2008 is upon us. Another twelve months of having to taste my own vomit watching Spurs kamikaze their way through countless matches and another self-induced transitional period. Did we really finish fifth two years running? Whether it was over achievement or circumstance, we had a swagger and self-belief along with a pretty decent home record, which all appears to have disintegrated into nothingness over the summer. We’ve been here before, and I’m not about to revisit the same tiresome theories and excuses. What’s happened has happened, more than anything because it always happens to Spurs. Due to the fact that we have this uncanny ability to create problems internally that hinder the team.
We choke. On and off the pitch.
Along with the over-excitement and therefore exaggerated hope the fans are guilty of, it’s all elevated to a misleading level of expectation. Simply put, we were never as good as we thought we were. We got lucky once or twice. We rode the crest of a rather good wave.
Without ever having that ‘midfield general’ or ‘leadership’ or the ability to finish off one of the ‘Big Four’ clubs in crunch matches, we continued onwards without looking to resolve these issues. Along with other popular and well documented frustrations (i.e. Poor set-pieces, defending set-pieces).
Whatever genuinely happened over the summer that resulted with Jol going and Ramos joining, is down to the chairman. He’s accountable for everything that happens at the club. That includes the rumour concerning Berbatov almost signing for Utd, but deciding to stay and then regretting his decision. And from whispers to reality, he is also accountable for spending £16.5M on a striker when defenders and midfielder's were needed. Though, it’s obvious Bent was bought as a direct replacement for the outgoing Bulgarian. But having a decent consistent experienced Premiership player (that cost more) as future cover for a world-class player is still ludicrous business. But that’s Spurs isn’t it. We’ll get to that later.
At the moment, it’s difficult to assess fairly Ramos and Poyet’s influence and impact, though several positives are evident. There appears to be problems with ridding the club of the rot, though now the Transfer Window is open, we may see the necessary changes that are required. The current issues with the team are not new.
We cannot defend set-pieces.
Actually, we can’t defend full stop. No organisation. Complete lack of responsibility and accountability. No one takes the game by the scruff of the neck.
How many times are we going to watch Robinson fail to command and organise his area? And then clumsily punch the ball to an opposing players feet, to then watch it hit the back of the net followed by Robinson berating the defenders and everyone else within a ten-mile radius? Only to have idiots singing ‘England’s Number One’ at the next game.
Robinson isn’t always guilty. Look towards the likes of Huddlestone and Chimbonda for consistently losing their man. Wouldn’t complain if it happened in forward positions, but tragically it’s a common occurrence in our own penalty area. If Robinson doesn’t fuck up, then be sure that someone else will wonder off leaving opposition players to score directly from a corner. Happened twice at Villa Park, where Dawson decided to mark zonal rather than player, let everyone know about it by pointing his finger, and we all know what happened next.
On top of the individual walkabouts, we also have professional players who haven’t got a sodding clue about being professional. Surely one of our donkeys can see the mis-match of having O’Hara man-mark Laursen? You’d think it right? If I can see it, then someone on £30K per week should be able to clock on that it’s only going to end in tears. 6 minutes to go, that’s surely ripe for yet another conceded goal. Yep. Sure was.
What’s the stat now? 20 or so lost points from fuck-ups late on? It’s obviously not as simple as ‘change the defence and we’ll be ok’ but having a decent defence and a confident keeper is the difference between us sitting in 12th and aspiring to another 5th spot finish.
Most telling moment for me, was actually Dawson’s yellow card at Villa Park. He made a clumsy stupid tackle when it wasn’t necessary, right on the touchline. You could see Ramos going mental over at the technical area.
Poyet’s Sky Sports Interview post-match was fantastic. Something Jol would never have done.
“We have to change”, he said (rather obviously, but at least you believed he was angry about it). Along with a comment that may suggest one or two players are set to either go out on loan or be sold. But what was certain was the fact that we have individuals that appear to be incapable of following instructions and reacting to circumstance and situations in-game.
Was Dawson ever any good? Is this one of those other Tottenham mirages? Average players, high on confidence and playing alongside true class (King), allowing their determination to shine through as ‘quality’. Dawson appears to have had a lobotomy, on what was a rather small brain in the first place. He's Keystone cop dressed up as Bambi, with accompanying ice.
Poyet’s comments are about 1000 times more effective than past excuses dished out by previous likeable (Jol) and legendary (Hoddle) chiefs. Having a defence that is incapable of defending doesn’t help out the rest of the team. Even the sulky Berbatov. You can understand his frustration if all his work (nearly) goes to waste because of goal-leakage (i.e. Spurs 6 Reading 4).
'Essential purchases' apparently is all we will get from the chairman. So that’s about 4 new players. Gunter is on his way. Another kid. Another ‘Gareth Bale’. That’s fine, but we need finished article players. So I don’t count this as one of Levy’s essential signings. King is back, but we need someone of equal pegging to partner him. Or even replace him, as another long term injury will surely be the end to his career.
Please no more Kabouls. I might be wrong on this, but I’m certain I read a quote stating that Kaboul was one for the future and was not going to partake in first team duties this season. Injury problems meant he was thrown knee deep in the shit from the start. And his complete lack of inexperience and confidence has more or less shattered the illusion of him having any kind of potential. I feel sorry for him. It’s not his fault that we have skipped development and given him a responsibility that’s far too big for him to handle. The failure here is with Comolli.
Whilst others spend about £500,000 on ‘young players’, who all look fantastic when they do play, us spunking around £8M on Kaboul is laughable. Much like spending the same amount on Zokora is. You spend £8M on a player that is either already experienced or superb not on someone who is far from it and might be good 'in the future'. What’s scary is if Comolli actually believed he was decent enough for first team football from the off.
Kaboul’s heart is in the right place. He wants to do well. I can’t help but cringe when he runs over to the crowd and throws his shirt into the stand (copying that dancing idiot Zokora). It’s all a little bit mis-placed and more or less sums up Spurs. Celebrating bog-standard victories with shirt-throwing masks the fact that he should concentrate more on his inability to clear the ball. Or at times pass it. Then again, we haven’t had that much to get happy about this year, so having these open-bus parade moments helps us sleep better at night.
Zokora was decent at the heart of the defence, but that’s not a position he will remain in and he’s not very good in the position he normally twats about in. Chimbonda is a liability. Classic example of a player who is pretty decent, but thinks he’s world class, so doesn’t bother playing, and thus just looks plain shit. His dribbling runs in front of our own penalty area are testament to this man’s idiocy.
Jamie O’Hara on the other hand, is looking quite neat and tidy. Hopefully won’t go the way of Marney and Jackson. Bit too earlier to compare him to the likes of Paul Scholes, but it would be nice for Spurs to have a player come from the youth team that can save us £10M - £15M in the transfer market and be as effective as Scholes was at United. Oh hold up, O'Hara is a former Arsenal youth reject. Damn it. Rohan Ricketts all over again. To be fair, I think he’ll be better than the failures that have come before him, but his progression may be hindered by future signings. Because when have Spurs not splashed out £10M - £15M? O'Hara has to be part of the first team squad and has to play games, otherwise, how do we know he'll ever be good enough? If the likes of Jenas get prolonged runs in the team, then this kid should do to.
Back to King. What a pleasure to see him return. In an age where rumours and bullshit take precedence over the truth, they (the press) would have you believe he was on the verge of quitting the game. Spurs, for once, are doing the right thing and look to be easing him back into the team. Resting him for the Villa game (though it proved to be the difference between points and nothing) was proof that Spurs have King’s fitness as the number one priority. But having him back in the team won’t be enough. He needs quality playing alongside him.
Something tells me that quality will still be missing come February, with regards to the goalkeeping position. Yes, Robbo has shed a load of weight. One of the positives of the Ramos/Poyet partnership is the fitness and diet regime appears to be working. Take Huddlestone. He looks leaner, and has improved his form. And Robinson has pulled off some world-class saves.
The thing is, Huddlestone still lacks mobility, so he isn’t the answer to our midfield problems. Robinsons ‘world class saves’ were his normal weekend peformances 2 seasons ago. At the present time, he still fails to command his area and the defenders around him. He still can’t punch and still looks clumsy. Waiting for him to reclaim his past form is a huge risk and it won’t happen when he has the current shambolic unit defending his goal. If the right players are brought in, and Robinson still doesn’t improve, then his dream will be over at the Lane.
Talking of which. Defoe and Bent.
Bent has been missing for a couple of games, apparently injured. West Ham are linked to him, in a cut-price deal. Levy claims we are not a selling club, and that there will be no major changes this January and that we will not be off-loading players on long-term contracts.
Bent was bought as Berbatov’s replacement. I see no other logical reason to splash out so much money on a striker when we have three already. If this is true, then that means anything Levy says can be ignored. And the case to sack the incompetent Comolli strengthens further.
If you believe the press speculation - Defoe, Bent and Berbatov are all off. That’s obviously not going to happen. Levy’s clue about long-term contracts would suggest that Defoe’s days are potentially numbered. He is currently changing agents (goodbye Sky Andrews) and is using this as an excuse for not speaking to the club about extending his contract. Thing is, should we even entertain keeping him? He obviously won’t develop further as a player due to his lack of Sheringhameque brain skills. Which means, a life on the Spurs bench awaits. Take the Man City away game as an example. He was sacrificed when we had Zokora sent off. Could he have done the quite brilliant job Berbatov produced, holding the ball up and generally playing his guts out supporting the midfield? Of course not. There’s not much more than instinctive finishing to his game, but he blows hot and cold so much that maybe we should bite Pompey’s hands off (I’m ignoring the silly rumours of Utd being interested in him).
Bent won’t be sold. If he is, then I want Comolli to resign.
As for Berbatov. Who knows? His agent is saying he may leave. Ramos said he may leave. Then the chairman says nobody is leaving. Poyet slags off Berbatov’s agent, suggesting he is bullshitting and looking out for his own wallet, while the papers inform us that a £26M deal is on the cards that will make him a Chelsea player.
Sell Berbatov, and we will be ordinary. On par with the teams below us, and chances of us being pulled back into the relegation dogfight go up. Obviously, if he is sold for over £20M, then I’d expect a similar ‘world class’ player to replace him. Though said player will probably wake up a year from now, and demand to be sold onto a bigger club. And the cycle continues.
It’s a tricky one to work out. Ian Wrights ‘feeder club’ comments seem to be a tad sensationalised. Carrick WANTED to leave. In fact, Spurs don’t sell players for the sake of it. It’s more a case of players wanting to leave when they realise nobody can break the current Top 4 stronghold so why bother staying?
Someone remarked to me that Berbatov can not play Champions League football this season because he has played in the UEFA Cup. If he plays in Saturdays Cup game, then he’ll be cup-tied too. So, considering the loyalty/faith the club have shown in him, he may as well wait until the summer.
From an unbias point of view, a modern day player simply wants success. So if you are world class playing for an average team, why carry them on your shoulder when you could be playing at the top level? Berbatov is always cited as not being this type of player. We will know for certain come the 1st February.
One player not leaving will be Zokora, who apparently wants to stay at Spurs forever. The only way I’ll be able to get through this one is if I start cutting my arms Richey James stylie.
No matter what happens this January, it’s what happens over the next 5 months and the summer – because once more we have to look towards next season as being the fresh start that’s required to kick-start our ambitions. Ramos and Poyet have done fine thus far. Difficult to really impose anything drastic over the current set of players, especially as Ramos has to assess what he has and what needs replacing. The new fitness regime and extra training sessions was obvious and simple to implement, and shame on Jol really. The diet too. Most ‘top clubs’ have all this in place as standard. In fact, most clubs do as default. Shame on Spurs.
Our defeats under Ramos have not been disastrous. They’ve just helped highlight the consistent issues that can only be fixed with (more) new players. If we want to climb the table as quickly as possible. The guilty can be developed properly and can redeem themselves at a later date.
The 3-2 home defeat against Birmingham was a quintessential collapse we have come to know too well. 2-1 up, player sent off and then at 2-2 we see another long-range effort beat Robinson. In the last seconds. We can’t defend a lead and we appear to be easy pickings for anyone who wants to have a go in the dying moments of a game. It happens so often that teams know they are in with a chance. Still, this was our first defeat under the new management.
Anderlecht away was boring. Remembered more for the lead pipe thrown onto the pitch and the pathetic fine for the Belgium club and their misbehaving fans. Gatafe won the group, which means we play Slavia Prague (who dropped out of the Champs League) in our next UEFA Cup game. Not that bad of a draw. PSV await (probably) if we get through.
2-1 at home to City. They are very ordinary away from home, but it was good to see us re-take the lead after City equalised and take all three points.
Pompey away was surprising. Yes, they’ve endured five 0-0 draws on the trot since the 7-4 Reading game, but for us to keep a clean sheet and take all three points was bloody great. Especially bossing the second half. Signs of something far better than Jol’s final days.
This was followed by another routine win at Man City, this time in the League Cup. First team to win there this season. And with just 10 men for about 70 minutes. Berbatov was excellent after Defoe was subbed to bring on another midfielder, following Zokora’s sending off. Was never a red. Steeds tackle was, so thanks to the ref and his inconsistency we were allowed to play our way through to the semi-final. Robinson made one of his ‘world class’ saves in this game. Pretty much well deserved again. Two clean sheets on the trot, away from home.
Then the NLD followed. Nice to see Sky Sports continue their ridiculous pro-top 4 commentary bias with Tyler's over-excited commentary for everything Arsenal related. See, Arsenal were not very good on the day because the magician Cesc was having a good day. Nothing to do with Spurs pushing up and pressuring their players and generally making it all a bit difficult for the bestest team ever to settle into any kind of rhythm. Fabregas and his hug for O’Hara at the end of the game summed it up.
Spurs did everything right, except when it mattered. No one expected us to win, so when gifted with a penalty to make it 2-1, Robbie Keane misses (it was actually a good save). This was then followed by another gift (not missed) when Bendtner eased away from Huddlestone to score with his first touch. From a set-piece. It’s that old choke thing rearing its ugly head. Again. Spurs beat themselves in this one.
Another semi-final with them lot is on its way. Even if they play a weakened side (their reserves/kids tend to be almost as difficult to play against then their first team proper) I still don’t see a passage through to the final. At least not without blood, thunder and following up on opportunities with merciless cutthroat decisiveness. In other words, if we are 2-0 up this time, we make it 3-0. And don’t let them back into it. Choking again isn’t really acceptable. But then, with the current set of players, I don’t think we can compete if they play to their very best. Cup final would be nice though. I’m sure they think the same, considering Wenger’s uber-team haven’t won much in the past three seasons, by their very high standards.
The 5-1 drubbing of Fulham at home wasn’t unexpected. Comfortable without ever dominating or bossing the game. Helps the woeful goal difference.
The next game was one of those rather silly moments in football when you can’t make up your mind whether you should laugh out loud or scream abuse. Berbatov scored 4 and was sublime. Our defence gave Reading 4, mostly from set-pieces and Robinson's lack of keeping ability. Every time we went behind we equalised. It was a classic football match, without having classic examples of how to play the game. We scored some great goals, but let in some terrible ones. Never thought we would lose though because we always got ourselves back into it. The six goals made us the Prem’s top goal scorers. Sure, a big chunk of them have come against Reading, Fulham, Wigan and Derby. But it helps to prove the point that if the defence was decent and we had a strong creative midfielder....well, you know. 5th spot.
Nice to be first in Match of the Day’s running order for once. Talking of which, Hansen still thinks we are the only team with the right amount of whatever it is that’s needed to break into the Top 4. City, Everton and Villa are doing well, but if there’s one thing that remains constant it’s the fact that the top 4 never change but the chasing pack always do.
Villa away wasn’t very good in the first half. Second half, we deserved the point, but again, as spoken about already, individual errors cost us dearly.
And here we are. January. Reading at home in the FA Cup on Saturday (cue 1-0). And Arsenal away in the Carling Cup next week. Got to be in it, to win it.
Happy New Year. Enjoy it.