One last dance.
I feel positively primed for the season ahead. I'm not only looking forward to Phase Three of Pochettino's Tottenham tenure but also from a personal perspective there's a lot happening in the world of DML and The Fighting Cock which means a return to old skool blogging. Yes, I've built a monument to myself. I'd like to think my ego and the content produced are solid efforts, enough to get you lot thinking, talking and arguing into the wee hours of any given night.
Therapy is healthy. We all need an outlet and the internet is home for this permanently connected society where we must all share our opinions without hesitancy and with utmost urgency. I can at the very least guarantee I won't call you a moron if you disagree with me. The host with the most.
I watched the 1-0 loss against Atlético Madrid. A decent run out with some excellent little passages of play. Spurs unlucky not to score (woodwork denying us twice) in a match that produced decent tempo, whilst we chopped and changed with youth replacing their own kin along with the first teamers. Their goal was fortunate. If you want to exaggerate, this wasn't too shabby a game considering the opposition. Go on, exaggerate a little.
We could have gone on this promotional tour with all our Internationals (if they weren't getting an extended holiday due to the Euros) and probably beaten Atlético. They fielded a strong(er) line-up but are obviously early doors with their preparation for the new season. We'd have learnt very little had it played out that way (with Kane and co). I don't believe in all the fluff about trying to build up momentum in pre-season with our definitive starting eleven, aiming to blend them slowly together. Key players should have more than enough quality to work it out once the domestic season starts. It's not like we've committed to an overhaul and have a brand new team of strangers in a new system that has to be carefully experimented with each passing game.
The kids look a little raw but some equally composed and capable. Poch spoke big about the academy when he arrived and the development of the youngsters means they are actual viable options. Perhaps not all ready for the first team this season, but you never know. There's no given scenario where we'll look upon any of them or all of them at once to lead us. They'll cameo or start surrounded by all those brutes of men currently on annual leave. Protected and nurtured, no deep end baptisms.
As for ye old rotation and European football and the scary prospective of having to field weakened teams...oh hold up, it's the Champions League. Not the Europa. Watch how the mentality of the players is completely at odds with the tempo of the last couple of Europa campaigns. The issue (as ever) won't be about not being able to field strong teams on a Tuesday or Wednesday. It will be about how we recover in time for the weekend game.
That was a problem when we last played in the CL. Bloody great problem to have. The key thing here is that we'll be well up for another adventure. Hope the supporters realise this and don't suck the life out of how immersed the travelling hordes will feel touring the continent. We - as a collective - can be so cowardly in our approach, scared of being tainted with embarrassment others will tag us with, that we forget to celebrate what we're actually doing. No need to be so clinical about it. You don't fold your clothes and keep your socks on just before sex performed solely in the missionary position, do you? Do you? Surely you don't.
Pragmatically, we can hardly sign first team 'starter' quality that will have to sit it out for most games and accept the role of backup. Hence why it requires clever management of personnel to balance the rotation. We're not Chelsea or City that can pluck world class players that won't complain about the bench thanks to their ridiculous tax free wages. Hence the investment and commitment in youth which ties in with a club ethos. The Hotspur Way is the right way to attack this.
Europa was a psychological mess. We wanted to progress but seemed to do little in our attempt and yet that worked, be it tentatively and at times unconvincingly. Why? Because it isn't the elite competition. The determination appeared to be faux for the most part. A chore rather than a challenge. I'm sure some will ready their insults considering how difficult our fixture list is post CL games, but we have enough to counter this. No argument from me, concerning the addition of a couple more players.
Back to the game...
Erik Lamela especially looked fresh and hungry. I expect him to shine this season. He's a key player and actually looks like someone that knows he can influence and understand he has to start proving it consistently. He needs to chip in with more goals and continue with the assists. It's taken time, no doubt it's been frustrating. He no longer looks to be fighting to fit in. He needs to attack the area outside the box (and inside it) with more fluidity and interlaced passing with the likes of Eriksen. Not just with the subtle threw-balls and biting of opposition ankles. He might be the one that sets the pace with the pressing, but a little room for a little bit of expressive Argentine magic would suit us all.
Christian* was quiet. He hasn't got the players and shape around him that he's accustomed to that he'll have in the coming weeks. Not to say we didn't shape up well in the friendly. It's just easier to create space and find players when you've stood surrounded by them for a season. They know what to expect from your touch and you know what to expect from their movement. At no point this season are we going to line-up with a side that lacks a familiar spine. Unless we throw the League Cup again.
*At the time of writing he's supposedly rejected a new contract. Might be related, might have no relevance. Might simply be in discussions for a new one. Long over-due. He also needs to also be more influential on the pitch - another issue of consistency much like Erik. But don't discount his quiet moments as lulls of ineffective activity. Much like Luka kept the ball moving ghosting around the pitch, Eriksen allows us to transition with his sly movement. He creates space to allow for a pass or allow others to make the run. Sounds ridiculous reading it but it works if you care to watch his supremely subtle shifts with or without the ball.
Nacer Chadli looks off the pace. Son is still not sharp and focused. I can't really go too deep with it all. It's concerning that as senior players they're not looking as fresh as Lamela. These are still only run-out games. They don't produce equal measures of conviction through-out the entire side that equate to what we expect to see in the Premier League. Still, if Lamela can do it, there's no reason for Chadli to look lost and lethargic.
Even with the odd despondent appearance, I still can't find reason to use the game as a stick to smack Spurs with it.
I'm going to sound like a broken record but we had these conversations last summer, melting down over the lack of DM's at the start of the season and a broken Harry Kane. It all worked out because it took games and momentum to build up in the only occasions that can truly test us - competitive games.
For so many years we had alleged depth (two players for each position, remember that?) and yet completely fractured team ethics because of the lack of competition and the realisation that some in the squad were nothing more than filler. I'm not disputing that having fixed the teams ethics, there is a duty to complete the tapestry with a couple more colourful threads. But what are we disputing exactly? The time it takes for us to evolve and do so with intelligence rather than blind panic?
Although I find the good in say this particular performance (even though it was a loss) and at the same time say it matters little in the grand scheme of things, we can all be objective enough to accept what it was; a glorified training session. To still claim that it's showcasing how weak we are if we're missing ten key players is so f**king irresponsible that you if think this way, you might as well give up all hope forever. Imagine being so miserable that you take a look at a young lad like Edwards and decide to disparage rather than sit back, wait and watch. Nobody is expecting him to light up the league. It's not an impossibility. And how great is it that we even have the option to theorise about the potential?
Janssen looks decent from a deadball. He also should have received the killer pass in the final third more than he did (an issue of service). He was involved with some neat build up play. Actually looks like he can lead from the front if Kane is rested at the start of the season. He has a footballing brain and isn't just a lump to bung the ball up to. Although Twitter has spoken on this. The social platform for micro-bloggers has called him 'cumbersome, over-weight, with no pace'. I must be doing something very wrong when watching football matches, like engaging my brain.
Victor Waymana, has that no thrills but with plenty of kills look about him, marshalling the midfield like Wilson Palacios did in that one 'destroyer' season he had with us on his arrival. Yet to some he's labelled as being one dimensional. That's a little bit like calling The Incredible Hulk a one trick pony because all he does is smash. Tottenham need stability in deep midfield and we need to also test the mentality of Eric Dier. We have layered selections available to us across the entirety of the midfield from defence into attack. We only need to complement it further rather than attempt to reconstruct.
I think some of us might be a little misguided here with the demands for drastic change. Like a pretty twenty-something that seeks Botox or minor cosmetic surgery to make herself look even better only to end up making herself look more superficial. We don't need drastic change unless there's reason for it. If we look good, we simply need to make sure we continue to do so with natural contouring instead of having to cut and slice into something completely new. Mix it up with the hairstyles, wear a hat maybe.
This analogy isn't working is?
I'll move on.
We need to announce N'Koudou and then perhaps add another player + promote Harry Winks and one or two others to the first team squad (Poch talking up Cameron Carter-Vickers, Anton Walkes and Dominic Ball). Nothing out of the ordinary here. Much like Ryan Mason broke into the team or that other lad, written off by practically everyone...Harry Kane.
Here's the secret. It's never actually out of nowhere.
It's planned. It's by design. There isn't that element of desperation with what we do. I know it's hard to get over that having lived through so much of it, but there you go. The whole point of stepping up and improving is to have no fear in doing so. This isn't emotive crap to appease the faithful. That beautiful word, synergy, it's vital to how Pochettino and his staff look to make us strong from top to bottom.
So that's it. Some very light insight for you to chew up and spit out. I'll leave the heavy reading for when I return and we've played Everton. I might have something new to bite into by then in terms of transfer acquisitions. We might even see a couple leave.
I know I spend a lot of time with the literal glitter and turn most things into a philosophically dissertation. I also appreciate that I'm always arguing against a particular type of footballing ideology, the way some choose to process and digest Tottenham. It's even ironic that this is mostly done over something that provides little evidence (pre-season friendly games) although the ideology believes it provides all the evidence. I guess it's a human trait, to pick a particular side. Some sit on their side of the fence, refusing to find a middle ground (which isn't sitting on the fence, it's finding a nice patch of land for a picnic). Others will seek to climb over. If I was in court defending my case, I'd simply provide a list of exhibits as the only genuine evidence of consequence:
Eric Dier. Dele Alli. Kevin Wimmer. Danny Rose. Kyle Walker. Erik Lamela.
You want proof the coach knows what he's doing, take your pick with any of the above. After twenty years with no self-awareness, we know who we are and what we need to do in order to continue to push forward. Not just for this season but the many ahead of us. I'm happy to see us build something with longevity rather than attempt to reach out and grab something before disappearing back into obscurity. I'm not in anyway diminishing the reality that we all wouldn't mind one of those rare grabs, white and blue ribbons on silverware. It's arguable that occasionally winning something is what we're more or less famous for. I guess the middle ground here is to aim to do so again without that fall back into obscurity. Shame on me for wanting the best of two worlds.
If you want to be completely unbiased, any given season in the last twenty and the ones imminently ahead of us (for the foreseeable future) should have been / should be beyond our reach. We shouldn't have a right to compete with certain clubs because of their financial clout. I know paradoxical is my current go-to-word, but that's what this footballing world is. We exist on a lower level in terms of how we construct and challenge and look to contend. Embrace it. We're not one of them, so don't compare us. Maybe align your comparisons once we settle into the new stadium and even then we'll still be catching up. Unless we break the mould. This here be the alternative masterplan. Say it loud and sing it proud.
I'm now out of office until the weekend of our opener against Everton. See you all on the other side. Chin up, you're Tottenham.