the team actually play to their ability or was this the result of something else and soon we will be returning to the way we should based on statistical probability.

I don’t know enough about statistics to be able to predict how many goals we should produce this season, or how many times Sandro will dye and re-dye his beard, or how many times the shouts of “Levy Out!” will be bandied about the Tottenham message boards, but I do know that the team that trotted out on Sunday was not the team that broke the club record for points in a season last year. It was not the team that came in 4th and missed out on the Champions League because of a certain team’s statistical aberration of a season two years ago.

It is a better team. Plain and simple. And yet it was still NOT the team that will play in the reverse fixture, It was not the team that will face off against Chelsea at the end of the month, it was not the team that we are going to watch for the rest of the season.

This past weekend was the aberration. The rest of the season will be the regression to the mean. And if anyone doubts that, I seriously recommend a weekend on Cape Cod, a break from the virtual noise, and a hearty dose of reality.

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  1. While left back is not that strong, we must assume that Disco Benny going out and no-one coming in means that AVB sees Rose and Fryers as at least having the potential to make it.
    If we don't allow home grown players games, we might as well scrap the academy. If Rose had been bought from Sunderland for £8m following last seasons good performances, we would be looking at him in a completely different light.

    • Totally agree with you. I think Rose is great, it's just when weighed against the rest of the starting XI he's not quite AS electric. That having been said, I'm a huge Rose fan and hope that he proves all the doubters wrong. He and Walker certainly bring a pace to the game that very few in the league can match.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed that article and agree to your points. Spurs were always likely to lose the match against Arsenal, but it is later in the season where we will hopeful see the full benefits of our transformation. Until then AVB must keep grinding out the results, and i believe he will.

    This time last season (3 games in) we were on 2 points and the corresponding match for previous 2 seasons were 5-2 losses against Arsenal, so progress made already!

    • Excellent point Darren. This time last year the howls were all of "AVB OUT!"

      This team is going to surprise a lot of people this year.

  3. We have gravedeadly weakness in defense , Dawson simply not confident or rugged enough, caused our loss to arseshit, and looses concentration, buying new players any leaving a weakness in defense means u loose matches u ought to win and draw matches to ought to win. I will love to see how this selection plays out


    Chaldi Lennon Townsend

    Or sigg Or Defoe

    Sandro Paulinho

    Rose. Vertogen Kaboul. Walker

    Or chriches


    • Yeah, it's sad to say, but Dawson looked a little lost. Between him, Vertonghen, Kaboom, and Chiriches, though, I don't think we have anything to worry about in defense.

      • Agreed – you get the impression that AVB doesn't really see Dawson as a great fit in such a high line defence, however the way he played for most of last season made it virtually impossible for AVB to drop him.

        Could this be the performance, coupled with Kaboul's return, that finally confines him the the bench?…

        • In general the AVB – Dawson relationship is a total mystery. Last season's shenanigans with making him the captain and then immediately trying to ship him off, then leaving him out of the first team were very strange.

          Mark, over at has a great post about why we lost against Arsenal and he definitely points out that Dawson was directly responsible for playing Giroud onside, thus allowing the goal.

          I feel badly for Dawson. I think, right now, he's the heart and soul of the club, with the potential to be a Ledley-like talisman for us.

          Here's what I expect to see: AVB will handle Dawson much the same way he handled Friedel and Lloris. Chiriches and Kaboul will start in Europe for a few weeks and then one of them will shift over to first team, with Dawson leading us to the Europa League final.

  4. Nice article, Aaron (and will be following the Lillywhite & Blue blog).
    Just a minor point – football teams are always described in the plural – 'Tottenham are…' rather than 'Tottenham is…'.

    • Yeah, that's the problem with being an American, I suppose. Thanks for the tip, I wont make that mistake again.

      I recently had to point out to a friend that it's Tottenham Hotspur not "Tottenham Hotspurs" which I did with a certain smug glee. Just goes to show what goes around comes around… Thanks for reading!

    • I just got in a ton of trouble on a Spurs forum by suggesting that my love of Super Jan might complicate who I support in the World Cup (assuming USA qualifies). I suppose getting him to be Vice President might certainly help that dilemma go away…


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