Just as I try hard every season to resist the temptation to let a bit of hope creep in – you know, that feeling that somehow, this time, things will be different – I have tried to resist the urge to put pen to paper, or, more accurately, finger to keyboard, too early in the season. I mean, there are enough doom-mongers out there already without me adding my pennyworth. But, inevitably, I haven’t been able to. I thought of leaving it until after our forthcoming game with Everton but then I thought ‘Fuck it, our season could be as good as over after that game.’ Especially considering that we then have an international break that could have our players going into hibernation and then, not long after, the glories of the Europa Cup, and the wonderful stimulation that traditionally gives to our league form, to look forward to. So, here goes……….
On the positive side, three games in, two of which have been away against early season league leaders Leicester (you are invited to laugh here) and Man Utd (and here), we have suffered only one defeat, and that being due to an unlucky own goal. And we still haven’t reached the end of the transfer window!!!! By then, who knows, we may have signed the new
Lionel Messi, despite, sadly, no longer having Brains Baldini to wave his magic wand in that area. (Sorry, I’ve had to stop there to wipe up all the tears from my keyboard). As for goals scored, we’ve hit the net four times, three of which have even been the opposition’s, while mighty Man. Utd have only scored one, and that’s if you generously rule that the mighty deflection that took Januzaj’s shot past the Villa keeper in Utd’s second wasn’t an own goal to add to the one our Kyle Walker scored for them in the first game of the season. Some teams – well, Sunderland – would kill for such a start.
To keep up the positivity, let’s continue to compare us to Man Utd Forget about the five point advantage they currently enjoy, the fact is they have spent something akin to the national debt already to try to rediscover the Fergie years. Whereas we, astutely managed by Austerity Levy, have signed, as is our wont, a few relatively inexpensive players ready to hit the ground sitting and warm our bench.
Actually, much as I like taking the piss, I’d not argue with the signing of young Dele Alli and the Lyon player, Clinton N’jie ( albeit that I haven’t actually seen the latter in action yet), and, maybe, Son Heung Min, who apparently scored 17 goals for Bayern Leverkusen in the Bundesliga last season and who we are apparently close to getting, particularly as we’ve seen many of the mad-panic signings Baldini inflicted on us going in the other direction. And, I’d much rather that we try to build up a team, and a team spirit, by giving some youngsters a chance than pay the inflated wages to match the inflated egos, not to mention agents’ inflated opinions of their players’ abilities, that could yet see Utd crash and burn. (We’ll ignore their Champions League demolition of Bruges, on the grounds that Bruges played them rather like a rabbit plays a car on a country lane).
My problem is that we sign these players, then often don’t seem to want to give them a prolonged run in the team, preferring instead to persist with players who have had more than enough chances yet fail to take them. I only saw the brief highlights of the Leicester game and note from others’ articles and comments that there seems to be a difference of opinion about Erik Lamela’s contribution, but, every time I have seen him in a Spurs shirt….. well, if he hasn’t been given the nickname ‘Lamentable’ already he should be. He doesn’t seem remotely capable of doing anything that you’d expect of a £30 million forward, such as, ooh, I don’t know, maybe beat a player now and again, pass to a team mate, create some chances or even score the odd goal himself. Or have I misunderstood the role of the modern forward?
Pocchettino sometimes seems content that he’s got him to work hard, ignoring the fact that he has to because he keeps giving the ball away.
That seems to be our problem. And we are not alone. A lot of teams now seem to think that working hard and keeping possession with lots of sideways or backwards passing is an end in itself. But it’s no use if you just keep it until you give it away, then get it back and do the same thing again. And it’s also fucking boring. Graeme Souness got it right on TV the other day when he criticised another team playing in this kind of style. As he put it: ‘Why are so many teams trying to play like Barcelona, when none of them have an Iniesta?’ Jose Mourinho and some other eminent managers have voiced similar criticisms, saying that some teams are so concerned with keeping possession and not taking risks that you might as well take the goals away and have the game decided by a set of judges awarding points.
Of course I don’t want us to just keep giving the ball away and getting slaughtered. But then, last season, only a few teams at the bottom conceded more goals than us anyway and we finished 5th with a pathetic goal difference. We have no-one in our team capable of consistently hurting other teams. Or rather, we have a set of players either unwilling to take risks ( apart from our defenders, who, it goes without saying, do it where we don’t want them to) or under strict instructions not to. With the exception of our home wins last year over Arsenal and Chelsea, I forget the last time we put a team under sustained pressure and actually played exciting, attacking football. I look at a lot of our football these days and it’s tedious: side to side, up to the wings, then back, cut inside, pass sideways, presumably hoping to catch a couple of opposition defenders falling asleep and nip through the middle. Only Harry Kane ever seems to even try to beat a player with any conviction, and he too often has to come too deep to get the ball to do so.
The service we are currently providing for Kane is appalling. Soldado was a good player, but a penalty area predator whose confidence we managed to wreck through bad service and an unsuitable system. Even Gary Lineker would have struggled in this Spurs side under this system, where no-one except the odd overlapping full back ever tries to go outside a defender and our so-called wide players constantly cut back in to a jam-packed middle. Costa scored a poacher’s goal for Chelsea against West Brom the other day by sliding into the six-yard box as Pedro hit in a cross cum shot. We seem to have abandoned that kind of attempt. (Young Alli’s far-post diving header at Leicester being an exception).
I feel sorry for Harry Kane. If we don’t, as pundit after pundit and fan after fan rightly say we are screaming out for, buy him someone who can give him a bit of company up front, can we at the very least buy him the sort of toy I buy for my rescue dog, something he can run around with and shake now and again, just to stop him getting bored and feeling lonely when he can’t find his ball and doesn’t want to have to run back into our half to retrieve it. Otherwise, who can blame him if he decides to piss off the next time a club who will meet those needs comes calling.
Sadly, company in the shape of Berahino looks unlikely now that his mum – sorry, WBA chairman – says he’s been a naughty boy and can’t come out to play and has to sit indoors and read his contract over and over again. Harry Redknapp was confident a few days ago that we would get him and all this bluster from WBA was just a way of pushing the price up, but we seem to have just got Chairman Price’s back up instead.
So, do we have a Plan B? We all know what panic-buying can do. Take Balotelli. Take Adebayor. No, please, take him; somebody take him, for God’s sake. Maybe we will have to just make do with these ‘midfielders cum forwards with a goalscoring pedigree’ that Njie and Son Heung Min supposedly are. If so, bloody well play them, play young Alli, play somebody other than Lamela, play somebody who can give Chadli and Eriksen the kick up the arse they both deserve to make them perform more consistently. Play somebody who might be capable of providing a goal threat should Harry Kane, God forbid, get injured (swallowing a bit of his cuddly toy or chewing his own leg in frustration, for example).
Surely, surely, we can serve up something better than the sterile dross we’ve served up, for the most part, over the last two or three seasons. Surely we have some players who can play with a bit of fire in their bellies, a desire to take players on. I’m 61 now; I’ve followed Spurs for nearly 50 years. I can remember some players who got you out of your seat, made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, not turn a football match into an experience akin to counting sheep or watching paint dry. As The Undertones once sang:
I NEED EXCITEMENT, OH I NEED IT BAD.’
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