Keep calm and carry on, only slightly different

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Image: SpursWeb

I needed a few days to let my thoughts marinate while I pondered the meaning of life and my place in this world. What I mean by that is: What is going on with my beloved Tottenham Hotspur? Thankfully, there was a two week lull in the premier league as another international break was upon us. Why does it always seem Tottenham go into these breaks leaving the fans distraught and barely hanging on, waiting for a chance at a better result? Through all of the soul searching, I have reached some conclusions, though I’m sure quite a few people will disagree. I realize, as I’m sure many of you do, that the most common profession of football fans is a tie between being a future seeing prophet of impending doom and an unemployed football genius, but I’m hoping we can get past all that as I offer up a voice of reason in these dark times.

I have to wonder if anybody truly thought Stoke was going to ever give us an easy game. By reputation, Stoke have always been a very hard working team, and still are, but over the last two seasons or so, Mark Hughes has them playing some pretty decent football at times, seeing them get some noticeable results, including a win this year at the Etihad. Couple this with the doormat mentality permeating throughout the club, as well as the Spurs players, and you could really see it coming. Yes, Spurs won at Aston Villa and then beat Astreas Tripolis mid-week, but neither victory had an ounce of convincing fashion in them and Spurs were lucky to walk away with any points in either game. Stoke smelt blood in the water, because it’s no big secret that Spurs clearly have no backbone and are ripe for the taking. The whole league knows it. Almost right at the start, Harry Kane had a clear cut opportunity to put us ahead in the third minute, but instead, missed an absolute sitter. At first glance, in game speed it seemed unlucky, but upon further review it was an absolute disaster of a miss. This proved to be a haunting moment as Stoke took the lead through Bojan Kirkic’s first ever premier league goal three minutes later. You can add him to the list of first premier league goals against spurs along with Claude Makelele, Joey Barton and Anderson, just off the top of my head. But hey, we are forever the opponent that keeps on giving; it’s in our DNA. Walters doubled Stoke’s lead in the 33rd minute, while doubling the Spurs fans’ grief with it. Our consolation was a lovely second half volley from Nacer Chadli, who alongside Lloris and Mason, has for me, looked classy and determined nearly all season. The result was only out done by the display the team put on. Pathetic, lost and cowardly. To say that Poch still doesn’t know his best XI and that there is an obvious lack of leadership, character and desire in the squad is about as obvious as Hugo Lloris leaving in the summer sans Champions League football. Alas c’est la vie, or at least it’s life at Spurs. The much discussed question is who takes the lion’s share of the blame for our already depressing season?

It is very easy to point the finger at our warm and cuddly chairman, one Daniel Levy, with his controlling way of doing things once again, making it hard for the squad to progress. Some think that Pochettino has been largely unconvincing. Which on the surface seems reasonable, but I cannot actually believe that some people think he is the problem, especially while working with one hand tied behind his back like so many Tottenham managers before him. No, for me, I think the players deserve the largest slice of humble pie. The gutless and uninspiring showings have lacked an ounce of motivation or desire. Their inability to rise to the occasion when adversity comes calling, which with Spurs is almost every week, has led to large criticisms being made by the media and fans alike.  Yet having read countless articles and comments regarding the state of the team, I find some of it to be off-base. Writing off some of our newly signed players, whether it be completely, or labelling them squad players, is absolutely ridiculous and is only serving to help promote and strengthen the chaotic cycle that plagues Tottenham Hotspur. So many fans have already lost patience with Stambouli, Davies and Fazio and I cannot understand it. Stambouli has only played a handful of times for Spurs and has barely sniffed the premier league, yet has shown glimpses of hope in his play, and in the long term, looks like someone more suited to Pochettino’s high pressing game. There have been slight glimpses in his style of play resembling Scotty Parker, and hopefully if given more opportunities, can fill the void of an energetic holding midfielder that left with Sandro, and Parker before him. As for Davies, I’ll admit he has been inconsistent and looked poor at times but, save for a brief cameo in the odd Premier League game, the boy has only played in the Europa league, where matches take place sporadically and with long breaks between, giving him little chance to develop any kind of consistency or confidence.  Fazio has undoubtedly had an already eventful time during his brief Spurs career, but he is clearly still adjusting to the pace and play of the premier league. However, having a different partner at the centre of defense every match isn’t doing him any favours. Some fans are already convinced these players are running low on remaining chances, but I am quick to point out that many fans thought the same thing last year of Nacer Chadli. Yet now, following last year’s turbulent season, we sing his name every week as he is our top league scorer. It takes time to adjust to the premier league, a new team, and a new country and culture. We have all heard this before regarding new foreign talent, yet we seem to somehow forget it as soon as the next lot comes in. In terms of playing personnel, the club is an absolute mess. There are no leaders or strong characters capable of stepping up and taking on more responsibility as we bleed our new signings into the premier league. This clearly doesn’t help to create a smooth transition for these new players, so any patience and support us as fans can display goes a lot further than most might think. Our lack of fire power up front is only bettered by our leaky defense at the back, while we consistently have a plethora of midfielders year in year out. Add these weaknesses to our weak mentality and it’s a recipe for absolute disaster. The constant cycle of losing and addressing the media with a generic “we need to work harder” speech is growing very tiresome, and it’s only November. Spurs are lacking a game changer. A player capable of leading by example on the field and taking the game by the scruff of the neck, especially when Spurs go down. Kaboul is not fit to be captain, this is something we all know. Vertonghen looks like he is already choosing out a new club for summer time. Lennon is all but out the door. Dembele is not in Poch’s plans. And I will personally pay for Adebayor’s cab to the airport in January, should a miracle happen. The absence of these character players only puts even more pressure on the new signings, who already want so badly to make an impact. Pochettino must be livid with the quality of attitudes in the dressing room, and must be desperately trying to bring in his own targets in January.

I do want to clarify that despite my thoughts on the main culprits of the blame game regarding Spurs, Pochettino is by no means an innocent bystander. He has made several mistakes from the beginning. Why he let Gyfli Sigurdsson go is beyond me, and the boy is acting out his own version of The Black Swan down in South Wales. Also let’s not forget him sending Lewis Holtby on loan, a player who looked custom built for Pochettino’s system, and a great attitude in the squad. A move that still puzzles me greatly. Perhaps his biggest error though, is his constant attempts at rotating the squad. The poor results that continue to follow Spurs cannot be helped by the constant change and a different line-up week in week out, especially amongst the back four. Pochettino needs to stop the constant shuffling, develop a core unit and stick to it, or be the next victim of serial sacker Daniel Levy. By no means do I want this to happen. I would love nothing more than for the club in its entirety, fans, players and chairman alike, to back Pochettino and give him several years to mould and develop the squad he wants, while acquiring his preferred targets. If history serves as any indicator, this is unfortunately probably not the case, and results need to start coming sooner rather than later, before Daniel Levy starts to get a little itch in his trigger finger. The reality is that Pochettino is a manager serving in more of a coach role and must work with what he has and what he gets; a truly confounding practice but one that is typically Spurs. His high tempo, quick passing and pressing style that defined his tenure at Southampton, is nowhere to be seen and this is down to the system Spurs have in place at the club. He inherited a squad not suited to his style and has yet to find one that works along with a formation. At Southampton, a large portion of the club was fed through the youth academy providing Pochettino with an array of hungry and eager young players looking to break into the side and make an impact. Players he could surround his stars with. Sure, we can blame him for his inability to adapt, and start making the “Pochettino Out” signs while calling for his head. Or, we can stop this farcical managerial merry-go-round and decide to stick it out and grant him the patience he so desperately needs, and frankly deserves. Yes, DESERVES. The man needs to be backed, and if that means chopping up the current roster, so be it. With so many managers being rotated through at Spurs, it is easy to understand that Pochettino does not have his own soldiers to lead into battle each week in the Premier League. The only new faces coming into the club should be Pochettino’s own carefully selected targets. Otherwise, offering him a 5 year deal was a complete waste of time. There is no easy fix, no miracle worker, and no simple answers. Stop convincing yourselves this is the case, because that mindset is only contributing to the folly of our beloved club. Some fans say “it’s a no brainer, start Harry Kane!” Well Kane started and didn’t do the business. In fact he missed a sitter in the first 3 minutes of the game, so clearly it goes beyond the very basic “throw this guy on” strategy. To those who reply “Kane isn’t meant to be played up front on his own”, well what do you suggest? We lose some of our already lacking creativity and take out one of Eriksen or Lamela? “Vertonghen should always start at the back.” While it’s obvious he is our best defender, he is also right up there for one of our poorest attitudes, and I don’t see him staying past the summer unless we somehow magically finish top four. So like I said, there are no easy answers. I mean, we support Spurs for god’s sake. When is anything easy?

The media is dusting off their former Spurs bottle it/White Hart Pain articles, as they set out to write the easiest articles around, and attempt to contribute to the train wreck that is Tottenham. But as we are labelled “Typical Tottenham” in the sports pages, and by the all-knowing football pundits, let’s be typically un-Tottenham off the pitch. It’s like the ending in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. After ransacking every house in Whoville and committing countless B&Es, the people of the town wake up on Christmas with nothing, and the day absolutely ruined. Yet somehow they muster enough Christmas spirit to sing and rejoice for the few things they do still have, and somehow it gets through to the Grinch and he sees the error of his ways. Soooooo Pochettino is Christmas, Daniel Levy the Grinch, and we the fans are the people of whoville??? Sorry I’ve got off track. What I’m trying to say is let’s back Pochettino and show him support as fans, and maybe, just maybe, Mr. Levy might decide to allow Pochettino to have a chance to say who goes and who stays. Maybe he might get to bring in transfer targets of his very own.

Despite all these factors contributing to the titanic that is Spurs, Tottenham remain four points off the final Champions League place, while only three behind Arsenal and two behind United. What’s more is at fourteen points, Tottenham is level on points with both Everton and Liverpool, suggesting that there is still everything to play for this season. The idea of top four seems absolutely impossible, yet it is still there, hovering around just above of us, and could become more of a reality, should Pochettino sort this lot out and receive some support. Also let’s not forget that we are alive in the League Cup, with a date in the quarter finals, while looking like a near shoe-in for the knock out stages of the Europa League. What a mess! Realistically I have always seen this season as one of transition and a serious attempt to lay down the foundation for a new regime under Pochettino. Yet when it comes to Spurs I always think with my heart, and a part of me feels that if Pochettino can find his starting XI, and sell and buy in January, there is a very small chance we could finish top 4. The Premier League looks as wide open as ever and there will be plenty more dropped points, and not just by us. So take the next couple days easy, because on Sunday November 23rd, the soap opera returns.

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