I’m talking, of course, of Trust, Leadership and Communication.
Whichever first eleven Poch picks from what was once, a mere season ago, considered a pretty strong squad, who can any Spurs fan really trust to deliver in any given match?
Obviously, we all hope that Hugo makes a swift and full recovery from what sounds like a serious arm injury. And I’m sure that he would rather have been carried off in that way after a heroic and memorable save instead of a catastrophic error that ruined whatever pre-match team talk Poch had given to go with the changes to the team post-Bayern that were presumably designed to provide some defensive stability. Doubt that that memory will help his recovery. The fact is, though, that it has been a considerable time since I have felt that you could trust Lloris to get through a game without basic errors, be they poor positioning from long shots, showing too much of the goal in one-on-ones, being beaten at the near post or flapping at crosses. Some brilliant saves, which he is also capable of, doesn’t / hasn’t been an adequate compensation. His confidence has gone, and I think the team’s, and fans’, confidence in him has long gone too.
Danny Rose has been a defensive and attacking liability for some time now, Aurier likewise. Both get caught out, as they were repeatedly by Bayern, by simple long balls or one-twos when they venture upfield. Aurier is a marginally better crosser of the ball – at least I can remember the cross to Vertonghen last season against Dortmund and even a good pass inside to Ndombele against Bayern – but that’s not saying much; for an ex-winger, Rose’s crossing is appalling and I can recall no goals stemming from it. Davies is perhaps a more reliable defender but no better in attack. Walker-Peters? The jury’s still out on whether he has what it takes at this level. To conclude, none of them can be trusted to produce the full package expected of a modern full back. Is it coaching? Trippier, who can cross a ball, had a poor last season with us but seems to be thriving under Simeone at Atletico.
Alderwereild, a rock a couple of seasons ago, now seems to get beaten far too easily by forwards running at him, with goals often the result. He and Vertonghen often let a forward sneak between them for a free header. Sanchez was a very good young player when we signed him but also seems to have lost his confidence. Again, I forget when we last felt we could trust any of them fully.
I am amazed that some pundits still talk of how creative Eriksen is. He’s been poor going forward and a defensive liability for virtually all of last season and this, regularly giving the ball away with stupid back passes. Lamela clearly isn’t a viable alternative; what, exactly, does he do? Winks can only be trusted to last for about 70 minutes of any game. Sometimes that’s a good 70 minutes, at least of the ‘water-carrier’ type of role, though against Bayern he was caught turning unnecessarily into trouble time and time again. Dier? Showed against Brighton why he’s lucky on current form to even get anywhere near our bench. He has deteriorated terribly since first coming into the team and getting into the England team. Is it just confidence? Alli? Since that great goal v Arsenal in last season’s Carabao Cup and returning from the subsequent injury he picked up, you barely notice his presence on the pitch apart from when he gives the ball away. What’s gone wrong with him? Sissoko? Always puts a shift in – but not to be trusted as a full back after today’s showing. Ndombele? I’m not sure why he was substituted today rather than Dier – can only assume an injury – but I trust him to deliver when he gets a proper team around him.
Kane, Son and Moura will always work and you can usually trust them to deliver. However, their role depends on chances being created and with a poor midfield and lack of crosses, they often look isolated. Confidence will drop if they have to live on scraps. And, if, whichever combination of the two is on the field fail to deliver, where is the alternative in terms of style of play without, say, a big lump like Llorente to stick some high balls up to.
Overall, the only thing we can be trusted to do is concede soft goals, often very early or late in the half, and throw away leads; we cannot be trusted to manage games.
We sure as hell don’t have any of this on the field. I’ve said many times before, a goalkeeper should never be captain – he cannot get close enough to his team-mates to motivate them. Lloris, in particular, does not strike me as a leader of men, even more so now his confidence is so fragile. Now that he’s likely to be out for a long time, who will replace him? I don’t like the idea of our main striker being captain either but cannot see any other candidates in this team, all of whom seem to all too readily let their heads drop nowadays.
Off the field? Not sure about that, now, either. Poch has defended the team after the Bayern and Brighton disasters but some of his earlier utterances hint at things not being right between him and Levy and some of the players. What is going on behind the scenes?
Is it a case of communication? I’ve often wondered, with reference to my comments re leadership, how easy it is to gee up players when several different languages are involved, with newer players still learning English. That shouldn’t matter, perhaps, with professionals – basic football nous and full effort should be a given – but I see little to suggest players are encouraging each other, organising, motivating, even telling another player when there’s a man on. Off the field, is Poch getting his message across? Strangely, he seemed to a couple of seasons back when his grasp of English wasn’t what it is today. I can’t help thinking of that Fast Show sketch when Paul Whitehouse played a Mourinho-like manager who addressed each player individually in a different language, including an exaggerated, possibly fictional African language that involved ridiculous accompanying body-language, in his half-time team-talk.
Maybe this is a stupid point, but somehow I don’t see Poch giving the team a deserved blast of the old Fergie hair-dryer, whereas I could well imagine Klopp doing that. Either way, he seems unable to motivate them and get his message across.
I thought that we would get a reaction to the Bayern thumping against Brighton. Had I written an article after Tuesday’s game I would have pointed out that the excellent Keith Burkinshaw team of 1978 that had a midfield of Hoddle, Ardiles, Villa and Perryman, recovered from a 7-0 thumping by Liverpool at Anfield and went on to win two FA Cups and a UEFA Cup. We got a reaction alright, just not the one expected. Maybe Lloris’s error and injury made that too tall an order.
Whatever, I’m desperately looking for something different, for a team that I would look at and could at least trust to play as a team. Instead we have a collection of, mostly talented, individuals who cannot be trusted to do their individual jobs with any consistency. We can forget the league. Maybe we should just ship out all those near the end of their contracts if they can’t or won’t commit and either sign some replacements and/or give some youngsters a chance. SOMETHING, whatever that something is, needs to change. And fast.
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