Belated blog post-Crystal Palace.
Having had time to reflect, I think Pochettino nailed the obvious when he citied our inability to kill off teams. I've said it all season that we don't have that authoritative presence to own the game centrally and then dictate to our pleasure. There's pressing but there isn't enough retention. The latter something we had way too much at one point (AVB) and suffocated the ball into submission making it limp in its journey towards the opposing teams pen area. Finding that rhythm and balance is going to take the entirety of the season. We've got to remember that Poch inherited a squad of misfits (as compiled so lovingly by Levy and Baldini).
Away from home we've often come back to win games at the death. We have the right traits, spirit and graft, and there's quality there too with neat touches and vision. There's even that something out of nothing element that we've come to rely on way too often in the past few seasons. We have some backbone, but it's soft in certain areas. Our home displays renamed chaotically numb and erratic.
One of the analytical processes I've attempted to adhere to is to not take the last 90 minutes of football we've witnessed and use that as the current placement of our progression under MP. It's simply not the case that the last performance (of any given week) is a barometer for where we currently are. Granted it's more evidence, for and against, if you take note of improvements and reoccurring headaches. But one game doesn't build a season. You need thirty-eight of them.
You might argue that a club in our position should be doing better or that we need to consolidate / fix the squad up and make another push for it (what with the top tier of the table in constant flux) but exactly what is our position? How many times have we done this to ourselves, sticking deadlines or objectives and allowing them to define us? Yes, we should dare but realistically we'd probably struggle more if the right ethics are not instilled first along with the sacrifices that goes along with it.
The club is a mess. It was a mess before Poch arrived and in some ways it still is with him having to juggle all the expectations; from the board, from us, from the media and from himself. What is the Spurs job if it isn't an absolute ball-ache? On the one hand we (royal variant) don't rate half of our players and on the other we expect a chairman that never spends (according to net profit %) to then spend again having already spent £100M.
Poch did sign new blood during the last window but so many of the question marks relate to the players signed before his arrival. What shouldn't be ignored is the short space of time he's had to develop (with discipline) the likes of Mason, Bentaleb and Kane. Raw footballers, focused and mature beyond their age. Tells us plenty about the characteristics required for them to take the coaching instructions and implement them with success. So many of the more experienced players (that are struggling) are tainted. I can hardly blame them either (well, most of them) considering they shouldn't have been signed in the first place.
The politics is a long running saga that loops every summer. When has it ever changed? Players need to go and we need to find the right ones for those positions that need bolstering, but I can't control any of that. I just know this time round (with Paul Mitchell involved) there is a new methodology at play. Maybe it's there for the good of our team or maybe it's there to allow Levy to maximise player profit potential. Those two things have never existed blissfully together when you think about the world class key players we've lost. But it's our business model and it's the harsh reality that we'll always (allow) have our best players plucked away from us.
As of right now, post-Palace defeat, we have a reminder that some of the issues concerning team dynamics and tactics still need resolving. Go back a few months and we struggled to see Poch and his fabled philosophy. In recent weeks, we've seen positives. Players have grown in confidence. The team has responded. We worked through a really difficult patch that had most calling out for ENIC to go with some ever so subtle nudging towards 'another coaching appointment error', wishing to default to that eternally corrupt ideology that when something isn't going well, hit the eject button and start over.
Chelsea at home proved what these players - without transfers (in or out) - are capable of. Palace illustrated deficiencies with tempo and application. Maybe we're still deep in that learning curve. Maybe some of the players are not intelligent enough for the system. Maybe we need new players to take responsibility of key areas that need strengthening. Maybe Poch can't overhaul with true long term planning until the summer. Maybe we need to just enjoy what we've got, especially if the remaining January games pan out in our favour.
I'm rational and balanced. That doesn't mean I'm accepting of mediocrity. I'll take some excitement, the cup runs, some tangible evidence that Poch's ideas are starting to tick and I'll roll with the punches when we get unstuck. We're neither as great as our best performance or as bad as our most disappointing loss. We are somewhere in the middle and there is huge capacity for us to be truly competitive. I'm alright with that. I'm okay with waiting. Every time we rush, we fall over.
footnote: I said I'd stop writing this type of article a few months into the season. I still believe this mindset is prevalent. I'll try to avoid repeating the same old same old again.