Opinion: An average squad which will take years to fix


Yesterday was a day to put aside all the Jose-hating, dressing room speculation, even the Ole shot at Son for supposedly cheating. The real story of this game was confirming the truth that has been apparent for more than two seasons, Spurs have become an average side. 

The performance within the league since New Year’s Day 2019 has been consistently average—a mid-table stretch of performance in a period which has seen Liverpool and/or Manchester City dominate the league, Chelsea rebound from a transfer ban to reclaim Top Four status, first Leicester and now West Ham crash the ‘big six’ party, Everton begin a bit of a rebirth, Manchester United firmly claim second place status this season, and even Them win silverware. We, but for a couple of magical games in Manchester and Amsterdam, have not been the equal of any of those clubs in terms of either consistent performance or accomplishments in this nearly 30 month period.

Because the players are no longer good enough. Our biggest star will unquestionably attempt to effect a transfer to one of the Manchester clubs or elsewhere on the continent this summer. To think otherwise is delusional—the only possible development which might change his thought process would be a European title (and not an unlikely League Cup final win over City) this summer—and what are the true odds of that occurring? Maybe one in five at best. So in all likelihood, Kane will be gone by August and September and Levy must consider not only who the next manager will be, but how the roster will be reconstituted—knowing it will be several transfer windows (meaning years) before we might return to the semi-glory of autumn 2019. And a chance we never will—not in this regime’s time, at least.

The goalkeeper is good, not great, and not getting any younger. With the possible exception of Japhet Tanganga name me one defender on the current club who could become an anchor of our defence. Alderweireld, whatever his relations with Mourinho, is slowing. Dier and Sanchez are subpar. Rodon still a project from the Championship. None of the fullbacks with the possible exception of a loanee from Madrid show anything near the quality needed in the modern game. We all salivate over the troika of Hojbjerg, Lo Celso and Ndombele, but the truth is they played as long and hard as they could yesterday and were beaten by a better team. Convincingly by the end. Will Skipp make that much difference? And with Kane likely gone, where do the goals come from? Son was, the goal notwithstanding, incredibly frustrating yesterday for his lack of verve, his unwillingness to take on defenders, his passivity. Lucas and Lamela will fight harder, but their skills are limited. Neither Bergwijn nor Vinicius are Premier League quality attackers—Dele is more than halfway out the door and is a ghost of the player we all saw from 2015-18. It will take a half-dozen or more midfielders or forwards to produce anything resembling the attack force we possessed in the best years under Pochettino. They won’t be coming in one fell swoop—even with the proceeds of a Kane transfer. 

I don’t love the manager. I don’t particularly care for either his tactics or his persona. But our problems are so much deeper than him. The “surprisingly optimistic” view of next season is absurd. This team has shown no ability to compete for Top Four with Kane—imagine where we will be without him. There has to be a disciplined effort to find young players with potential—who don’t cost exorbitant fees that this club cannot afford with all the lost revenue since COVID—at nearly every position. A goalkeeper. At least two fullbacks, at least two centre backs. A creative midfielder. A goal scorer or two. A fast winger.  That’s eight or nine players—minimum. And the truth is we probably need even more. This is likely to be a team unable to make a trophy run next season and perhaps one that cannot qualify for Europe. Which assumes this team does the latter, which as of yesterday seems unlikely since certainly City, United, Chelsea, Liverpool and West Ham appear poised to finish higher than Spurs. An Everton win on Friday makes them favoured to do so as well, and there is no guarantee we will finish ahead of Villa or Arsenal either. Can Leicester implode all the way down to our level so we could somehow finish 7th by beating them on that final Sunday? 

Round and round we go. Where we stop is not good. This is simple. A team overachieved until it didn’t. And then began to underachieve in a consistent manner until maybe we all began to realize that it had found its true level. Not a good team that bottles the chance for trophies. But a dead-bang average team that will be lucky to sniff one for years to come. We have to begin the rebuild with honesty—it is going to be much harder and take much longer than we’d all like. Our opposition is better-funded and/or better-managed. Most have better younger players than we do. Take a long view, because it’s the only we’ve got now. Get ready for the pain of a Kane departure, knowing that it might be a) necessary and b) helpful in the end. We had a darn good run, trophies or not. But it’s all over now.


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