The Expendables

 

Review part II

 

Key options (2)

Chiriches, Dembele

Dembele for me remains an enigma. He'll play, you'll watch on with frustration and think he's either not doing enough or doing what he shouldn't be and yet when he doesn't play you suddenly feel there's a hole in midfield, with no one to press and pressure the opposing players. He's physically strong and has that wonderful glide about him with ball at feet (not clinical with decision making when attacking the penalty area) yet I don't really know what type of midfielder he's meant to be. He sums us up in terms of our current predicament (regarding  lack of identity).

Mousa has attacking qualities and should be utilised further up the field. That's my hit and hope attempt at working him out. He does a sound job if played deeper but there have been many occasions when he's looked completely ineffectual back there. Okay, so contradiction klaxon. He can be effective yet suffers from that trending disinterest which is a common and popular trait amongst our rank. Another mismanaged, confidence hit player that hasn't found his niche in the Spurs midfield. Probably as moody as his Belgium team mate Vertonghen. For the same reasons, I can hardly blame him.

Chiriches has looked excellent at times and also not so excellent. His performance against WBA game was so epically awful he was subbed off at half-time. At least his social media skills are top notch with a cheeky in-game 'like' on Instagram. Where's the dislike button for real life? I want to hit it. I want to hit him.

Still, I like Vlad for his early cameos, marauding out of defence like a p*ssed up Beckenbauer. He gets a free-pass for me in that he's arrived at our club during a transition. Cameos, injuries and rotating back-lines not the perfect foundation for him to settle into his role. With the onus on Kaboul to prove his fitness, Vlad might be the one that steps up into that role on a more permanent basis. Much like Jan, both players have a quality about them when on the ball, bringing it out of defence. Footballing centre-backs. Can't frown much on that as long as their spacial awareness and general reading of the game is spot on when holding back.

 

Certified backups (3)

Dawson, Naughton, Rose, Bentaleb, Sigurdsson, Holtby, Townsend, Kane

There's a fair few, right?

You can't dispute Michael Dawson's attitude and passion. He's the blood and thunder no nonsense centre-back with the occasional dollop of nonsense thrown in to inspire disparaging groans from the stands. He's been at Spurs for so long now, he's got more Tottenham about him than most of our players put together. But that doesn't necessarily mean he has the acquired quality to own one of the two positions at the back. I remember fondly when he was younger how confident and assured he was when playing alongside Ledley King and how he struggled without him. Then again, if I played alongside King I'd probably be made to look half decent, such was his all-encompassing aura of leading by example.

When Dawson has to lead, his slow turn of pace leaves him flagging far too often against the very best opposition. Simply isn't good enough for first choice. What I tend to do, with all players in all positions is ask the question 'could they play for City/Chelsea etc?' I know it's a cruel game to play considering most couldn't. Dawson couldn't. He can hardly hold down a position for us. Yet sometimes, it works. Like his early season form having almost signed for QPR. He's the player you know isn't quite top drawer and yet don't want him sold on. Possibly one of the reasons we lag. Sentimental crap.

Naughton is a lucky man. Luckier than Daws. Don't hate on him for playing first team football for Tottenham. He's doing so because we don't have any other options. It's that simple. He's an okay footballer that might do well for a mid-table side or lower but hasn't got the range of depth to his game to be anything more than that. Great character to come back from mistakes in games but what's he doing making the mistakes in the first place?

Danny Rose is no longer living off that volley, the sweetest of all time, against the scum. Aside from that one glorious moment and what looked to be a good loan spell at Sunderland he's not quite kicked-on and provided us with reassuring pomp and progression at left-back. Much like Naughton, we don't have any other options. Amazingly, earlier in the season, I longed for his return to the team (from injury) to give us balance - that's the level of desperation I'm embracing. Instead of balance we got dizziness. He makes more mistakes than our other full-backs (thinking about it, that's the one constant between the lot of them) and is just about as good as he's going to get unless he displays an epiphany of focus and concentration. Can coaching save him? Maybe, but a truly class player (you know the type other clubs above us would want to sign) would be displaying such traits already.

Bentaleb was fast tracked by Tim Sherwood and it's difficult to know whether the lacklustre performances of those he 'replaced' in the team amplify his performances to a slightly misleading level. In isolation, ignoring his age and the manner in which he broke into the first team squad, he's shown maturity and composure (if a little hot headed at times). He's a solid midfielder and is completely unfazed by the responsibility he's been given. That should not be ignored. The kid has mental strength. As for the type of midfielder he is? I'm still unclear. He's played in defensive roles but has looked useful with attacking intent. He can follow instructions to the letter and has a grasp of positional discipline. In other words, a no nonsense trooper you can rely on. Just nothing spectacular about him (yet).

I remember Jake Livermore and Jamie O'Hara both displaying gritty traits but both proving to be of a lesser refined model than the one Spurs like to adopt. Bentaleb so far looks tactically astute. He's not perfect and has been thrown into the deep end several times  - at times cruelly out of his depth. Development, coaching and a more expansive system may well see him flourish.

I think those that use him as a way to dig at Sherwood should drop the agenda and consider we've got a player that doesn't look out of place when the team are performing well. It's a big ask of him to be a complete revelation, bells and whistles. We could question how other teams are able to field youngsters of a similar age that truly look like owning their respective positions and how ours are always clouded with ambigiouty or influenced by the disappointment of others around them.

Bentaleb sums up one thing for sure. Spend £100M then promote a kid from the development squad.

Sigurdsson struggled to find a rhythm last season. Clever little player that has shown this season to be on the same wave length as other footballers (i.e. Eriksen) but doesn't have the outstanding special something to hold down a role in the Spurs side. A quintessential squad player, much like Dempsey was - someone that can excel at another club where they are the big fish in the pond. He's an afterthought and we don't really know what to do with him. Which links me into the next player perfectly.

I like Lewis Holtby. I think it's weak to suggest he's only rated (liked, hyped) because he's good looking, has personality and loves a bit of social media. He's another player where there is no clarity with what he's best at doing. When we signed him earlier than initially planned he did a bit of a utility job, running around all over the pitch, high intensity and energy, biting at ankles. Looked good with the one touch football, kept the ball moving. Then this season he was chucked around playing different roles, none of them really matching up to the cultured midfield style he treats Germans with when playing for the U21s.

Who or what is Holtby exactly? It might be he's a jack of all trades and master of none. It might be that he has a quality that remains untapped or that he (currently) has no place in any given Spurs starting eleven. Seems to be doing okay for Fulham and I'm reminded that he can play-make (as he did linking up with Defoe in the cup). His passion and determination is on par with Dawson,  plays with heart. I'm hoping the comparison stops there. Holtby has Champions League experience. He has enthusiasm and urgency that we sometimes lack in abundance. He doesn't have the positional discipline that Bentaleb has but that doesn't make him a lesser player. In fact Holtby has qualities further up the field that Nabil doesn't posses. Why is it okay to give one of them a chance to develop and prove themselves and the other a loan spell at a relegation threatened side?

Possibly because it's easier to start Nabil central whereas nobody has a handle on how to use Holtby. I guess if we had less midfielders it would be easier. He hasn't got the slow-mo vision of a Modric to play deep (even though he's suggested he'd like to) but he can craft and create.  Sometimes players flourish simply by giving them a certain degree of freedom of expression, if started in a role they can look to cement. I don't buy into the 'he's had plenty of chances' excuse. Our team selection and erratic formations is no basis to give anyone a chance with a game here or there. Look at Eriksen finding his feet by simply playing week in week out. Only problem with all this is, Eriksen's class allows him to be successful even from the left, out of position. I don't even know what Holtby's starting (best) position is.

Ironically, me thinking he's doing 'ok' isn't reflected by Felix Magath who seems to love criticising Holtby's attitude. Either he sees through the good looks or it's a way to inspire the player with a reaction on the pitch. Probably doesn't fancy Holtby's style. Which I guess is the crux of his time at Spurs too.

Townsend? Full of beans and sadly another easy to select scapegoat because it's been decided by one and all that what you see is all we're going to get. More effective in his role for England than the one he's had at Spurs might lend to the idea that coaching once more plays a massive part in any kids development. He has attributes but has to work hard on when to release the ball and when to shoot. Discipline an issue in that simply running really fast will only turn you into the next Theo Walcott. Or Aaron Lennon. These-days anyone that starts out wide is compared to you know who at Real Madrid, so they are bound to be maligned even if they're decent. We complain about the lack of academy products getting a promotion then scapegoat one that breaks into the national squad. Something something, no patience. I can remember a fair few writing off Walker last season.

Kane has performed admirably when called upon. He's the right age group and skill set to support our front-line off the bench without too many complaints. Like any youngster breaking into the first team we'll only know if he's got the ability to improve if he plays more. Preferably in a more settled side with better players around him. Much like Tom Carroll, that can also be misleading if they perform well against lesser sides (Europa League, relegation threatened sides) with that comfort of good players around them. One thing is for certain, none of our young promoted players are looking like world beaters. Not yet.

Dawson, Bentaleb, Sigurdsson, Holtby, Townsend, Rose, Naughton - all are potential transfer outgoings although likelihood that only Sig and Naughton could be moved on with Holtby at risk only because of his current loan predicament. Home-grown rule might save one or two.

The thing with certified backups is that as long as they are backs ups, they are replaceable, unless they promote themselves to a level of importance (which history will remind you is more than possible, although failure is just as likely).

 

Just let him leave

Not sure what Gomes is still doing at the club. Was for us at times brilliant and equally loopy but hasn't been an option for an age and I only know he's still at the club because occasional Sandro will Instagram (Instagram now trending in these articles) photos of dinner parties and Gomes is there in the background dishing up. He got injured on his last loan spell and that might have ruined a potential move away.

 

continued in part III