Nine games. Nine games and the football Gods have their fists primed above the Tottenham crisis button ready to thump it with all their might. Sometimes I actually believe that we control our own destiny by following the routined script that is handed to us by people that have nothing to do with our beloved club.
Gary Neville, the esteemed Sky Sports analysis (he's literally decent when compared to Jamie Redknapp) mocked us with brutality when looking back at Eric's dire (wink wink) slow return to the field before being destroyed by Newcastle's sheer willingness to grab the game by the grapefruit's and squeeze the juice out of it.
"So poor of Tottenham...it's what I always think of them, never ready"
Yes, okay, slightly over-dramatised there Gary. Spurs and their culture of comfort and general lackadaisical lapses are common place with most football clubs that didn't benefit from the world class injection of everything that Sky Sports allowed for in the years where the difference between us and say United was about the same distance between earth and the edge of the galaxy. Winning mentalities are hardly the easiest to forge, especially if you're chop and changing managers every few years.
I'd say give or take a couple of dips, we've shaped up well since 2006. That being as much as one can shape up when competing with football clubs that are far richer and have that comfort base of rarely finishing out of the Champions League spots. We are criticised for not qualifying then criticised again when suggesting we can.
Since 2006 so many of the traits that were never associated with us have become part of our seasonal DNA. Apart from luck. The times we came close to CL football we lost out by a point or so. Underachieved, overachieved...that's up for debate but we competed and did so much to the disdain of most of the rest of the television pundits.
Dier's error was pretty much an illustration of that fabled lost momentum. A kid, a centre-back, playing right-back and displaying killer inexperience that led onto something a lot worse. Mental fragility of the team as a whole. I'd actually like to thank Dier for making certain that the players (and the coach) have no reason to repeat this abhorrent mess again.
Mauricio Pochettino once more brought up the question of mentality. Younes Kaboul echoed the need for maturity and courage. Not sure why he waited for the Evening Standard to do so when it was needed out on the pitch on Sunday. Both need to be accountable in their own way. Ryan Mason should not be more vocal than the one wearing the armband. As for Poch he has to turn these soundbites into a reality that we can bite into and taste.
There has to be evidence of this holy grail of improvement. We have to see it gel the players with effect as much as he focuses on the formation and pressing tactics. Perhaps here is where Neville's 'never ready' commentary best fits. Too often in the past two seasons we have lost ourselves in discipline and instructions, trying too hard to be something we're not.
Now we have the media dusting off their usual go-to stories about player unrest. Apparently the Spanish speaking players speak to each other in Spanish. Scandalous. Here's me thinking they mingled with the English only lot and spoke the universal language of FIFA15. There was also a reference to the 'untouchables', suggesting that Pochettino sticks with his favoured players for first team football and won't drop them no matter what. So I guess it's only okay for certain managers of other clubs to be stubborn with their selections but not Spurs coaches?
Sure, Harry Kane should have started but I'm only going on a hat-trick against a weak side in the Europa League and ignoring that and placing most of my hope on ye olde 'seize the consistency' theory allowing one good game to maybe develop into several. But what do I know? What do any of us know?
Poch might be persisting with the same 'fav' players because that's how he wishes to get them towards a working flow; a rhythm. Or maybe the alternatives really aren't good enough to own a starting line-up in the first team, in his opinion. We wont know until they're given a chance but if you take a look at our squad and review in terms of individual form - it's erratic for most involved. We have key players that are trying to unlock doors with pieces of string.
There's still no crisis for me. No turmoil. If players are genuinely complaining or unhappy, then I'd happily take another step towards giving up on this game. Sure, we have mismanaged the lot of them thanks to ill-advised transfers and chaotic tactical aneurysms but they also need to share some of that accountability.
What can we do to fix it?
We can either let Poch and the players get on with it and just struggle through the torment until that long lost groove is rediscovered and we finally break free of this lull and find ourselves in an upwards spiral once more.
Or Pochettino can embrace the fact that even though there is no crisis - the media along with Tottenham fans (and social media) and then the chairman can force one on in no time at all. The scythe always hangs above the golden cockerel at the Lane waiting for its next appearance. Daniel Levy in the directors box only needs to call its name out to reap once more.
Andre Villas-Boas refused to sacrifice, to find a middle ground and admit his players (well, the ones bought for him) could not fit into the system he so desperately wanted to work. This is more or less the same squad that failed then and continues to stagnate now. It's the same squad with less of a possession based ideology as we look far better going forward then we did with the obsessive Villas-Boas. Poch might have to go where AVB dared not venture whilst the rest of us consider the fact that although everything has changed it's still all remained practically the same.
Our over-hyped stars need to be played to their strengths. It's a dirty way to think, to go back to basics when you've been drumming on about a particular philosophy all this time, but it's nigh imperative for this group of players to start showing us something. Giving us something back. You can only really do this by allowing for more expression, more freedom to play with urgent attacking intent. This rationalising, this 'waiting for it to click' excuse didn't work last time round. Poch might wish to have them adapt to his ways, but if he wants them to smarten up enough to do so, he needs to adapt to our ways. The Tottenham way being the good bits, the swagger and the swashbuckle. The relentless push forward to attack, with width and pace.
I'm talking specifically about the home games now. Get them playing as individuals and as a collective, let them prove they want to play for the shirt and regain their confidence fully. Then gradually seek to realign them to the long term philosophy that will give us more than just visual entertainment. That calculated astuteness will always remain important when you can't afford to give up too much time and space when facing the likes of a City or Chelsea. I'm not dismissing the pressing and the rest of it. I'm just asking for the very same bravery and courage the ones within the club are citing. Add to it the balls to take risks.
It's all about confidence. That includes us, the fans, watching on from the stands, tvs and pubs. They have to believe, we have to believe in them. You can only really feel that it's working in the way of footballing electricity. When the team looks alive and plays with purpose, you know it's going to be just fine when hairs stand on the back of your neck. A rabona in a mid-week game isn't going to be enough.
Thanks to the lack of patience and the destructive hunger for immediate improvement, as much as I'd like to believe that if Poch wanted to continue with the slow brooding process of development, I'm seriously concerned that he will not be given the time if we continue to drop points at the Lane. We have to perk up. A few wins and all these talk about protests and the rest of the misery will disappear again because people - when they're content - are happy to park their disgruntlements. The longer they're not content, the bigger and more powerful the disgruntlement gets. Except it isn't ENIC or Levy that gets punished. It's the coach.
A game of confidence. We have none. We need some. Go get some. For the love of all things Lilywhite, wake the **** up Spurs.