Lost in amongst the tumble-weeds
I don't do this often, but I'm going to knee-jerk a little. Settle back and malign with me.
I'm doing this because if I don't I'd have to rationalise the defeat and therefore side step the current problems we have by looking into the future where a long term resolution has been a success. A theoretical future that might never come to be.
We expect improvement over X amount of games, we want to see cohesiveness and players claiming hero status to the delight of the faithful. In an ideal world this would be delivered in a timely fashion, keeping the pitchforks and flames away. The ideal world is not of this universe. If I rationalise after every game then I'm not sharing anything new. I'm just pointing towards that resolution and praying we do everything we're meant to do in order to achieve it.
Patience is a virtue we don't often embrace but the inherent problems that won't go away have dug deep and hibernated for more than a season and Mauricio Pochettino has a massive job on his hands to shake life into them as they awake from their slumber (only to then fall into another deep sleep).
It's a job that requires support from a board distracted with strong rumours of a take-over and a chairman that doesn't focus enough on the needs of the supporters (ignoring the superficial niceties) thanks to the stadium rebuild which remains as static as our creative outlet on the field of play.
Poch made changes for the game against WBA. Plenty rested after their European excursion but the ones coming back in are supposedly first choice.
Highlights of the first half?
Emmanuel Adebayor escaping a penalty punishment when handling the ball and later not getting his head onto a cracking cross from Eriksen when it looked impossible not to. The visitors always looked the more likely to score. They had efforts on goal, untidy in application but on target, forcing one or two saves and also managing to strike their own player when the ball was goal bound. They had tempo and a more refined game plan. There was evident structure and great work ethic, especially on the flanks. Our own lack of shape made them look far more accomplished and fed their confidence.
Our transitional play with and without the ball was limp. Transitional? Buzz terminology to describe a s**t display of ponderous ineptness.
What of the selection?
With two strong players in the middle there was once again no lively creative hub. Nothing to get the team and fans going. Shades of Andre Villas-Boas. It's not the fault of the coach as we don't have a deep-lying playmaker to control from the centre-point and give us a dynamic intelligence footballing whirlpool to suck in and drown the opposing defence as we flood forward.
Etienne Capoue is strong and comfortable with his duties (easily one of our better players in Lilywhite on the day) but there's an imbalance thanks to Mousa Dembele's continued lack of excelling in any particular role. Together it's too one dimensional. The middle is where the magic is meant to happen and players to the left, right and ahead should know where to expect the ball and where to push it onto as we sweep forward. For magic you need a magician. We appear to only possess illusionists.
There was no pace, no width and very little movement in the final third. No connectivity between the centre, the flanks and the forwards. Just players in the same coloured shirts failing at possession football and never displaying the qualities to cater for more. Like end product and that stuff that gets done after someone scores, hands in the air, smiles etc.
The second half was a complete washout if you pinned your hopes on a half-time dressing down and a second half elevation. It was a continuation of the first forty-five.
Erik Lamela had more heart than controlled touch and decisive passing. He's a difficult one to criticise because he has little around him. Not just the thin flesh on his bones but team-mates moving into space. His price tag will always weigh him down because for £30M you expect to see more than potential. Especially potential that requires so much nurture. But I believe he will only play with effect if the more experienced around him grew some balls. The fact he's naive enough to try step-overs, tells you more about his development and lack of encouraging direction by those that should protect him from looking like a little boy lost.
Christian Eriksen searched for opportunities, but this was akin to being blindfolded and asked to find light in a basement without electricity. Spurs had no style and forceful intent with the ball and chased WBA around the pitch without it.
Jan Vertonghen looked on from the bench whilst Vlad reduced most onlookers into cannibalism after they were done biting through their nails. No Fazio and no Stambouli. Hands up if you think Jan and Federico will end up as our starting centre-pairing? As for Benjamin, we could have done with a little mobile aggression and urgency; two missing traits that our coach citied in the post-match interview.
Paulinho? He's not even the Brazilian Jenas. At least JJ offered us the occasional gem. Paul, in comparison, keeps holding up a bin bag full of cat litter.
As for Adebayor. He was more mouse than lion.
Also MIA was our pressing game.
Pochettino citied in his autopsy that the players looked uncomfortable. That's the polite way to describe their performance. But how does one play with such discomfort? What was the excuse? Surely not a Europa League hangover? Or was it the curse of WBA and other lowly teams that always subject us to home ground dejection? If it's the latter, the curse is self-inflicted. It always is. New coach, same problem.
Nacer Chadli was replaced, his defining moment was having to be told to mark an opposing player. That's a professional footballer being instructed on where to position himself. He might as well have been missionary, for all the influence he had. Then again, missionary would have seen him penetrate better. Or does that only work when he's out on the pull?
Aaron Lennon gave us something different, they call it 'energy' apparently (I'm pretty certain I saw him run), but that was hardly the answer to our predicament. We continued to have the potency of a eunuch at a brothel. Yes, the eunuch joke is back, that's how bad this game was.
Roberto Soldado is destined to end up back in La Liga because he'll never get a run of games to break this ghastly loss of arrogance and self-belief that strikers need to fuel their form. Instinctiveness, awareness...it's a reflex when you're a forward banging them in. Soldado isn't banging them in. Hard to reclaim that missing form without a genuine opportunity for redemption. But then how many chances does one have before we all agree it's not coming back?
The 70th minute witnessed our first shot on target arrived. The first for 150 minutes of football (excluding the woodwork that Kane found in the Europa League - which doesn't count, as someone pointed out to me, the woodwork is considered 'off target'). Not long after, we naturally went 1-0 down when James Morrison found himself with a gift of a finish. Lamela losing his marker, Paulinho watching Lamela lose his marker. Both posts without a defensive head to clear. A deserved and easy away goal and a shrug of 'here we go again' for those not celebrating it.
The entire experience of watching this game was woeful from start to finish. You also watched it, you know this too. So, here comes the knee-jerk I promised.
Tottenham Hotspur (not on the basis of this single game but this single game has all the elements to support the fact) have somehow managed to dismantle, disassemble and destroy structure and momentum in the space of two seasons. Quite the achievement to behold if you're a supporter of any given rival.
Pochettino has to learn from this performance and his own (he also needs to be held accountable for his selection that failed miserably against a bottom club with no wins). He must seek to mix it up where Andre Villas-Boas failed to do so.
I'm not in full panic mode because I predicted we'd have to suffer failed experiments, but looking at the starting line-up and even without the creative craft, we should have had more than enough to bully WBA. We didn't. Not even close. They did what we should have done to them and had they finished better, we'd have lost long before their breakthrough goal.
Can we perhaps forfeit our next league game?
It's going to be hard slog of a season, I know that, but this game illustrated how bad things can be if the team doesn't fire on all cylinders. Something that's tricky to do when we don't appear to have any cylinders installed. To be fair to Poch, this is still predominantly an inherited side with functional summer additions. He also has to prove himself and he can't be judged for several more months, a full season at the very least. Even then you still have to take into consideration how much of a cluster f-bomb the job at hand is.
Hard slog equates to a difficult task and because of the frustrations of the fan-base this can easily make the entire club shift with discomfort if we continue to struggle or take time to find our mojo. Time being that aforementioned virtue we do not allow for, from the board to the stands. So basically, it's everyone giving up too early and thus completing that infamous self-fulfilling prophecy that clouds over the club like a black thunderous cloud.
Also, please do excuse me if I'm not gaining friction burns on my knees, bent down, with the potential new owners above me, as I choke on their meaty girth. Promises or the suggestion of them can corrupt the soul. Something new is not necessarily any less evil than the devil we know. Until I see it I won't believe it. I'm not talking about a takeover but rather the football taking priority at the club after a takeover is completed (if it even happens).
If the owners (new or old) simply gave us belief they are desiring of the same ambitions we possess it would appease many. But the current lot don't. The ones that might come in would have to start with a gesture of substance to stop our own momentum of displeasure.
ENIC, Daniel Levy in particular, was also a Spurs fan, much like Joe Lewis. I don't care for these inconsequential details. Put up or shut up when it comes to the squad and the coach. Cain Hoy have to appear to be prioritising the supporters if they want to win us over and by backing the side and overseeing success this will give their investment more worth over time.
This is something ENIC haven't been able to do. But then maybe that was never really their objective. They took the club off Alan Sugar, got the finances sorted and the turnover at a promising level with small ground capacity compared to others and also gave us a platform to perform better than we did throughout the 90s. But that extra bit of speculation and calculated risk is beyond them for whatever reasons we choose to tag them with.
When I say 'football taking priority' I'm referring to myself, you and everyone else talking about the actual football again and not the business side of it that seems to have consumed us. It would have made such a difference if the owners led by example. They haven't, they don't. They know that we know that they're running a club within the constraints of their business model which is fine if you want to always be on the fringe and always selling your best players to once again find yourself back on the fringe. Except this time that particular smooth transition (transaction) has been botched up more so than usual.
My club is forever destined to be someone else's toy.
I can't change that. Neither can you. Well, we all could if nobody turned up for a couple of home games or demonstrated outside the West Stand gates, but we're all too busy recharging our smartphones at home whilst we settle back and watch something on Sky+. Revolution is not an easily inspired reaction. You can't even demonstrate these days without approval. Even the official channels of communication via the THFC Trust is often belittled by people that seem to offer criticism but never their own resolution.
Not turning up for a game is easy for say someone that has given up their season ticket of 10 years than it those that still go to Spurs and want to go because it's their team, their club. They want to support the essence of it even if they are unhappy with the custodians that own the bricks and floodlights. Why should we be pushed out? Yet most feel like they've been pushed away.
If you love something so much you might be willing to fight for it or perhaps even sacrifice your support but I'm getting side tracked with romanticised ideology that would have worked twenty years ago but won't today. Also, in context of the WBA defeat, this particular discussion is perhaps not suited as I'm not in the midst of a philosophical and spiritual meltdown over a 1-0 home defeat, but do believe this cycle or constant rebooting requires breaking. Things are not that bad when you compare us to the 87 or so other football clubs (excluding those we are not meant to be able to compete with but want to compete with).
Back to the football and non-revolutionary commentary...
There is no escaping the truth that presented itself last season and in the summer. The same truth that lingers on now. We are weak in key positions, have no durable leadership qualities, no guile or spirit, no creativity, no fluidity. In pockets, yes. But compared to what we did have, we are so very short of the standards we set ourselves in terms of personnel. The arrival of the magnificent seven has taken a massive bite out of our recovery period.
I know its one game (0-1) but we all know we need so much more from the current squad and from the 'club' to back the coach where it matters and for the players to take responsibility. The culture of comfort is not back within White Hart Lane but it's scratching at the front door. Or is that the sound of the supporters trying to escape?
So there you go. I knee-jerked. I might have rationalised a touch here or there but if you want to take this single game as the evidence of our plight and then look back at the games before with a more depressive perspective, then things do look troublesome and our wish to simply see Spurs reclaim a swagger might end up being more ugly than beautiful over the course of the season.
I'm still grounded. I'm still not expecting the moon on a stick but I wouldn't mind a shooting star every so often. Poch has to make changes and those changes must stick and we must drill the players into a more stabilised first team environment so that those missing connections can be made over time.
Rotation works but it also stagnates. Maybe we'll all laugh at these complaints in four months time because these games (and defeats) were a necessary evil to allow for learning curves and progression. You can't have your 'strongest eleven' looking fragmented, with key players isolated and us lot watching on confused. But we can't keep on making the same mistakes over and over again. Because if we do, then that cycle cleanses itself with another one of those reboots and we repeat the same catalogue of errors again.
I'm also wanting passion and grit, something we lacked to the point of non-existence on Sunday. If the reality continues to point towards not having the right players in those key positions, then we truly have to dig deep because I can't see much in the way of new in-takes come January. Either it's still 'early days' or our squad is over-rated and over-hyped.
That lost momentum from the past 2/3 seasons was staggered. Modric. Bale. van der Vaart. Game changers. The ilk and style of these players rather than the actual individuals. Not forgetting Ledley.
Defence - midfield - wing - attack. A spine.
I think we can all agree they left for reasons that were beyond our control when wishing to retain their services. Each player represents an unresolved problem. No deep sitting play-maker to dictate, no outrageous burst of pace on the flanks, no talismanic link up player to support the front man and attacking midfield. The glue. We have the pieces, some of them need to be swapped for new ones, but we have no way to stick'em together. Yet.
'Yet' being the long term theoretical, the standard crutch to avoid admitting what's wrong now might never get fixed. The rationalising that it will all turn out alright in the end because what else are you meant to dream about?
We might have possible replacements for that lost spine within our current squad, not like for like in stature or class, but some of them might still offer us hope. For now they remain lost in amongst the tumble-weeds in a barren desert whilst we wait for our spirit guide to materialise to show us that missing enlightenment. Is Peyote available on a free?