Sophomore Spurs still in Purgatory
A game of two halves.
A solid first 45, we did little wrong till the equaliser. Movement and pace was undeniable. Players up for it. Tempo perfect. Second half, different story. Chelsea superb, optimum use of wing backs, got done, unable to grasp the momentum the hosts owned. Hate to do this but when you compare benches, there's no comparison, once more illustrating how pivotal it is for us to field a fully strength side (which, let's face it, isn't going to happen throughout the entirety of the season).
It wasn't too bad a performance with context in mind when accepting current form. It was still desperately lacking key functional cogs in a system that isn't completely broken and beyond repair. Plenty of oil is required along with astute engineering. We are too easily rattled. We are the ones that usually bully the opposing team.
So ultimately it's disappointing when compared to peak Tottenham, which we've not seen enough of so far this season. Our best ever worst run of games persists. Everything I have to say relating to it was shared in my previous blog. So I wont repeat with the same level of grand detail here. Instead, here's a short (by my standards) concluding summary having had time to digest another lull:
Mauricio Pochettino and his team are nowhere near full capacity with application and execution and are quite obviously lagging with responsibility in key areas. You've heard it before, I know. Not a lot has changed in the past month or so. The issue is with the performance that comes after a loss or draw. Our ability to bounceback is frozen, nothing hot about Spurs right now. We are a volcano that attempts to rage and then fail to cough up a single drop of lava. We retain an erratic reaction to every result. We're not really improving as a unit and it's not helped with some players spiking whilst others dip and some remain in constant stagnation.
The likes of Harry Kane and Mousa Demeble have had to return into the fold. Others haven't quite rediscovered their spark. You can't dismiss the fact that our foundations have been shaken with the constant shifting of formation and personnel. We grew into the team we became last season, with every game. I keep stating this, maybe I'm drinking kool-aid when doing so, but I think it's important to remember.
Our defence simply hasn't been the same without Toby Alderweireld. We disappointed against Monaco, more so in selection than anything else. We got knocked out of the Champions League (ignoring previous results in Europe that went some way to making our exit happen) based on what looked like prioritising the away trip to Stamford Bridge.
We are getting it half right every time. There's an imbalance. There's also a necessity to fine tune what we have available rather than constantly bemoan what we don't.
Poch is learning on the go in terms of constructing a side that can truly contend with the establishment. Having got us playing tight and powerful football, he now has to get us out of this tight and uncomfortable spot. This is the follow-up. The difficult second album after the multi platinum selling debut. Sophomore Spurs ain't hitting the right notes. We don't need high production values and over elaborate set-ups. We need a return to the acoustic rich and vibrant sounds of our raw energy. Bob Dylan before he went electric.
There's some stubbornness in there, repeated risk. Occasionally, the gamble backfires and as supporters these moments are always hurtful (even if in the long run they work out to be imperative experience points for mental growth). Is Poch learning from his mistakes? Are those selection worries a consequence of still not having a squad strong enough? Are we stretched beyond the expectancy we have as supporters (i.e. we always want the best possible line-up in every game)?
Maybe our over-achievement last season (if you wish to bang that particular drum) is not because of the 'weakened' seasoned clubs that failed to show up. It's because we got 'lucky' in terms of never truly losing our key players during the run. When we did, we fell apart. Although mentally, we switched off after the battle at the Bridge and the players didn't give a f*ck about the 'bragging rights' for second spot - their minds said yes, their bodies said no.
Spurs at their very best can beat anyone. Spurs at their very best is us playing a full strength eleven. As I've already mentioned, that isn't always possible. Its yet to happen this season. Our next step in the Poch evolution is to have more than a single trait to our character. We teased it with the City win. But the one performance can shift from being a benchmark to a rare cameo. We need more from our players and the manager. Enough of the apologetic self-awareness. This isn't the Spurs Poch built.
Sometimes, to produce magic you need to improvise. Not everything great can come from disciplined focus and deliberate organised transitions from midfield into attack. The risks we're taking are not in the moment. They are a consequence of thinking about future imminent moments (if you believe the Monaco game was deemed second best in preparation for the Chelsea one). We lost both. No springboard for momentum here.
Spurs need another edge to their game but what makes this a sticky period of time is that we also need that aggressive tough tenacious edge we moulded last season as a means to afford the expressive variant. One thing is a certainty and it's something that will divide the fanbase. It's the fact that Pochettino values the bread and butter of the league above everything else, including chasing cup final dreams. He wants the biggest one of them all and will sacrifice everything for it. It's another paradoxical conundrum for us to chew on.
Incredibly, for the first time in decades, winning the league isn't such a far fetched concept. It's probably far easier to focus on a domestic cup and win that. Wanting to win the league is a fantastic attitude to have but perhaps we can concentrate on that once we string a few wins together first.
The ambitions of our coach and our players too (and keeping them as a group together) is down to the mentality that's been forged. Especially off the back of last season's flawed heroics. Winning silverware is what we all want, to be able to live in the moment. It's also a nice way of cementing belief within the club. Wanting something that's even more glorious is always going to be frustrating if we fall short as the odds are routinely stacked heavily against us. Of course, echoes of glory is what Bill Nick built this club on. It's a lot to undertake when attempting to validate our progression and our desires, as a club a team and as fans.
We are striving to be the best and much like the first season under Poch was a little untidy (because it had to be) this one is proving to be tricky for brand new reasons birthed from the 'success' we had during the last campaign.
For now, for the immediate future, it's not about asking for something new, it's about recapturing the recent old. I hate to say this because I sound like every other knee-jerker* out there but...the January transfer window is going to be huge for us. Isco or not, we need that missing catalyst. What has happened so far has proved beyond any doubt (if you were still a non-believer) that we need a difference maker. One that isn't reliant on the form of others around him to perform and influence. This is one thing that's been repeated on here and by most of you since the summer.
*I'm only guessing as I'm not currently active on Twitter and haven't read any other blogs or websites for over a month +
Moussa Sissoko was meant to offer us something extra (shout out again to previous article published) when breaking from central positions. Last I heard he's been dropped thanks to contradictory comments made. Poch claims it was tactical. I honestly don't care for the gossip. I want every one of our players to be a success. We waited three seasons for Erik Lamela to offer us something (and he's still not quite there), so a handful of games isn't enough for me to give up on Moussa...or Poch or this team.
Siege mentality it is then. I'll stand here on my own if I have to.
I'll let all the tactical experts explain to you how we go about picking ourselves up.