So, the preseason tour is now well underway down under and Spurs played out their first fixture against West Ham.
The result aside, the fact that I am able to use an adjective like ‘swashbuckling’ tells its own story. Under Messrs Conte, Mourinho and Nuno such adventurous play and relentless waves of attacking felt infinitely far away.
Based on the ever-reliable barometer of public approval on Twitter, there were plenty of positives to take away from the game – despite the BBC report making the whole game just a vehicle for more pointless Harry Kane transfer nonsense.
However, I want to try and look at the wisdom of taking such a large squad on the preseason tour – especially given the current context of the club as a whole.
There are undoubtedly positives. It is clear to anyone that follows any official Tottenham Hotspur social media, that the message is clear, in an almost cult-like sense: Players are happy. Players are smiling. Players are pumped for the new regime. Also, whisper it quietly, players are engaging in one-touch passing drills and not vomiting after their 348th pitch run.
Like every other fan, videos of Yves Bissouma smiling happily and indulging in changing room ‘bantz’ and games of keepy-uppy with Tanguy Ndombele warms my heart and it is fundamental that the squad gets some time to bond and forge new relationships both with the other players and the new coaching staff. However, good vibes and cheerful grins quickly evaporate if results start going the wrong way when the real work begins.
As a fanbase, we are all delighted the arrival of Ange Postecoglu will herald the dawn of a new ‘brand’ of football. After some of the stodge we have been served up over the past couple of years.
We only need to cast our minds back to the consecutive games without a shot on target and also the dispiriting cup performances against the likes of Sheffield United and Middlesborough, to know we are all thrilled at the prospect of Ange-ball.
However, players take time to adapt to playing in a different way, especially when they are polar opposites in terms of style. In Football Manager parlance, they are switching from ‘ultra-defensive’ to ‘gung-ho’.
Add to this the complexity of the fact we now have a surplus of wingbacks, who no longer fit into the formation and the scale of the task increases exponentially.
The likes of Porro and Udogie are now going to have to retrain their positional knowledge and hone a different skillset, as well as learn how to play the full-back role in an Ange Postecoglu side.
These players will need intensive time and effort put into them, to ensure they are ‘fit for purpose’ by the start of the Premier League season. Will this training be as impactful and effective with such a large squad?
Is the pre-season squad too big this year?
As Spurs fans, we all revelled in the hilarity of stories from Chelsea about players having to get changed in the corridor (Sun), but the premise is a sobering one – both Potter and later Lampard, struggled to get their ideas across, partly because they had too many players to worry about.
We do not want our coaches investing time and effort in players that will have no impact on the first team this season and may not even be at the club cometh September.
Training is obviously essential to preparation, but any player and manager will tell you that nothing is as effective and impactful as ‘match practice’.
With so many players in the squad, will certain players get enough minutes under their belts? For me, Vicario is a prime example. He is a promising keeper, but he is coming to a new team; in a new country and playing in a style that he was not used to at Empoli.
I would have loved to have seen him play the whole 90 minutes against West Ham because it would have helped him acclimate even better. No disrespect to Brandon Austin, but the likelihood of him playing a solitary first-team minute for Tottenham next season is unlikely, therefore playing him seems like a pointless exercise.
As mentioned previously, players like Udogie and Porro are going to be expected to be playing in a new role, so I would definitely see the benefit of them playing at least 60-70 minutes to get used to an unfamiliar position and radically different patterns of play.
Another phrase that keeps being bandied about is about all players having a ‘clean slate’. This is a noble sentiment and in terms of a certain Frenchman, it serves to split the fanbase entirely.
However, there are players in that squad who have proved that they are not Premier League standard over a period of time. This is where not having a Director of Football in place has hamstrung us.
The likes of Chelsea have already shipped out a whole team of players, yet we still have players on the books that are not up to par – some of whom underwhelmed entirely on loan last year.
I understand that Ange is giving people a chance to show their worth, but we have seen these players play week in and week out already, as has Ryan Mason, and know that they are just not at the level we need.
Taking them on the tour can only muddy the waters. There are numerous players who have excelled in pre-season, got another chance, and ultimately been found wanting in the high-pressured environment of the Premier League. Let us not forget that Mounir El-Hamdaoui helped guide us to the Peace Cup in 2005.
My last point is that I am not convinced that going on the tour is the right thing for the younger players in the squad. If people who know, like Ryan Mason, are convinced that the likes of Alfie Devine (18) and Dane Scarlett (19) have a legitimate chance of breaking into the first-team squad, then fair enough.
However, if this is not the case, wouldn’t they be better off being loaned out to a lower league club early and allowing them to fully adapted to a season with them? Again, to what extent are we missing having a Director of Football?
Many managers have spoken about the need for a small squad and I wonder whether Ange may have made accelerated progress with the team by taking fewer players and enabling them to play more minutes following more intimate training sessions.
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