Remember the summer of love and the arrival for the magnificent seven?
It's the half way point in the season and it's January which means transfer news will dominate the weeks ahead. Although I have zero expectations for Spurs considering we spent £100M in the summer and have struggled to truly bed in most of the players. Why the struggle? Why not when you consider that it can sometimes take a season for some players to find a groove in the Premier League. Seven of them? All at the same time? Add to it the whole debacle around Andre Villas-Boas and his depature and the appointment of Tim Sherwood, who has to work on results to prove he's capable - and it's hardly the perfect mix. Continuity is broken once more at the Lane. But what of the new arrivals? How have they done so far, regardless of the narrative at play?
From my welcoming article at the start of the season:
What an astonishing summer.
To actually think I had plans to spend it detached from football, enjoying The Ashes and generally doing very little in the way of worrying/stressing/eyes popping out of head in cartoon style and banging head against any structure with bricks over Bale.
Not that I didn't expect us to do business and to do it decisively. The appointment of Franco Baldini automatically meant that Daniel Levy was backing Andre Villas-Boas. But I still didn't expect such a dynamic bullying of the transfer window, swaggering around picking out players that not only looked to have resolved issues with depth but also signing players that would not be out of place in a team competing in the Champions League.
The Bale saga took a phenomenal amount of time to complete. It's irrelevant whether Joe Lewis was going to fund a spree or not because (as discussed the other day) we knew the likelihood of Bale going to Madrid was very high. Net spend irony is also not relevant. Not to me. Have we signed good players? Yes. Are we stronger for it? Yes. Are Spurs still financially robust? I expect so. Can you imagine ENIC doing anything to destabilise their investment? Of course not. Fact is, we've not exactly been big spenders over the past few seasons. Even with the loss of Bale, we have signed some fairly marketable assets in the likes of Lamela and Eriksen. You know, if Levy and Lewis were seeking to bolster the THFC portfolio to make us more attractive to a potential buyer. If that was the long term objective.
Ha! The Ashes. We lost that 5-0. Looks like nothing has turned out how expected. Then again, step back and you'll note that an overhaul was never going to work out when there wasn't a clear strategy on how to handle the influx of new players when countering the loss of Gareth Bale.
Whitewash in the cricket. Did we sign good players? Yes. Are we stronger for it? Hmm, hardly. Not yet. Can you imagine ENIC doing anything to destabilise it? LOL. This is Spurs. So backing someone with £100M then watching it turn to disaster is our way of working through change.
So what of the players...
Centre-back - Vlad Chiriches
Looks to be a quality footballer that can defend and bring the ball out into offensive positions. However, having had to transition from the high line to a more traditional flat back four he's been partnered up with Michael Dawson when he is better suited to be playing alongside Jan Vertonghen (currently injured). He's been pulled out of position at times but this has more to do with the lack of positional discipline with the defence as a unit rather than any individual lack of quality. Looks to be a snip at £8M thanks to his cultured possession play and movement.
Wing - Nacer Chadli
Scored goals and assisted when playing for FC Twente. Struggled initially for us. Expectations from the supporters didn't help our perception of him either. I guess with Gareth Bale gone we all looked for that something out of the ordinary. Sadly Nacer was simply ordinary to begin with. Nothing stood out. On his return after injury he's improved into a far stronger, solid looking player. Efficient and productive (especially with his head). Still, no glamour football but another player where we might not be treated to the best of him until next season.
Midfield - Paulinho, Etienne Capoue
Against Stoke, Paulinho gave us his performance of the season. Not just with the ground he covered and his work ethic, but he looked Brazilian, with the flicks and trickery. Was AVB restraining him from expressing himself? Up to that point, he was doing alright without excelling. Always involved, very much the box to box player we know he is but nothing spectacular and sometimes a touch erratic and untidy (especially in front of goal). Does give us dynamism and will be important once back from injury.
Capoue started brilliantly, then got injured and is still working to full fitness. A destroyer of a player with good touch who is equally versatile. Spurs have plenty of strength in middle. The problem at hand is they are joined by Mousa Dembele and Sandro giving us not just an option but a headache with selection. Not a bad headache to have.
Attacking midfield - Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela
The two key signings in the summer to fill the void left by Gareth Bale. Patience was always the key but we all wanted to see us kick on without stagnation. Sadly AVB was still struggling to implement a system that allowed us to blossom in the final third. We lacked that subtle inventiveness and cutting edge. For all the chances created, we became masterful at missing them.
Eriksen came in as the potential playmaker. Not quite the deep-lying type that AVB would have preferred (i.e. Joao Moutinho). Eriksen more of the player in the hole, shadowing the attack. There was no consistency with his selection so he struggled to cement a role in the side. Was AVB protecting him or stubborn with his tinkering? He struggled with the physicality and some teams suffocated the central midfield of space leaving him without influence. However, he's beginning to find a rhythm now, even played out on the left. He's the key for us with linking the midfield to the attack so it's imperative he plays.
Lamela is a curious one. A record signing. He's struggled to acclimatise. The culture of Italian football a far more comfortable experience than the English variant. Then you remember his age. He's younger than Andros Townsend. Lamela has only made cameo appearances. He oozes class on the ball. Glides with elegance. But he's yet to make an impact. Rumours that he wants a loan deal back to Italy. Doesn't make any sense to me that we would loan a player out when the key is to get him involved with the first team. He has outstanding talent and we've parked it up. Best way to resolve this is to start playing him. The moment things go well on the pitch, everything off it will dwarf to insignificance.
Striker - Roberto Soldado
After years of waiting for a goal scorer, we sign one. So naturally, he fails to score. Unless it's from the penalty spot. Anyone keen on La Liga will know Soldado is technically a superb goal scorer. He had the virtue of players crossing the ball and cutting it back for him. Delivery and service on key. At Spurs, there was no bridge between midfield and attack, with him isolated up front. If he attempted to drop deep then he was out of position. His confidence started to fade and has yet to fully recover as witnessed by scuffed shots. However, his general play has been very good - especially since Sherwood stuck Emmanuel Adebayor up front with him. Now there's purpose to his play because he's being complemented by another forward.
He's quite obviously an intelligent, composed footballer who can pick out a pass but you feel he needs that moment all strikers crave when they're struggling - and that's a goal from open play. Lashing the ball in from 5 yards or 20 yards will turn drought to downpour.
So overall, in conclusion - it's been disjointed and at times dysfunctional with some moments of joy. Pretty much the story of Spurs this season. We combated the depature of Bale by bringing in quality players to add to the depth of the squad but because of the dithering with selection and the unavoidable acclimatising (on and off the pitch), it hasn't gelled. Hardly breaking news but expectancy is now entered on not just the new coach to get things going but for the players to step up when selected.
Injuries haven't help when fighting for consistency. Half way point will soon be the business end. It's not quite been magnificent. More maligned.
Onwards we plod.