Casual deconstruction of the Seven
Okay, so let's do this. Here's some comedy gold I blogged back in January. You won't be needing any laughing gas for this paragon of misplaced optimism and positive rationalising.
Below are quotes from an article reviewing the progress of the not so magnificent seven. I've added the newly formed truth bombs below each quoted passage, so that hopefully the explosion will distract you from my misguided past.
Centre-back - Vlad Chiriches
Looks to be a quality footballer that can defend and bring the ball out into offensive positions. However, having had to transition from the high line to a more traditional flat back four he's been partnered up with Michael Dawson when he is better suited to be playing alongside Jan Vertonghen (currently injured). He's been pulled out of position at times but this has more to do with the lack of positional discipline with the defence as a unit rather than any individual lack of quality. Looks to be a snip at £8M thanks to his cultured possession play and movement.
You only have to look back to this past summer when many of us (myself included) were confused as to why Vlad was being linked with a move away. Most of it was down to his agent talking up a transfer but the supporters questioned if Spurs were entertaining the idea of cashing in. Vlad has been the maverick but this season appears to play with as much majesty as a tramp that believes himself to be the Queen of England.
His discipline this time round can hardly be blamed on others. There is no culture, no confident possession play. Just dizziness. Another victim of a crippling confidence crisis? Perhaps. We know he's capable of not being awful. Maybe his agent has told him to play as badly as possible so we terminate his contract and he can escape to Italy for his dream move.
Wing - Nacer Chadli
Scored goals and assisted when playing for FC Twente. Struggled initially for us. Expectations from the supporters didn't help our perception of him either. I guess with Gareth Bale gone we all looked for that something out of the ordinary. Sadly Nacer was simply ordinary to begin with. Nothing stood out. On his return after injury he's improved into a far stronger, solid looking player. Efficient and productive (especially with his head). Still, no glamour football but another player where we might not be treated to the best of him until next season.
Has scored four times and although he can sometimes drift in and out of games, he's got the eye for a diagonal run into the box - so if his team mates care to find him, Chadli might be the source for more goals this season. He's still not quite a fully fledged winger. He could do a job for us up front (if desperation calls). To prove a point (with Vlad in mind) it's possible to come to a conclusion very quickly when you should consider the unread chapters might influence your final judgement.
Midfield - Paulinho, Etienne Capoue
Against Stoke, Paulinho gave us his performance of the season. Not just with the ground he covered and his work ethic, but he looked Brazilian, with the flicks and trickery. Was AVB restraining him from expressing himself? Up to that point, he was doing alright without excelling. Always involved, very much the box to box player we know he is but nothing spectacular and sometimes a touch erratic and untidy (especially in front of goal). Does give us dynamism and will be important once back from injury.
Capoue started brilliantly, then got injured and is still working to full fitness. A destroyer of a player with good touch who is equally versatile. Spurs have plenty of strength in middle. The problem at hand is they are joined by Mousa Dembele and Sandro giving us not just an option but a headache with selection. Not a bad headache to have.
No Sandro, he's getting injured at another club these-days. Dembele is still a conundrum as he struggles to impose himself in the final third. Capoue however has found his tempo in the midfield and taken the mantle of anchoring in there to do the functional work. Paulinho on the other hand has lost all the positives he treated us to (granted on very rare occasions) and looks like a man that has lost his soul to the devil. Broken, beaten. There is no box to box involvement that warrants him a start ahead of the other options we have. He doesn't offer much. Scoring the odd goal masks the reality that as part of a working unit, he's a luxury. Considering the definition of luxury, he's hardly even that.
Attacking midfield - Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela
The two key signings in the summer to fill the void left by Gareth Bale. Patience was always the key but we all wanted to see us kick on without stagnation. Sadly AVB was still struggling to implement a system that allowed us to blossom in the final third. We lacked that subtle inventiveness and cutting edge. For all the chances created, we became masterful at missing them.
Eriksen came in as the potential playmaker. Not quite the deep-lying type that AVB would have preferred (i.e. Joao Moutinho). Eriksen more of the player in the hole, shadowing the attack. There was no consistency with his selection so he struggled to cement a role in the side. Was AVB protecting him or stubborn with his tinkering? He struggled with the physicality and some teams suffocated the central midfield of space leaving him without influence. However, he's beginning to find a rhythm now, even played out on the left. He's the key for us with linking the midfield to the attack so it's imperative he plays.
Lamela is a curious one. A record signing. He's struggled to acclimatise. The culture of Italian football a far more comfortable experience than the English variant. Then you remember his age. He's younger than Andros Townsend. Lamela has only made cameo appearances. He oozes class on the ball. Glides with elegance. But he's yet to make an impact. Rumours that he wants a loan deal back to Italy. Doesn't make any sense to me that we would loan a player out when the key is to get him involved with the first team. He has outstanding talent and we've parked it up. Best way to resolve this is to start playing him. The moment things go well on the pitch, everything off it will dwarf to insignificance.
Both players have so much more to give and to prove. Eriksen has not found his comfort zone within Pochettino's tactics. Lamela is getting game time, working hard but perhaps trying to over complicate his progression by thinking too much about how he looks rather than what he's doing. One too many step-overs are an example of his naivety and his desire to impress. They are both in need of game-changing performances. Lamela needs to score a brilliant goal and Eriksen needs to be involved and influential in a game, where he's the one controlling it (Southampton at home was a good 'start').
Once again, both require the conditions to be set up for this to play out positively. If the team is not all that then the likelihood of either player standing head and shoulders above the rest is low. That's not to say it isn't possible. Gareth Bale was in his ascendency when he saved us time and time again.
Striker - Roberto Soldado
After years of waiting for a goal scorer, we sign one. So naturally, he fails to score. Unless it's from the penalty spot. Anyone keen on La Liga will know Soldado is technically a superb goal scorer. He had the virtue of players crossing the ball and cutting it back for him. Delivery and service on key. At Spurs, there was no bridge between midfield and attack, with him isolated up front. If he attempted to drop deep then he was out of position. His confidence started to fade and has yet to fully recover as witnessed by scuffed shots. However, his general play has been very good - especially since Sherwood stuck Emmanuel Adebayor up front with him. Now there's purpose to his play because he's being complemented by another forward.
He's quite obviously an intelligent, composed footballer who can pick out a pass but you feel he needs that moment all strikers crave when they're struggling - and that's a goal from open play. Lashing the ball in from 5 yards or 20 yards will turn drought to downpour.
The only way to know if Soldado can work in England and for Spurs is to start him up front for 5-8 games, consecutively, no dropping him from the starting line-up. If he can't find his mojo then he'll have to go look for it behind a sofa back in Spain.
He's composed with passing the ball when dropping deep but shows little instinctiveness when pushing the ball into the net. As this point, he has the look of a Rebrov. Apoplectic. We can't keep blaming the system or his team-mates as others have turned on the form (to a more pleasing level than last seasons debacles). However, he needs those appearances as others have impressed thanks to constant first team selection (in the league).
So overall, in conclusion - it's been disjointed and at times dysfunctional with some moments of joy. Pretty much the story of Spurs this season. We combated the departure of Bale by bringing in quality players to add to the depth of the squad but because of the dithering with selection and the unavoidable acclimatising (on and off the pitch), it hasn't gelled. Hardly breaking news but expectancy is now entered on not just the new coach to get things going but for the players to step up when selected.
Injuries haven't help when fighting for consistency. Half way point will soon be the business end. It's not quite been magnificent. More maligned.
Onwards we plod.
Plod is what we are still doing. It's still disjointed and dysfunctional. In fact all of the above is pretty much still evident and relevant. The harsh brutality of all of this is that the players signed are in fact quality if taken out of the context of the disappointment of the past season. What I mean is, if there was simply the single player rather than the seven, that one individual might have found his way to being completely settled in the starting eleven. Instead we welcomed seven strangers into a dark room then attempted to introduce them to each other and the ones that were already sat shaking uncontrollably in the corners.
We signed players we didn't need. Okay, maybe that isn't completely true, but we haven't actually proven they are the players we required to better the teams depth - as a collective. Too many questions were posed, all at the same time, with no understanding on how to answer any of them.
The fact we still lack pace on the flanks, a certified goal-killer in front of goal and a deep sitting creative player proves that you can have all the fluff in the world but you won't be able to pick it out if you don't have a belly button.
We don't have belly button. Take that broadsheet journalists.