The end of season review with four games left. I'm innovating.
Going to break this into five parts (five separate articles) so there isn't a tl;dr meltdown. It's a squad summarisation of what we have, what needs rejuvenating. Cheery stuff to spike healthy discourse. Will blog them all before Saturday.
What to expect:
Part 1 - Key players
Part 2 - Key options, certified backups
Part 3 - Potential key players, Lamela conspiracy, under the pressure of expectation, potential 'cut our losses' outgoings
Part 4 - Might force a move, positions that require strengthening/sorting out
Part 5 - Director of football and future coach, next season
Review Part I
Keeper - Lloris, Friedel, Gomes
Full-back - Walker, Rose, Naughton, Fryers
Central defence - Kaboul, Vertonghen, Dawson, Chiriches
Central midfield - Paulinho, Capoue, Dembele, Sandro, Bentaleb, Holtby
Attacking midfield / Flanks - Sigurdsson, Eriksen, Lamela, Chadli, Lennon, Townsend
Forwards - Soldado, Adebayor, Kane
Key players (7)
Lloris, Walker, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Sandro, Eriksen, Adebayor
Out of the seven players I think are key (guaranteed first team starters) only one is a 'magnificent' from our summer spending spree. Christian Eriksen will be pivotal for us from a creative standpoint as we've not truly replaced the nucleus of productivity left behind by Luka Modric. Gareth Bale provided us with a more direct approach during the immediate post-Luka lull and although Eriksen isn't a deep-lying playmaker who will dictate our tempo - he'll provide a spark in the space behind our forward(s). Currently out on the left, effective, but will be better suited centrally. If anything to allow a better left-sided midfielder to support the overlap as Eriksen prefers to roam and should be free of any defensive chains.
Probably worth citing a caveat here for all of this commentary. There is no way of knowing the exact style of football and the structure of selection until a new coach is appointed. We don't have someone deep currently to keep us ticking over, working it from the back, pushing the ball wide or central. We have central midfielders, for the most part, lacking any genuine identity with what is meant to be their best role - aside from Sandro. Under AVB we retained possession but struggled to carve out chances in the final third. There was no connectivity, especially compared to the free-flowing football (when it worked) Redknapp gave us along with Luka - the king of the recycled ball, the assister of the assist to a goal. Central responsibilities and connectivity to the rest of the team with our modern lot is unbalanced, has been for an age, and there is no solution for it - currently.
Lloris is world class. That's it. I don't need to justify or rationalise a thing with him. Yes, he's prone to mistakes but keepers will always have theirs magnified due to the responsibility they hold. I'd probably defend Hugo for some of his decision making based on the fact he has zero confidence with the players directly ahead of him.
Walker has improved this season and is far more consistent and far less erratic. Still prone to errors but has matured and the difference is measurable. Looked utterly spent last season but far improved this one.
Vertonghen has countered claims he's disinterested with the club and wants to leave by stating he's generally unhappy with his own form, although you wonder about his mental strength if he's unable to muster up the courage and leadership to steady us at the back. Having said that, I can imagine even our best players can suffer from the same type of disillusionment the supporters go through. A coach has to gel all players together and instil team spirit. We had that a season or so back. We've lost it. It's telling not just with the team performances but with individuals in isolation. Jan - the perfect illustration of that.
Kaboul, along with Sandro are two players that at their best are first on the team sheet and yet these-days getting them on the team sheet feels like a first. Both have struggled for two seasons to retain their fitness. I can't emphasis the importance of both of them - because when fit, they are beastly. If we keep having to chop and change because of their persistent absence then we might have to chop them out permanently. Harsh? Yes, but also true. 'The beast is coming to get you' doesn't quite have the same intensity when Sandro is sat in the barbers chair having his beard sculptured.
On form, both are vital to the backbone of the side. Sandro especially, owns the space between defence and midfield and hunts down opposing players like Hulk on a smash. Kaboul is potentially the closest player we have to King in terms of defensive presence. Much like the club as a collective, we are so close yet so far and never quite see the best that could be offered.
As for Adebayor, we've all seen how important and influential he can be and how popular he is within the team. Note how aware he is of team mates and embodying that team spirit during celebrations, making sure players get credit. An easy target for frustrated supporters when things are not going well upfront because of the high expectations we have for him (even if we are reminded that he can go missing for long periods with visible disinterest). Looking at the teams of upper echelon quality, what other Premier League striker could we realistically sign (when comparing ourselves to Chelsea/City)?
Ade (never been comfortable calling him this) is top drawer when on form. Has the attributes but can equally frustrate as much as he can mesmerise (with duff shots and ineffectual displays). That's why he's at Spurs and not still at City.
So what do we have exactly?
Out of the these seven selected, only one is completely dependable (Lloris) as a nailed on guaranteed first team starter if he doesn't decide to make a break for it and escape for Champions League football or simply out of necessity to play behind a consistent back-line. Walker and Adebayor do not have competition for their roles and are starters, both are good players but both are susceptible to their own particular characteristic flaws.
Kaboul and Sandro are key, both essential to success, but both keep us watching with hearts in mouth, praying their bones of glass don't shatter. Meaning we are instantly weaker if they do not play. Vertonghen has the face of a holiday maker arriving at the airport and remembering his passport was left back at home on the kitchen table. He's there, his out on the pitch in Lilywhite but his head is elsewhere. Spain perhaps. I'm about as disgruntled with him as he is with deputising at left-back.
Eriksen is one season (almost) into his Spurs career. Next season he'll have this turbulent experience behind him and a summer + pre-season done and dusted and he'll be far more settled within the club and in England. Much like Modric's slow start, Christian needs time. He's got enough about him already to suggest he'll be key.
Lloris, Walker, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Sandro, Eriksen, Adebayor - out of all these Hugo is a 100% starter. Walker also because there is no competition for his position. Eriksen and Adebayor because they're the best for their respective positions. Vertonghen, if he's committed, along with Kaboul and Sandro but aren't reliable for matters of the bone and muscle. So out of the seven we have only a fab four: Lloris, Walker, Eriksen, Adebayor.
Three if you believe Daniel Levy will cash in on Adebayor (who in turn will look for a pay day in Turkey).
Two if you believe Hugo will leave the club in the summer.
One if you think we can upgrade on Walker.
This is worst case scenario. I did say this would be cheery.