Game-changer or has the game changed?

 

We still don't have an obvious game-changer in the way of a Gareth Bale or a bullish Paul Gascogine but you could argue that we have several players that have changed games with pulsating, explosive passages of play and thunderous goal destroying kicks; Kane, Alli, Lamela, Eriksen. To name just a few. It's a discussion point for sure as some still believe we're lacking that extra something special.

So are we lacking it?

You could argue (for example) that for Kane to 'win the game' or change its narrative in our favour, he would have to rely on other players in the team to create space or feed him the ball.

Is he capable of galvanising all on his own?

Many define the game-changer as the saviour, usually answering our prayers late on in games that are consumed with the ominous fear that no enlightenment will be forthcoming. That goal against Arsenal (to go 2-1 up in last seasons encounter) would suggest he can, or at the very least kill it with moments of unbridled joy from unlikely angles. The goal came when Spurs were on top. The 5-3 against Chelsea is an example of his 'something out of nothing' goal-scoring capabilities. To be fair, there's plenty to choose from. In the 2-1 win at the Lane again against the enemy (a couple of seasons back) he scored his second late on. Game-changers aren't just heroes saving the day but are equally big players that produce big moments regardless of the time and place. 

The same analysis can be applied to others in the squad. Dele Alli away to Crystal Palace, perhaps the golden glory of game-changing magic from last season. Christian Eriksen also has form for picking out a winner.

So are we truly in need for this ingredient with outstanding regularity from a single outlet when we have players that can give us the lead or an escape? Especially if it means having a player that is perhaps outside of the boundaries of the discipline and sacrifice Mauricio Pochettino expects?

Perhaps it's not as important as it once was.

This team's ethic and philosophy is more about synergy than it is on focusing and handing responsibility to one man.

So you can understand how (and why) team work replaces erratic, cataclysmic individualism and expression. Hence why those magical cameos and late goals are perceived as being routine and a consequence of the unit as a whole, working together to craft. One part can not work without the other part and so on.

Our structure supports the ethic in order to elevate our play to a higher standard so that we can compete against the very best - pound for pound. At least that's the target for any club that wishes to challenge at the top end. It makes us more robust with the end goal to be concise and clinical. A flurry of swagger helps to retain smiles on faces too. If you're scoring and creating constantly from all areas of the team then you won't actually have to rely on a single game-changer because you'll already be bossing it with three points in your lap.

So are we lacking it or not? 

It wouldn't harm us to have someone that can produce something out of nothing - without the support of any of his team-mates. The saviour model of the game-changing footballer. Whether that type of player, a maverick with tendencies to break free of any in-game constraints, fits the model at Spurs - is the crux of it.

How easy is it to find players that are capable of this ability with consistency? It's not easy at all. We're talking about world class players. The type that end up being plucked away for 100 million Euros or so. Players that tend to be attracted to big contracts and super-clubs beyond what our finances and stature currently offer. It's also worth noting that sometimes these players stand out more than others because of the lack of guile across the rest of the side.

If you want to take Bale as the perfect modern example you could also cite Rafa van der Vaart - a player also capable of that special spark but nowhere near as consistent (and sometimes arguably a liability). He still had that special ingredient - he was a player that refused to completely conform. These players are not always perfect but are cultured with providing perfection when it matters most.

The reality is, regardless of how good the team is as a unit, there will always be occasions when the performance is flat (much like the recent Liverpool game). Games where the opposing side frustrate us and we're unable to break them down. Where the game-plan isn't quite as fluid and incisive as it should be. That's when the call goes out and the question is asked: Where's the game changer coming from?

The signings of Moussa Sissoko and Georges-Kevin N'Koudou will add to the potential for extra outlets of creativity and forward thinking and ties in with the aforementioned philosophy that the team builds the platform for everyone to share the spotlight. Once again, Tottenham's ability to game-change is focused to achieve as a team and not rely heavily on a single set of shoulders. 

The more potential to craft means the more likely we'll produce the goods - especially if we look towards the bench to mix things up. Having something different rather than like for like. This will then equate to finding that alternate route to the back of the net and killing off opposing sides.

Players like Mousa Dembele and Christian Eriksen (when bang on form) provide us with the space, movement and impact (subtle or otherwise). As a team, there's a collective harmony when it comes to scoring a late goal or winning it with an unexpected gem. There's a united determination, a strength binding the spine of the team to keep on going because we simply refuse to give up. Everyone can chip in when the chips are down. 

Do we lack it?

It feels like I'm caught in a paradox trying to rationalise one perspective over the other. 

It's still all entirely subjective to be fair and much like last season we won't know how good we are until we've proved how good we are. The Mousa Dembele conundrum (the lack of aggression and forward intent from midfield when he's not present) is for the moment the one puzzle that remains unsolved until we see how we shape up in the next ten games with the new players rotating and Mousa returning. The head-scratch here is that sometimes we experience the same conundrum when say Eriksen or Kane under-perform.

The true genius of someone like Bale is that he can still produce that special moment even when he's having a lull and regardless of the performance level of his team-mates. Having that trait with regularity is what rewarded him with the price tag and transfer. On one hand, we don't have that in our current set-up. On the other we have several players that share the responsibility and can influence the game with similar pomp. Is that the same thing? It is and it isn't. In the end it should be about the team and not about a single poster-boy stealing all the headlines.

It's quite probable that Pochettino and his team will once more find that extra something we appear not to have and then showcase it to surprising effect. Having interchangeable plans A, B and even C is probably a dreamland requirement to keep it constantly fresh and never lose in-game momentum...and at the very least retain a sense of contending. Especially when on the ropes or when desperate for an opening when the game isn't fully in our control. Doing that week in, week out is the Holy Grail so best we're not too harsh on our efforts and try to enjoy that surge of synergy when displayed.

It's all a bit like the Wizard of Oz with Dorothy and friends on their journey of self-discovery. All of them desperate for a missing something, a missing part to complete them. In the end it turns out they actually had those parts all along. They just didn't know it at the start. Well, at least that's how I read the symbolism. The movie would probably make even less sense without Pink Floyd synchronising the visuals.

One thing is certifiable, we won't be waking up in Kansas. Let's hope Tottenham wake up in Stoke instead.