Reasons to be Cheerful – More than a Silver Lining

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Image: SpursWeb

I’ve been wanting to write a positive article about Tottenham’s progress for a while and after last week’s 4-­1 thrashing of everyone’s favourites to win the league, now seems like as good as any.

I’ve always been a pretty positive (or naive) spurs fan and often look towards the silver lining, however slim it may seem to be. Now, however, Tottenham are more than a silver lining. The silver lining is our excellent style of play when it comes off like this weekend, which was remarkably similar to our performance against Chelsea at the Lane last season. But we are now plating the inside of this silver lining gold.

There are plenty of reasons to be positive towards spurs at the moment if you just manage to ignore the clamour of the Tottenham boo boys, of which there are many. We are now in a golden position to move forward and become a team with the heights that we have never been able to achieve (at least in my lifetime).

I’m not getting carried away saying that we’re going to finish in the champions league this year, and we may not even win a trophy, but looking at the club in every aspect, nothing ISN’T improving!

Youth Development

 I’ll start first with our academy and development of players. At the moment are youth system is in a period of unparalleled success.

I was born in 1992. In my lifetime and before this current crop of players, I have seen very few players come through our youth system and make it in our team; few more have even managed to make it in the premier league. Of course there’s the King of White Hart Lane, and for the sake of unbiased analysis, King’s inferior predecessor, Judas. But outside of those two the other academy graduates have never really made it in the top flight.

There are good players in that bunch, such as Jake Livermore and Stephen Caulker, but they never seem to hold their position down at a club which has a certain premier league future.

Within the last few years though we have started to see more players coming through now than I can remember through the years combined. In the last few years, as you are all aware, Kane, Mason, Bentaleb, Carroll and Townsend have had spells or held down a regular spot in Spurs’ first team. That’s 5 in our current first team squad that will regularly play this season.

Add to that the promising talents of some of our younger players such as Pritchard, Onomah, Veljkovic, Oduwa et al. and it is plain to see that Tottenham’s youth system is dramatically improving and the future will be bright. The investment into Tottenham’s new training ground and facilities probably has a lot to do with this success.

Even if all these players don’t reach their full potential, which is more than likely, aren’t Tottenham still in a much better position to be generating youth players that can be sold on when they are deemed not to meet the grades.

Our youth development doesn’t stop at our academy though. With the introduction of Poch and Mitchell, two men known for the successful targeting and developing of youth, we have also brought in bright young talent which will also benefit from the improved facilities at our training ground. I’m talking of course of the likes of Eric Dier and Dele Alli, probably our two best players this season, who were bought at the ages of 20 and 18 respectively.

Even our senior players are still young for their positions. Eriksen is only 23 and Lloris and Vertonghen are 28

Our future isn’t just bright; it’s gleaming with golden rays. If we keep our top players, and I realise that is a big if, our team in a few years’ time will be far superior to what it is at the moment, even without new signings. In fact they are still so young we will still see a huge improvement in these players by the end of this season!

Our pool of talent to improve our team as well as our pool for potential profit is part of the reasoning why that cloud with the silver lining is beginning to become gold.

The New Stadium

As a season ticket holder I’ve been lucky enough to witness some unbelievable matches at the Lane. It holds a massive part of my heart and always will. But with our ambition, a new home is needed, a home bigger and better than White Hart Lane.

The New Stadium is going to elevate Tottenham to a completely new level. The economic benefits of this stadium are obvious. Tottenham will generate more money. They will sell more tickets; they will attract bigger endorsement deals and will be used by more events. The NFL deal for example.

Now I know that Arsenal fans will love to tell us how difficult it is to transition between stadiums and the strain it puts on a club’s finances. This is of course true, but our situation in this era of football is completely different to Arsenal’s. The money in the TV deals is significantly more than back then, and with Tottenham having made a profit in each of the last 5 years as regards transfers, despite more money being available, you have to suspect this excess money has gone into the development of our new home. The NFL deal as well makes the economic burden that much easier. Instead of that silver lining, the cloud will be lined with actual gold!

Also as I have already mentioned with our team being so young, and our policy of buying youth and developing it, we may not necessarily need to buy big in the transfer windows if (again) we manage to keep our youngsters and they fulfil their potential.

Almost more importantly than the economic benefits that will come Tottenham’s way as a result of this new stadium though is the statement it signals. The biggest club in London, the capital of the home of football. You can see why this would potentially persuade a player to choose Tottenham over a rival. The calibre of player we can attract could increase almost solely as a result of this stadium.

This stadium also affects the ‘big if’ that has been recurring through this article; it can help us keep our players in much the same way it will attract others. Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and the majority of our young stars have been tweeting and talking about their excitement over the new stadium. They want to play there, in white, as much as we want to see them play there, in white.

A keen young promising team looking positively forward to the future home of the club, our fans should be doing the same.

The Lane will always be missed and never forgotten, but it’s history will make way for its legacy, the birth and coming to age of a potentially great Tottenham side.

Non playing staff

The last major aspect of Tottenham’s off the field improvement is the position of our non-playing staff. Pochettino isn’t everyone’s favourite manager, for this I have no idea why, but the non-playing staff and coaching staff know exactly what their aims and aspirations are. They are a collective unit striving for success from Ugo Ehiogu with the youth team right up to Poch and the senior team.

The overhauls of the managerial regimes from Redknapp’s to Pochettino’s have been swift. We had 4 managers in 4 seasons and getting rid of the old manager’s on and off the field teams and bringing in the new manager’s on and off the field team is never easy. But now Pochettino has his like-minded coaching staff in place. Like the first team they are young, driven and progressive and instilling their ‘philosophy’ right the way through the whole structure of the club.

I would also here like to talk about Pochettino. Firstly I think he’s doing an incredible job at spurs. We may not be flying, but the fact that we were close to chaos after the episodes of AVB, Sherwood and the disaster of the Bale money, and came out of it almost completely unscathed with no damage to our league position, always holding a very respectable 5th/6th in times of borderline crisis, or the state of our club in general, is a testament to Pochettino.

Add to this the fact that there was a time last season where the ‘old guard’ (Kaboul, Adebayor and Capoue), who weren’t Pochettino’s players but became his problem, threatened to turn the club into another laughing stock as they attempted to rest the club from Pochettino and essentially run the club themselves, demanding when they and others should or shouldn’t play. Pochettino, despite his relative inexperience, dealt with this as a seasoned pro with the minimal of external fuss leaking into the media. In the summer, he got rid of this problem and the atmosphere in the dressing room this season, the attitude of the players and the football on the pitch will improve as a result of this.

On the pitch

I have spent a lot of time in this article talking about Tottenham’s steady incline without actually talking about the thing that matters most, the football.

The football IS getting better. At times it’s a touch inconsistent, at times we find it difficult to break down a ‘backs to the wall’ defence, but it is improving.

Now we have an almost settled 11, with good, young, eager talent from the bench. Our players we have now are better suited for Pochettino’s style of play than ever before. I’ll go through the team and explain.

Our defence is much better than last season. There is very little point talking about Lloris, everyone knows how good he is, whether you think he is the best or second best keeper in the league, you can’t doubt his world class ability. He is a tremendous player and a fabulous captain that inspires everyone within the team with his performances.

At 1­0 down against City he pulled out a top draw save to deny Sterling and keep us in the game. Had that gone in it would have been possible to be on the end of another City spanking. Instead our captain stood up, kept us in the game and gave us the best chance of getting back into the match. Our players duly followed.

Our centre backs are in a similar boat to Lloris, they’re quality and they will be quality together. Walker looks like he’s getting back to his best. The addition of Kieran Trippier is obviously pushing him to retain his position in the first team. And at left back we have two very good footballers. One, in Davies who is a great defender and good going forward, and the other, Rose, who is great going forward and good defensively.

I have already touched on our young midfield so I won’t spend too much time on them but in Dier we have found ourselves a fantastic defensive midfielder, a position we were reportedly preparing to spend £15+ million on and we have good footballers to play around him in Alli, Mason and Bentaleb. With these confident young players we have the ability to play our passing possession football centred around the heart of the midfield with Dier helping out in defence and occasionally getting forward, and his partner, whosoever it may be, getting forward and helping out in defence when needed. Against Man City, despite not looking as stellar in the first half as we did in the second, we had 56% possession!

Our attacking three behind our striker are probably the positions where it is most obvious to see our improvement this season.

Two out of our three are very two footed so the opportunity to move around the front line is also now available. This is a huge benefit in football as it never lets the defender settle, one moment you think you’re marking Eriksen on the left who may be looking to cut inside so you get used to defending narrow and stopping him coming inside. The next moment you have Son who may be looking to get passed you on the outside.

Defenders and managers will constantly have to change their tactics to counteract our tactics and this will create much more excitement for the fans and should end in better performances and results on the pitch.

The introduction of Paul Mitchell in November 2014 has changed our transfer fortunes and strategies. Baldini has just lost his job and it isn’t too much of a surprise. Of the seven 2012/13 signings and five 2013/14 signings which Baldini would have been in charge of targeting and acquiescing 5 have left (Capoue, Chiriches, Paulinho, Soldado and Stambouli), one was very close to leaving (Fazio) and one is very much cover (Vorm). The others (Chadli, Davies, Dier, Eriksen and Lamela) have had varying fortunes. Quite frankly 5 out of 12 is not a good enough return.

Under Mitchell we have signed Alderweireld, Alli, N’jie, Son and Trippier. Mitchell’s ‘signings’ and targets are better than Baldini’s. It seems as though these signings were bought to complement our positions and philosophy rather than to simply buy better players. Son is the perfect example of this. Pochettino’s philosophy has always been high pressing which requires exceptionally fit players. I have seen few more determined and fit players than Son. We now have a front three that will press harass and win the ball back before the other team have a chance to break.

I also want to touch on our striking options. I know people were disappointed we didn’t get another striker to help Kane out. So was I. But in the little I have seen him play I have seen a touch of the Defoe about N’jie. He seems fast, strong, clever and keen to impress. If he can partner Kane up front and help out we could be looking at Pochettino’s version of Crouch and Defoe, but better. The target man who is a much better all-round footballer (and scores more goals), and the fast, strong finisher to compliment him.

I’m not saying we will definitely get top four this season, I’m not saying we’re the best club in the league at the moment. I am saying off the pitch we are as good as any, and on the pitch we are improving steadily and soon our on the pitch standards will meet our off the pitch standards. I predict within the next ten years, we WILL WIN the league.

With the cloud and the silver lining becoming gold, let’s win some silverware while we eagerly wait.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. As much as I'm pleased that we look far better than last year. Also letting in less goals. If I had the opportunity of asking our wonderful goalkeeper one thing it would be why do you not have someone on the posts at corners. My other main concern is why don't we have more shots from outside the box. As everyone knows who played football you just don't know what can come from such shots..
    I would be interested in others comments regarding these issues.

    • Do you see much of our football? Townsend, Alli, Eriksen are regular long range pot shotters, add to this Kane & Son who also like a dig from distance, the team is full of creativity & also pace now, & create plenty this way, but there are also many in the team that rightly or wrongly try from distance.

    • I think that Harry usually does man the near post – It was just bad luck. I've seen him clear a ton before that one.

      Regarding the shooting from outside, I agree that doing so is worth a try, but, most of the teams we play have 4+ people in the box when we are down there.

    • I agree about putting someone on the posts – but it seems to be a marmite thing. I always thought it was conventional wisdom but apparently it hinders things like off-side and pushing out.
      As for shooting outside of the box – Jaysus, man, are you Andros Townshed…or summit :-O Seriously, though, I agree (as long as it isn't Andros!).

      @ Author: It is a good article and generally I agree. But one thing does seem to have alluded you. The upsurge in home produced players hasn't really come out of the blue. It originated when Levy's Plan A – hire a club legend and (then) current in vogue coaching guru, GHodd, give him some players, leave to produce astonishing team – had flopped spectacularly. He took a moratorium while he investigated best practices across Europe (it was very thorough and lasted about a year) while leaving the club in the steady (accept when in the vicinity of a Brass) hands of David PleatMeister.

      What he did when he got home was focus on a set-up that was going to produce quality from within. It was this ethos that was behind the appointment of Frank Arnesen. And there were several elements to it, such as buying quality young players. Indeed, as the process was going to take some time, it was wise to buy in young players as the youth set-up just wasn't going to produce sufficient quality and quantity in the (then) short-term. And our 'buy 'em young' policy included the likes of Carrick and Defoe, Huddlestone and Lennon, Bale and Modric. And there were set-backs, too, like the defection of Arnesen and the inability to keep hold of the best players we were producing via this route.

      But the new focus wasn't going to have the same impact on those who were already 16 and over in 2005 – even at that age, habits can get hard to shift, and maybe the youth players already in situ just weren't of the attributes required. But if you look at the age-group that was 13 – 15 YO, and those of a similar age who were added at a later time, you see the picture more clearly. After the inevitable time-shadow, we have produced Caulker and Livermore*, Mason, Kane, Carroll, Pritchard, Townsend (I know!), Bentaleb, Rose (16 I think when he joined the academy). *Players to sell (and players for the squad) are every bit as much healthy indicators of the success of the youth set-up as those who become first team regulars and Caulker/Livermore generated something like £13 million (I think) for the club – that's some decent wedge.

      And that is just the first fruits – with the kids younger at the beginning and improved techniques, we should be expecting this to improve. And according to regular youth watchers the generations below this one are even more impressive. There are those at approx. under-21 age range, many of whom you mention. But the under 18's are the ones who have really made an impression on some. And with players like those you mentioned, such as Onomah (described by some as a once in a generation player), there is the slightly unnerving fact that the younger competition, Edwards, has already been pin-pointed by Barcelona as potentially one of the top five talents in the World of his age-range. Then there are players like Carter-Vickers, a cnetral defender who some believe could play in the first team now. Or Walker-Peters who has his own little fan club.

      This has been being worked very hard on for a decade now – and Daniel Levy should be given some credit for it.

  2. Couldn't have said it better if you gave me all year, MF! We still need show some patience as there will be inevitable disappointments along the way, but the direction of travel is clear for all to see (apart from most so-called media pundits). The future is BRIGHT, the future is LILYWHITE! COYS!

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