Reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated
Spurs 1 WBA 1
I guess our season doesn’t kick start until after the summer transfer window closes. Points dropped again, not too dissimilar to last season (one point better placed, are you counting?) with key signings yet to be finalised. The most definitive knee-jerk has been the gentle nod of disapproval at our lack of decisive business before the opening game away to Newcastle. Then again, had Harry Redknapp not ballsed up the last ten games or so we’d have found things a tad more comfortable in perhaps ushering in new blood during the summer months as opposed to what we appear to be doing now. Working hard to sign someone, anyone before it shuts up till the new year.
At the end of last season I cited we would need to get things sorted asap. We did in parts. New coach, couple of new signings. Negotiations for another signing that dragged on (Adebayor) and an outgoing one that bored us to near death (Modric). The essence of the knee-jerk is to proclaim we’ve started with a stutter because we’ve not targeted and signed more than what we’ve got and therefore it’s costing us.
Sure. Okay, I’d agree with that. But new players in might have still produced the same outcome. It’s hardly a criminal act of neglect. It’s not anywhere near as important or costly as some seem to believe it is. For a start, we were in a rut at the back end of last season. Our form wasn’t convincing at all. Neither was our transfer strategy that came before it. That much maligned lack of communication and agreement between the coach and chairman. So is the expectation truly one that would have seen our coach begin with a complete squad with points bestowed on us for certainty? Had we achieved all transfers, and still dropped points, another angle of complaint would still be mounted and humped ragged by the angry mob. Its perception, its conjecture it’s whatever you make it to be. Despair if you’re a commentator that wants to over dramatise events. Disastrous if you’re a supporter of a nervous disposition distracted and concerned by what others think of your team. Is football now an imprisonment with every single day chalked on the wall? I guess it's whatever you make it. It's your team, you can support them to any degree of fanaticism as you so wish.
My perception? It’s a new era not error and if you’re counting points already then its best you take a sabbatical and return when things have settled down. I’m fascinated by some of the insight and how paradoxical it all is. If he (Villas-Boas) doesn’t change a thing we'll still have a reminisce of what Redknapp left behind, a side capable of so much but faltering when it matters most. If he does makes changes then he’s tampering too quickly, making the same mistake twice. Players that are being pushed out are suddenly vital to the squad when reality nods and shrugs without care. It’s still only two competitive games. What happened at Chelsea is completely of no relevance to us. There has to be a period of transition, be it one that shouldn’t impact us substantially enough to scrap any ambitions for a top four challenge. That reminisce, good and bad, is still with us and will be slowly and surely pushed aside and replaced with something more accomplished but still complementary of what it's replaced.
We played well at Newcastle, struck the woodwork, shaped up with backbone and grace. Lost the point thanks to a clumsy moment of madness, an error that sits solitary with the players that gave the penalty away.
At home to WBA we caught a further glimpse of that transition. The same little annoyances that plagued performances last season welcomed themselves ominously back into the fold, although perhaps for one final encore. Initially, it didn’t look like they’d gatecrash the stage. When they did, no standing ovation was forthcoming. Not for our star performers that forgot their lines in the rousing climax.
We started off so well. Good early tempo, pace when working the ball towards the penalty area. It was lively. Early possession was dominated by Lilywhite. Tasty one touch football, it flowed and the flankers were effective with movement and involvement. There was even creativity from the middle. But alas, no cutting edge. No ruthlessness. Just rusty and rueful.
Lennon, Bale, van der Vaart, Vertonghen...we looked good. But not great where it mattered most. Now you can blame it on bad luck or lack of composure or perhaps the fact that Leandro/Remy or Adebayor (who we’ve actually signed) wasn’t in the starting line up. Much like someone can blame the lack of transfer activity to the dropping of points, I can lay claim that the fact individuals got themselves into goal scoring opportunities and failed to capitalise as the reason we were not home and dry at half time. I know, amazing punditry there. You can really talk yourself into rationalising anything by either making excuses or suggestion an alternative which in your head would have been more productive. But it’s still men kicking a ball about. On this occasion, not that well in and around the opposition goal.
Same old Spurs? In parts, sure, it’s practically the same old players. Players that will take time to adjust to new instructions. Our coach has been employed to fix up the mistakes we were guilty of last time out. I can’t see that happening over night. Can you see it happening in just two games? The fact he’s inherited a solid team, is it unforgivable if he wanted to slowly slowly mould it into his vision, one that isn’t anchored down with comparisons to you know who, who can do no wrong? Time and patience. Neither equate to sacrificing to the extent of wallowing in self-pity trapped in mid-table. I’m not fragile. Hope you’re not. Some of those problems that need fixing obviously are. That's what the training pitch is for. And unlike pre-season, that's what the early few games are for also thanks to the importance and pressure of the league as opposed to friendly games out in the USA.
At half time, we created without creating clear cut chances (in terms of testing their keeper) but did get ourselves in positions of promise. Work-rate was impressive. Defence coped well. But no genuine genius, no Luka Modric to pull the strings and conduct proceedings. Scratch of the head perhaps with selection? Sandro and Livermore in the middle, could we have afforded Sigurdsson in the mix along side Rafa? The fact remains, we had ten efforts to WBA’s one and over 60% possession. A loaded gun with a trigger that wasn't working and the lack of fortitude to pistol whip our opponent on the back of the head.
If half time itself belonged to Ledley King. The second half belonged to the visitors.
Defoe worked hard but his lack of intelligent movement, his insistence to always shoot and physicality was once more telling. Telling Adebayor to warm up. We had our first shot on target and saved just after the fifty minute mark. Kept pressing but still lacked that extra aggression to browse West Brom. Rafa went off, Adebayor (hasn’t had a pre-season in terms of match practice) came on. WBA, unconvincing for most of the game made a substitution with Lukaku who terrorised our back-line, if anything to add some extra weight for Sunday’s match reports in the tabloids. Did you know Villas-Boas didn’t take much notice of him at Chelsea? Not sure that has been shared enough in recent days.
They began to test us. The game opened up. No grip in midfield, a loss of control with the pace of the game. There was no stamp of authority from anyone in our side, no leadership. He was sat in the stands watching on. Friedel was called into action once or twice before Assou-Ekotto scored with a deflected effort from around twenty-five yards out. I’ll take that. I took it, punched the air with delight. For all our endeavour, a slice of luck might just allow for a steadier platform to consolidate all three points with another goal.
The footballing Gods mock us once more.
We seemed to invite WBA to attack. Tactics, formation...as witnessed in the opening forty-five, only account for a percentage of the success on the pitch. If you don’t have the quality in the right area(s) then stutter you will. In the second half, the stutter saw our shape wash away. Even though we crafted some chances, the equaliser was fairly dreadful. That fabled final ten minutes of pressure the opposing side always enjoy was evident again. Another reoccurring historical quirk that will need to be ironed out. Bossing the closing minutes has to be imperative at home. Friedel’s lack of assertiveness, the foul/non-foul involving Vertonghen, the almost slow-mo movement and lack of urgency. And yet at 1-0 we’d have probably said ‘good work, job done, hard day at office, need new players’. The exact same thing applies with the draw. Season won't be defined by these two games.
Frustrated? Yes. Disappointed. Yes. We seemed to counter attack but clearly if you don’t have that one true playmaker to dictate the ball and its movement you’ll struggle to own the midfield and create from deeper positions with better effect. What Villas-Boas does here, if we intend to replace Luka Modric, remains to be seen and we’ll know within the week how the team will set itself up for the season. Then the real work then begins and our style of play will be allowed to settle and evolve.
I can’t talk for you, everything I write is my own opinion, my own perception and therapy. Do I have an agenda? Probably. It’s one that involves wanting Spurs to swagger. Wanting the very best. Add to that, I do attempt to remain balanced in discussion. I think we have, for quite a while now, been a very good side. We've suffered dips, but rarely are we calamitous in comparison to the dead end sides of the 90's and early 00's. We've lacked an edge to our game and the appointment of a new coach allows us to refresh, reboot. Pre-season will get players up to scratch with fitness. The first few games are the ones that can set foundations for the future. There’s still no damning evidence of anything other than us starting a little slowly. We've shown glimpses already of some positive play. The distractions off the pitch, the uncertainty, will continue to deflect up to the end of the month. It's the nature of the game and it's petulance to stamp feet and demand to have something yesterday when it won't, can't happen until some time later.
If you want to blame the chairman for that, surely you should blame yourself. If he’s going after the very best targets then he retains consistency in our ambitions to compete with the very best - something we all want. If that means not settling for second best at the cost of having to sign said players after the season starts, so be it. Fact is, we have no power or control over the transfer activity. Just hope, hope that Villas-Boas is content with our business once September begins. He’ll only be able to build if he has all the bricks. And a cement mixer. The one we've currently got is in transit to Madrid.
We’re going to rationalise either way it's how we cope with results. Whether you’re criticising or just sitting back and waiting to see how it all pans out. Depends whether you think we’re meant to be managed as a continuation of what has come before or that there’s acceptance that change means exactly that, with some bumps along the way. I’ve not changed my outlook, it’s the same as it was before we played Newcastle and after we played Newcastle. I won't be told what to think by pundits and hacks. Equally so, I refuse to sit in a corner and rock back and forth foaming at the mouth. I had confidence after the opening two games last season and in the end was let down by the coach. This season will be defined by the run we go on and how we handle defeat after prolonged success and pick ourselves up and pick up form again and how we handle the run-in. It's the games you win to build on the wins that came before it which define you.
The media, idiotic fans that boo Jenas, Redknapp sympathisers...your expectations are skewered. Each to your own. Whatever makes you happy.