The realms of the impossible
It's been a while since I did a stream of consciousness. It's gonna be messy. It always feels like I'm preaching to a mass of people sticking their fingers in their ears. I can understand that it might look like apologetic reasoning to defend the indefensible. It isn't. It's just a balanced perspective. A constant brave face with a stick a smile on it ethos. Hardly happy clappy. Everywhere I look the two loudest vocal groups are staring each other down from one end of the spectrum to the other. I'm standing here in no man's land. Billy no mates.
Nobody expected Harry Kane to do what he did last season. To score the goals he got. Some even laughed at the suggestion that he was going to lead our front-line. Then it happened. From the unexpected came a revelation. It's what we do best. Our club takes the fanbase to within an inch of breaking point and then find hope from the realms of the almost impossible. A Tottenham state of mind. When it doesn't make sense, it ends up making perfect sense.
If you read some of the self-fulfilling prophecies being discussed currently about sacking the coach you'd understand that my fantastical epiphany is equally dizzying in comparison. I'm back on the blind faith and I'm drinking it straight. Spurs always work it out in their seasonal chaotic way. It's a trait we appear incapable of replacing with something more linear and contained.
Sack Pochettino? Really? And then what? Allow the chairman to appoint another mistake? Because it's the chairman doing the appointing and not @somethingTHFC smashing keyboards with his hard-on for a rage on. You hate the coach and want him sacked but you also hate the chairman and want him to get someone new in. Brain freeze.
Poch not giving us flair football? Stylish attacking play? Do you honestly think with this same group of players that any given manager out there could get away with playing expressive free-flowing football that works enough to avoid the same disappointing point-dropping? Isn't that what the smaller clubs do, the ones with less pressure on upper tier expectancy and more on just about doing enough to settle into the half way point of the table? Tim Sherwood attempted it and regardless of the statistics it was hardly sexy to watch. It was only refreshing because we had been drained of any reminiscence of a fitting style for so long. For the most part it was naive and deeply flawed.
Think about this for a second; I would love it if we just rolled down our socks with shirts tucked out and looked for that fast paced break, supported by width and swashbuckling guile. Embrace the risk and just entertain the fans. Thing is, if you go back two seasons the same supporters seething today at Pochettino for his less than glamorous football (as he attempts to find the right balance) - those same supporters were claiming that all that mattered was the result. Sacrifice everything for the points.
And here is the crux of it all. You have to actually make a sacrifice to be competitive. To be ruthless. To know when to hold tight, when to sit deep and when to play with aggression. It's easy when you have world class players aplenty. Not so easy when you sell the only world class players you possess.
We got it wrong when we looked to mix it up, searching for that balance. Andre Villas-Boas went too far with the possession play. We got the quality of spirit right but lost our home advantage and that adventitious drop of the shoulder. It got too mechanical, too deliberate. Along with the mismanagement of transfers it buried him, us and all of the momentum we had. We failed to recover. Almost all the players signed for AVB (including a few more since) have been shipped out. Poch inheriting a broken team and having to patch it up isn't a one season job. It's all made to look a lot worse than it is because the football is bland as we wait to see if our pressing game is going to produce less of the passive and more of the pomp.
It will look worse if that's all you see. If negative spin is your only outlet as you struggle to adjust along with the team. I actually get that. It's frustrating. But then it's all based on perception and expectation. The latter is still being influenced by the memories of that lost momentum.
So what do we have?
We have a chairman that loves to wait until the dying moments of the window to conclude business. We have also struggled to sign first team ballers in recent transfer windows. We have a coach that has a squad which remains under developed in key areas - but gives the impression he knows what he wants to resolve the conundrums. We don't quite know what the club (Levy, the board) have stipulated as an expectancy but I'd hazard a guess that 'top four' isn't a 'do or die' command, what with the stadium being ENIC's priority. It seems (from within the club) that they know the momentum has gone and the spending of City and Chelsea and United eclipses everyone's endeavour.
Paul Mitchell is in to evaluate the players and what we need to bolster but is also ideal (by pragmatic design) to find affordable targets (that can be sold on for profit and keep the business model ticking over). Add to it the aforementioned stone cold fact that the clubs above us are more than capable of signing players for £25M more than we could afford and using them as bench warmers or just loaning them out. We broke out of one bubble and now find ourselves in another. Just when we thought we got close, we're stuck waiting for something to burst again.
What we have is what we created when we shifted away from the maverickisms of Harry Redknapp (also later ignoring the new age arrogance of Sherwood) to what was meant to be next level science. An appointment to match the facilities at Hotspur Way and supposedly one that would work effortlessly with the Academy and player acquisitions from the chairman and director of football. This wasn't just what Levy wanted. We - the supporters - a fair chunk of us wanted it to. We had stability, we had a foundation. We had something tangible to build on. We thought the momentum (sorry, this word is going to get repeated a lot) was strong enough to survive an upwards transition because we want more. We believed we could and at times it wasn't just a wishful dream. So we let go of the chaos and attempted to hold hands with next level algorithms.
How we've managed to lose the M-word and regress is a combination of many things. Mostly our own idiocies. In theory it all works out. In reality you can't hold onto your best players. You can't sign enough upper tier players to hit that sweet psychological spot. We're better off punching above our weight and getting within touching distance when nobody expects us to, rather than planning on some grand gatecrash that always sees us end up at the wrong front door with no party waiting.
But let's not underplay the influence we have as fans in all this. When AVB or Poch experiment and seek to adapt to try to find that balance in control does it not equate to the same desire to prioritise the 'result' over the style of play? I find that when we realise we're losing ground we just opt to go back to 'wanting to see us play the Tottenham way' because:
a) It's a safe zone where you know you'll be happy and you're trying to avoid admitting to yourself we've fallen behind
b) Trying to play the way the 'top four' play* might end up with 5th spot at best but won't be attractive to watch so it leaves you a touch empty and unfulfilled because you're not quite getting the best of both worlds
*Recently we're beginning to see less of the boring Chelsea template and more style (again, so easy to achieve when you have so many brilliant players - i.e. City)
So we malign the club for not being ambitious enough and then we malign it regardless of what happens in the aftermath. This bland football we are currently being treated too, erratic in delivery but occasionally capable of being great - is the direct consequence of us (the fans) wanting to be competitive which aligns with what Levy and company also want. We're not that different from our custodians, although objectively, we seek different end games.
If you're not competitive then you're just existing in the void that takes up the space around mid-table looking up at 6th spot. But as those top tier players are not available (compare how many creative players we have with City or Chelsea) it means that quintessential Tottenham football is beyond us currently. Hence the less risky (boring) template to which we seem to aim for. That's not to say that evolution (into pulsating football) won't follow. It's just that...we never wait long enough to see and just go ahead with a reboot and start over again. It seems it's easier for a Swansea to play with eye-catching fluidity but treacherous for us to attempt it. Go back several years and it was never a problem. Why? No pressure back then. No expectancy. Or rather, everyone was far more forgiving.
The season is three games old.
What we have is the usual disorganised early mess. We have one week till the transfer window shuts to fix up the areas of the team that need fixing. It's a brooding dark comedy when you consider this includes wanting more fire power, creativity, defensive midfield presence, leadership. It's pure rom-com when so much emphasis will be placed on the young players we have if nothing is forthcoming between now and the first of September.
How do I feel?
To summarise what I've ranted: I can hope we start to play attractive attacking football sooner rather than later. I'm one of those supporters that would be completely accepting of this especially if we get another cup run going. I don't stop banging on about our lost identity. Maybe we're not any closer to rediscovering it because we remain mentally hassled, fatigued. We don't have enough for the gung-ho and we're not quite complete for Poch and his pressing. I've definitely accepted the fact we've lost the urgency to gain Champions League as the be all and end all. Maybe that momentum wasn't real and the 'big' clubs have come out of their state of flux. Maybe we could have gatecrashed a couple of times recently but instead of climbing through that open window we lost our nerve and played knock-down ginger instead.
I want us to start playing like vintage (good) Spurs and it's important we have the right players to be able to do just that. Otherwise it'll be a calamitous mid-90s mess rather than a Berbatov/Keane Spurs or a gallivanting Redknapp team. Would a majority would be as forgiving? If you claim to be realist (and admit Spurs are struggling a touch) then you can surely be realistic and admit that CL football isn't an option?
I wanted something in the middle during AVB's tenure. I admit that. I accepted sacrifice. Only because I thought the hard graft, boring character building element of our form would be temporary. That we'd come out the other end with slap you down football. It never happened. With Poch, how can we possibly judge him if he's working within the constraints the club force upon him? Maybe there is pressure from within to remain competitive. Hence the less than glamorous football. It appears that having two wide men bombing it down the flanks with deliciously pacey through balls from central positions gelled together with sustained patches of high tempo is deemed a disease when attempted in the modern game. Not much daring from us here.
The reason many fans would not be forgiving is because of that expectancy weighing us down. We believe the club isn't doing enough to consolidate when we have form on our side. It's because of the journey we started just before 2010 without a roadmap and because of the faulty sat-nav that's had us driving in circles ever since.
It's one extreme to another and rarely something in the middle. Spurs Twitter (especially) is like the club scene before ecstasy, all coke heads gurning and fighting. The negative emotions would be inconsequential if we chose to be as expressive and free in mind set as the football we wish for (yeah, I'm dropping hippie philosophy bombs now). But we can't. We can't let go of the fact we're aggrieved by the owners of the club (there's valid reasons for it). There's mismanagement when balancing the football with the business and for many, ENIC do not separate the two. And because of that disconnection, we've forgotten what it feels like to just support without taking indirect guidance from the media, the board and this holy grail of transfers and managerial appointments we continually reach out for.
Why are things perceived to be so bad now? Are they actually that bad? This continuous cycle we find ourselves in (with the transfer policy, net spend, the non-build of the stadium, lack of transparency) - is it efficient for Levy probably because we always end up 5th or flirting with 4th? That this might actually be our level? That we perceive to be aiming higher but can't, so we get caught up with false hope and then lose the plot and want the coach sacked for the next attempted grab? Is it acceptable? Or is it just down to circumstance and luck when we momentarily get it right?
If we're not entertained or have that identifiable swagger about us, how long would you give someone to return it if there isn't a genuine deadline on what we're meant to be achieving? Don't worry about falling further behind. Revenue wise, we're chasing after them in a potato sack.
So what are we exactly?
The essence of modern Tottenham is to do the unexpected. It's out of accident rather than design when we somehow manage to pull it all together because as we've shown aplenty - we're not very good at the design part of any plan. I have faith in this, the unexpected. It's a ridiculous concept but then Spurs are fairly ridiculous. When it happens it's something you can lap up and enjoy. You can actually enjoy it. Like Harry Kane's explosion. You don't have to get bogged down with ego. You don't always have to be the one that got it right, that called it. There's no competition to be the oracle of misery. You don't have to predict the future or make sure you don't align yourself with a philosophy or opinion that could quite easily turn out to be wrong. You complain the football is lifeless yet abide by your own personal guidelines that give you no room to feel like you belong, preferring to detach further. That isn't a weakness by the way, to just endure the journey we're on. It takes far more guts than just waiting for everything to fail all of the time.
It's okay to wear your heart on your sleeve. Once upon a time that was pretty much the only requirement. But you know what, I can't tell you how to support. I'm not telling you how to support. This is my process. So much has changed in the game, it's like I'm constantly trying to hold onto something that doesn't really exist any-more (hippie come down).
One day soon when ENIC finish the stadium (stop laughing) we'll be a step closer to the only true way you can compete in the Premier League. Like those above us with their 300K weekly wages and FFP transfer swap-shops. That's a long way off and we wont have the pot of gold instantly, the second we shift away from the Lane into our new home. Take a look at our neighbours. It's a very long and drawn out process (and it's only thanks to the pool of players they had along with their manager that they remained competitive, be it without the titles). The sooner people wise up to it all the more comfortable this journey will be.
It's easy to fall out of love with football but it's far more difficult to reject Tottenham. So all I want is for the hairs on the back of my neck to stand when watching us play. Hairs on the back of neck. Simple things. Yet I still can't pretend I don't want us to retain a competitive edge - because when you have one it all becomes more intensified and therefore even more satisfying. It's right here where we lose our sense of direction. The sacrifice and risk and urgency for final product. It's never as simplistic as being black and white. Which is why after everything I've said, I'm still wanting the best of both worlds. I'm just not extreme whilst waiting around for it.
That's why I never lose faith. That's why I'm going to stick with the realm of the impossible. Maybe it's Dele Alli. Maybe it's Kane again. Or that last minute deadline day signing. Maybe those above us are capable of more flux. We'll see.
I'll let the rest of the negatives feed into the belly of the beast. They'll only get chewed up and spat out before being thrown back into its mouth again. Repeat till fade whilst I'm sat over here with that brave face and smile.