A quick snapshot of the squad. Post-transfer window. I've done this before, but I'm not sober this time.
32 Assou-Ekotto (lol)
Keeper depth, fine, no complaints. Although that new Lloris contract is going to start smelling of canny financial insurance when the summer of 2015 comes a calling. I would like Hugo as club captain. As long as he promises to do his shouting from the back and not wander forward like a drunk Yojimbo with no swords.
Defence is also fine. It's not perfect but it's stronger than it's been. Functional, as cited about a dozen times per blog. It's not perfect because some of the players still have question marks following them around like thundery clouds.
Centre-back positions are looking solid. Vertonghen. Fazio. Chiriches. Kaboul (if he improves or doesn't have his made-of-crisps knees eaten by a hungry toddler). Add Dier to this mix although he might be deputising at right-back for a while thanks to Kyle Walker's recent surgery.
Naughton and Rose are the two that are subject to criticism. No really they are. Ask about for confirmation. Pochettino has good man management skills but that doesn't necessarily mean he can transform either player. Naughton especially as he's already in his mid-20s. Rose might improve positionally, maybe, perhaps. Will his general footballing IQ spike? If players are not wired up with the basic out the box requirements to fulfil their duty with minimal fuss then it's hardly likely to work out long term. Raw untapped talent is altogether a different thing. Ben Davies will be easier to mould over time. So if you dare to compare Tottenham to some of the other squads (Chelsea, City) we are weak in comparison at the back, especially down the flanks.
No one seems to know when Yedlin arrives. Is it in January or the summer of 2015? Probably doesn't matter as the longer he's at the Sounders the more promotional work Spurs can do to entice more American supporters to follow the club.
1) Khumalo is mentioned in our squad listing. He's captain of his nation. He was last loaned out to Doncaster Rovers. Possibly the worst ever attempt to sell Spurs home shirts in South Africa. Ever. Waiting eagerly for his squad number.
2) Assou-Ekotto still exists.
These two anomalies just beg the question: WHY? Thankfully Benny hasn't been registered for the Premier Legaue squad (Spurs naming 23 out of a possible 25 places). Talk about a fall from grace as the clubs number cult hero to AVB hater with dubious anti-Semitic connotations and form that wasn't even good enough for QPR. Great hair though.
The midfield looks strong on paper. Pochettino will need to stick with a consistent selection to breed cohesiveness. Yet worryingly, it still needs patching up.
Ceballos and Mason are fringe players.
Central mid consists of:
Defensive midfielders - Capoue, Stambouli
Central midfidlers - Bentaleb, Dembélé
Attacking midfielders - Eriksen, Lamela
Wingers - Lennon, Townsend, Chadli
Box to box midfielder that does nothing but still scores and assists - Paulinho
Missing component - Deep-lying playmaker
Do we need a deep-lying playmaker? I made a promise once never to mention Luka Modric again but I can't help but think that having someone dictate tempo and assisting the assist is pretty much the perfect formula for the heart of the team to pump blood across to every other part. Instead we're left with a dead arm we've sat on as we struggle to lift it into place to give us undignified pleasure when paying someone else to do it would have delivered a far more enjoyable experience.
Gareth Bale's monstrous form was the perfect antidote to forget about the missing DLP. We have nothing to bless us with similar deflection this time round.
Currently, as per last 2 seasons, we have brutes that can break up play and the emphasis is on them to retain possession and distribute cleanly and precisely. Hence the Sandro sacrifice. Bentaleb is still refining and defining his game. He can do a bit of everything without being masterful at any given thing - so far. But it's good to have someone so young and so mature and willing to take the world on (if left a little unprotected on the battlefield). It will be key to see how he's encouraged to play across the season and if develops a particular strength that gives him more of stranglehold with selection.
So any two of Capoue, Stambouli and Bentaleb as the def-mids.
Then it becomes a mess.
Dembélé has yet to claim his own definition and remains the biggest conundrum at the club. His decision making and passing when he gets forward means he isn't as influential in attack as he is fighting for the ball in deeper positions. Sometimes you can't work out what he does but then you notice how much you miss him when he isn't playing. He's coming back into the fold but he has to step up this season. Otherwise he's wasting his talent and we're wasting our time. Has he been too restrained in the past? Subconsciously uncomfortable due to disciplined instructions, never able to truly be expressive? Add him to the three above for the central roles and he has the bigger task of claiming one of them as his own.
Eriksen can create, can score, has vision. Playing just behind the forward, in the space between the midfield and the spearhead - he should be the source of everything good. Conducting the electricity. Too often there's no current. Regardless of him starting on the left or centre, he has to be more involved. He'll have to adapt quickly to Pochettino's pressing game. He's no Luka. They're not similar players but both can thread a pass. The worry is, if he's injured, there isn't anyone to cover the vision part of his game. Which begs the question, is the system more important than any one single creative player? Push, run, find space, move and attack. Footballers working hard to win the ball, keep hold of it and strike forward with pace. As a team. Rather than being reliant on a centre-point directing our football with everything going through him before it goes through others.
This is still a question that won't be answered until we can say for certain what Poch's expectations of Christian are.
Talking of pace. Townsend, Lennon and Chadli. Okay, let's not talk about pace. We don't have what you might call traditional wingers. Townsend is, or can be, but is very rough round the edges and once again Poch is going to have work with him, to improve discipline and decision making. Is Townsend like Rose or does he have raw talent that can still be moulded?
Lennon, oh Lennon. He's got a lovely life-style. Has it made. Could have gone to QPR if you believe the stories. Didn't. It always sounds best to say you're a Tottenham Hotspur player when out on the pull in Buckhurst Hill. He's been on auto-pilot for a while now. Not the same player he was, never the player he promised to be. Chadli has no pace and isn't really a winger. But could prove effective as one of those fabled inverted types that cut into the area on a diagonal, willing the ball to be crossed in. But we're still missing that extra something special. Or are we?
Lamela has played out wide for River and Roma, but does his best work cutting in and playing off the forward(s). Ignore last season. This is his first true footballing session in England and sadly, if you accept that you also need to appreciate it will take time for him to settle. He's looking more involved, more confident but 2/3 games isn't enough. 20-30 should be. Bit more meat on his lean body, toughen up and get a little angry and we might have that extra something.
See the problem? We have good players but nobody that has excelled or can be completely relied on.
As for Paulinho. He has that Jenas thang about him. Scores and assists and does it more than JJ ever did. But still looks far too messy. Brazilian? He's hardly clean and smooth. He's box to box but doesn't look the right fit for Pochettino. Unless he glues the football to his boot.
Up front we have Adebayor, who can blow hot and cold. Poch might need to wear a beanie hat and entice Ade to do something stupid with it, punish him for his insubordination and then bring him back into the team with a point to prove. Before the ACON though otherwise we have to rely on Harry Kane, the carbonite Teddy Sheringham and the Roberto Soldado doppelgänger who has made the art of goal-scoring resemble the magic bullet from the Zapruder film.
No Andy Booth. No Grzegorz Rasiak. No Frazier Campbell. No returning Robbie Keane and no Jermain Defoe. We have three forwards all of which have their own demons to conquer.
Adebayor has to channel his work ethic and ruthlessness. Consistently.
Soldado has to stop turning every effort on goal into mission impossible.
Kane has to enjoy the opportunity and not look so worried. Believe a little more.
It's crazy, no doubt, that we are looking towards a kid to make the grade asap. If either of the other two suffer from a confidence crisis (or fail to get out of one) or injury, we literally have nothing else up front. Maybe play Dier there?
So, we can say the following are guaranteed first teamers:
Walker (if available)
Have to play because we have no other creative options:
Most likely to get a start as best option from his pool:
The two new chaps (Faz and Benji - Twitter loves nicknames) will mix it up and add some spice with competition for starting places.
Kaboul has to prove fitness.
Rose, Naughton, Davies, Chiriches will rotate.
Paulinho, Dembélé, Townsend, Lennon have it all to prove.
Soldado is on borrowed time. Kane should be give a free pass (that's no heckling or the pressure of being compared to a new striker that wasn't signed).
That's it. No conclusions. Just wanted to see how the squad looked down on paper, all broken up and casually analysed. I think the only reason I scribbled this all down was to depress myself and look for the answer in another drink.
Still, let's please remember that this season we have a coach with a far clearer philosophy (we do right, because he's said it many times and I've repeated it every time he's said it) and a style that is slowly taking form, as displayed in the few games we have to look back on so far. Aside from the Liverpool result where we getting out played wasn't enough, we had to assist them with three goals.
If the system begins to work the players will bed into it and they should...should improve tenfold.
What do you mean 'no'?