THFC 1 Leicester City 1
Only Tottenham Hotspur could remain unbeaten and still make it feel like a punishment.
One of my favourite things at the moment is seeing supporters state they'd rather lose trying to win a game than draw it. I think, perhaps, it should be pointed out that we are very much trying to win every game (even if the final result suggests we're doing our best to avoid it). It's the first time in history that our fanbase have actively advocated losing a football match in favour of not losing it, as long as we give it a right old go. This 'sacrifice all points to try and win all points' mantra is therefore deemed acceptable in that we would have given everything in our attempts.
Echoes of glory. The Bill Nicholson way. It worked when he had the players of the 60s. We've generationally proved it doesn't scan too well in the modern era aside from little adventures. We accepted the little ones but now we want big. We all do. It's exciting but ultimately flawed to just swashbuckle with offensive freedom. And before someone says this is anti-Tottenham crazy talk in how we stylise our football (to be more controlled), allow me to remind you of how hungry our fans are for success. Very.
Many on social media stated the following a few seasons back: "I don't care how we play, only the result matters". That's obviously an extreme but it proves how fragile we all get when attempting to process that horrible feeling of knowing how well we can do but miss out. Champions win ugly and some are quite happy to win ugly all of the time if it means being crowned at the end of it all. Some want the success and don't care for the journey, much preferring to travel the road to perdition instead.
It's mental. All of it. Spurs fans have already handed the title to our rivals and have given up on the 28 games left to play. It's a mess of the mind. A puddle of petulance.
I'm gladly not one of the lunatics in the asylum.
I've thrown a chair through the window and escaped into the wide open spaces. It would appear I have more room to express myself than the Spurs forward line at the moment. Badum tish.
Even though I don't agree with the very typical maddening finality that some of our own are currently indulging in, that doesn't mean I don't agree with the obvious that's being discussed by all. I'm most definitely not sat here looking on with green-eyed envy at them lot down the road, Manchester City (suddenly 'back in it' after a win) and all conquering Liverpool. The Anfield club simply score more than they concede (that famous Tottenham Bill Nich trait that we all wanted to upgrade so we could seriously consider challenging for the title some day).
The obvious is all that concerns me. It's summed up by the following hard hitting factual knowledge bombs of dizzying truth that I've copy and pasted off Twitter (that place I love to hate). I'm someone that bangs the drum of context and after four successive draws (three in the league) even though I'm nowhere near headbutting the panic switch, I can still point towards it and wonder if my sweaty brow will taste the destruction if I dare my forehead to collide with it.
1) Dele Alli's goal against WBA remains our only goal from open play in the last five games.
2) In the last five games we've produced: 73 shots on goal, scored 3 of which 2 were from the penalty spot.
Mother of fuc...
3) That's a shot to goal ratio of 73:1 (thanks to @dacl1177 for all the stats)
4) For in-game failure when it comes to providing movement and momentum, the Leicester City performance produced this gem that illustrates something I cited in the last match review (our missing ability to flourish with intricate, quick passing football):
Son and Dele failed to complete a single pass to Vincent Janssen. Not one. (James Maw sharing this particular Greek tragedy that lacks penetration in abundance).
5) It's our 18th draw in the calendar year of 2016.
Boring Boring Tottenham.
I'm not going to dismiss the fact that we could have won the games we drew. Including this particular home encounter, which wasn't the most exciting experience to endure. We made one mistake and from that mistake Claudio's team countered and scored. Victor Wanyama with a rare error and then Kyle Walker snoozing made for a miserably cheap equaliser. A giveaway. Of course, had we scored it, we would have been delighted.
It rendered that late first half penalty kick redundant. Janssen straight down the middle (he'll have to try something different next time we get a spot kick). He was always likely to win a foul in the box thanks to his relentless incitement of the LC defenders. He terrorised them into getting a little too personal, enough for the official to point in our favour. Maybe it wasn't a nailed on incident, but considering how inconsistent the man with the whistle was, I'd rather us than them be gifted with fortune.
Same old story in the end though. Not enough to find a killer second. The woodwork an absolute curse. We showcased something special at home to Manchester City. The type of tempo and aggression that very few could live with. Yet that determination to start from the very first kick, with ferocity and speed has lacked ever since the 2-0. It was like a teaser trailer for a brand new AAA console game only to then find out you have to wait a year before its release. It leaves you excited but fearful. There isn't enough content to suggest if the trailer will equate to a rich and vibrant full release. It's just a snapshot. But you keep the faith because it looks good and just hope there's no downgrade twelve months later.
We keep hearing these words but we don't actually see its required output where it matters most. Again, some will hate to hear this, but I'd rather be closer to winning games than actually losing them. We've not been pulled apart by anyone (although we lived dangerously in the second half of the Champions League game in Germany).
So how do Spurs regain their intensity?
How do we regain our killer instinct, taking ruthless bites out of the team we face and devouring their hope like a swarm of piranhas? How do we turn the potential draws into wins? How do we adjust to make sure (in select games) that we go nowhere near the single point when taking that extra calculated risk because deep down we know we're good enough to punish the opposition rather than punishing (ooh) ourselves?
Where's the dismantle and destroy switch gone? Whatever happened to the magic? How exactly do we go about scoring fantastic goals again?
We've had an imperfect start, no arguments there. Whether it's the EURO hangover sucking the menace out of Eric Dier. The realities of Premier League life testing Dele Alli's resolve and resilience. The injury to Mousa Dembele and Harry Kane's initial fatigue followed by his time-out. The dysfunctional Christian Eriksen, erratic and limp more often than a ninja of space and time. Son sparked but his shine has dimmed, perhaps rotation and positional changes haven't helped when attempting to accommodate others. There's Janssen and his isolated misadventure in the final third and the continued saga of Erik Lamela's multiple personality disorder.
Spurs are suffering in key areas. In all areas. The fans are suffering in terms of comparing us in the very present to what we know we're capable of in our very recent past. Arguably, we're still hungover from the end of last seasons campaign. Yet any positive improvement could springboard us above and beyond most around us.
Our defence (error or two aside) have been superb but they can't be left holding us up. The pressure on them has to be alleviated by completing our attacking endeavour by actually sticking the ball in the sodding net.
Kane. Alli. Eriksen. Lamela (was unavailable on Saturday due to illness). Dembele. When this backbone is present, Spurs produce powerful and pacey push and run. Lovely little delicate through-balls and triangulated passages of play. It flows like a beautiful stream basking in a sun drenched landscape with a brown bear marauding through it, feasting on fish, satisfying its hunger and occasionally killing a stupid human that walks into its domain.
Having the perfect line-up isn't something we can always bank on (we miss Toby Alderweireld) but we should still have enough about us to do more than muddle through. The reality is, our forward thinking midfield is a dried up stream and the bear is a rug in a hungers trophy room. Tottenham need to wake up. We can't sit back and let teams settle, especially at the Lane. We are surrendering the games narrative, allowing others to improvise, stopping us from directing our own script.
Look at how we canned Man City from executing what they had planned pre-match. We set the arc and forced them to follow it with the utmost discomfort and our viewing pleasure. Even when they attempted to react we contained them. Improvisation shouldn't be discounted from our perspective either, it's what we lack at the moment. The script has gone stale.
The venom in our shots has to also improve tenfold. Tottenham have to start smacking the odd thunderbastard. Yes, we've struck the woodwork a few times and tested the keeper we've faced but we should be pressuring the opposing back-line, bullying them - a lot more than we do. Teams are starting to contain us the way we contain them. With relative comfort.
There isn't a refined style or pattern to the way we attack. It's stagnated because all our main characters are not delivering their lines. We're doing the same thing over and over again without mixing it up enough. This isn't about having a Plan B. It's about fixing Plan A.
Maybe we have to see it through until Kane is back. He's after-all, vital, proven by last seasons 'success'. Then we have to worry about how long it will take him to regain full sharpness once he's back in the side. That's a lot of weight for him to carry on his shoulders (again). Although if there's a player than can handle the stress, it's him (once he's back to full freshness). He hasn't rested for three years. He was over due this, even if the circumstances weren't the best.
We need guile when seeking to eradicate congested space.
Eriksen, I'm looking at you to go back to being a Great Dane from your current incarnation as a Shih Tzu. Our football is very much dependent on countering with speed. Turning defence into attack is a worthy weapon but it shouldn't be the only one in our arsen...ah...in our weapons cabinet. Perhaps everyone has once more wised up to us and defend deep to frustrate. Much like under Harry Redknapp post 2011 season. Other teams (above us) are having more favourable results because their games are more open. Sacrificing just about enough (which we should be able to do with our solid defence) might have to be considered but not in a way that would benefit others to take a dangerous advantage.
The balance is key.
It's the balance we found at peak moments last season. Strong yet with ample swagger. It's that place that caters for the ones that are desperate for top tier silverware and still want a taste of that Nicholson utopia. What Mauricio Pochettio is working towards (AVB and Ossie Ardiles being the two opposite ends of really deliberate and overly disciplined football and free flowing screw defending hilarity).
Spurs have to be creative, inventive and take more risks. We have the players but not the form. But class is permanent, right? And if there's a spearhead, an injection of something extra that forces others to attain the same level of intensity - then it all falls back into place. Yes?
Remember this from earlier in the article?
In the last five games we've produced: 73 shots on goal.
Creating isn't the problem but refining those creations is. Having a crack doesn't necessarily equate to polished football. But an inch here or there and it won't matter and it would probably open the game up to our advantage and allow for chances to be taken with a lot more ease.
This slump (three successive draws is a slump in this brave new world we live in) will be excusable if we resolve it and avoid a similar brick wall moment come May. Other clubs have found their stride but there is no telling what engine trouble they might encounter in the weeks and months ahead. For me, I don't want to keep having to excuse our own faults. Not because I plan to lose my sh*t and call for Mauricio to be sacked. Rather that if we do want to contend, I'd prefer not to have to see us do all the chasing again. It's all we have ever done. It's what we are trying to break free from. Nobody is going to roll out the red carpet for us. I wouldn't walk on it if they did.
Bayer. Arsenal. West Ham. Monaco. Chelsea.
It's hardly fair, is it? This cruel mocking calendar that laughs in our face. These five games are hardly appealing when attempting to reclaim ye olde swagger. But then again, it's probably the only set of games that could inspire us to produce something with end product worthy of expectancy. Spurs always seem to do it the hard way and this fixture list is anything but easy.
So here we are. Individually and collectively, we've lost our rhythm. The music is out of tune. We've gone from peak progressive house with melodic flavours to brutal minimal tech with monotonous drilling beats. We're going to need to drop another pill or two to find a happy medium.
COYS it is then.