There is no doubt that every Spurs supporter feels that the past season was disappointing, myself included. I never felt as positive at the beginning of the season and so negative at the end, believing the overall summer strengthening of the playing squad would definitely nail down a place in the Top 4 and elite European football would follow in 2014/2015. Instead we find ourselves playing for pride (if even that!) over the last four weeks staying ahead of a Manchester United team enduring their worst season in a quarter of a century. Gareth Bale’s departure was a turning point, but there are plenty of others and at this stage as he prepares for the Champions League final, I find it difficult to begrudge him this honour after 5 years of spectacular service and in many instances single-handedly steering Spurs to victory.
The Summer Signings
Each summer signing was expected to have a positive impact shoring up weaker area on the team. However, as the signings of Erik Lamela, Vlad Chiriches, Roberto Soldado and Etienne Capoue all occurred during August, they lacked proper pre-season training and time to adjust to the more robust and physical nature of the Premier League.
Lamela has been particularly unfortunate in this regard, but there is a feeling from the glimpses of skill he has shown us, especially against Sheriff Tiraspol, that he does possess the ability to be a key player for Spurs. Capoue showed us what he can do in his first few games, before being placed in the unfamiliar centre back role for the slaughter against Liverpool.
Roberto Soldado has been much maligned for his lack of goals, but from what I’ve seen, he makes intelligent run, works hard, and is trying to make things happen. Chiriches can feel reasonably pleased with his debut Premier League season and by cutting out that laissez-faire attitude on the ball coming out of defence but I see him in that David Luiz mode at Chelsea, supporting the attack better than the long and generally unproductive diagonal balls of Michael Dawson.
Reasons behind our Poor Performances
Andre Villas-Boas set the team up defensively against all sides, meaning that we created few chances regardless of the opposition’s ability. While this worked to a certain degree against teams below us, we never threaten the top 4 sides, with a 1-1 draw against Chelsea yield our only point. Tim Sherwood’s selections played with more freedom and less tactics, akin to Harry Redknapp’s playing style, yet the thrashing against Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City continued.
I can’t remember a recent season where our back four made so many mistakes that led to goals. Errant backpasses, weak challenges and failed clearances became all too common. Why did Michael Dawson try to knock it back to Lloris with his first touch against Liverpool; why did Younes Kaboul take down Stewart Downing as the last man against West Ham; why has Jan Vertonghen seemed disinterested all season; why didn’t Spurs strengthen the full back positions after the glaring weaknesses shown up there the previous season. All of these are contributing factors to the disappointing season we’ve just witnessed.
The forward play when Eriksen wasn’t playing was very poor. Midfielders were asked to play in unfamiliar roles, asked to create when they aren’t creative – Dembele; asked to play defensively-Paulinho, Eriksen; asked to play central midfield- Sigurdsson, Holtby, Chadli and again, Eriksen.
Looking Forward to 2014/2015
To Challenge for Top 4 next season, I believe Spurs must:
1) Appoint a new manager: A man who can work with the talent that’s there. Frank de Boer strikes me as being an ideal choice given his reputation with youth, his track record as a player and manager and his previous connection with Vertongen and Eriksen. Mauricio Pochettino is a credible contender but lacks silverware. Rafael Benitez may be happier to stay put after his last Premier League experience.
2) Sign two full backs and a centre half: Players will fight for a first team place. I’d keep Danny Rose as backup, but definitely sell Naughton- his mistakes have cost Spurs goals all season and contributes very little going forward. Some competition for Walker would be no harm either. I like the idea of bring Steven Caulker back, he’s the right type of player and may not cost too much either.
3) Play 4-1-3-1-1: Let Sandro anchors midfield, allowing Paulinho to roam like he did against Aston Villa. A rejuvenate stronger Lamela on the right as he was at Roma, Townsend on the left so he can do what he does best, dribble and then set up a chance for the strikers/attacking midfielders. Deduct 10k from his weekly wage for every missed shot! Eriksen plays behind Soldado/Adebayor controlling the game. If we are chasing the game, then we could easily switch to 4-4-2 by taking off the anchoring midfielder for a forward and putting Eriksen on the left.
4) Sell fringe players: This generates funds and frees up squad space. Jake Livermore, Lewis Holtby and Kyle Naughton would be better off playing at their own level. Younes Kaboul and Aaron Lennon appear to have their best days behind them. Letting these players go means more game time for Bentaleb, Tom Carroll, Kane, Pritchard and Fryers which surely serves the club better going forward.
5) Sign a backup goalkeeper: Not vital but important that we have someone competent in case of an injury to Hugo. There will be plenty of Europa League and League Cup games to keep them happy.
Even after a disappointing season, there are positives to take and while we may not be able to attract Champions League seeking footballers, one feels that the raw materials and tools are there if given to the right tradesman.
Even after a disappointing season, there are positives to take and while we may not be able to attract Champions League seeking footballers, one feels that the raw materials and tools are there in the capable hands of the right tradesman.
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