...continued from here.
The fallout of Kyle Walker's departure and the Danny Rose tabloid interview has been a right old kick in the balls. This is the missing dynamism. Those two players. One gone, the other possibly going.
Spurs evolution from the all conquering swarming, pressing side to the swashbuckling wing-backs was a team going from strength to strength. The Rose injury last season allowed Davies to deputise whilst this season Trippier and Serge swap and change on the opposite flank. Rotation. There's too much of it. We had two players that were prime, first choice. Now we have this weird transitional period where we choose not to settle on a pair, allowing them to build some momentum. Instead we are constantly breaking momentum.
But then, how easy is it to actually replace last seasons double option so quickly this term?
Think about this for a moment. Poch made Rose into a proper player, the best left-back in the country. He made him practically undroppable. Walker became an essential conduit for release, with his magnificent pace, giving us that zest of escape from our area into the oppositions. The reality is, as solid as Trips and Davies have been on occasions - they are better suited to deputise. They don't have the combined abilities of a Rose/Walker combo. Serge has just arrived too. Rose is recovering but rumours persist about his future.
Is the issue the fact we didn't replace Walker? We did though. It's just not an over night fix. It's not pleasant knowing we've weakened ourselves until a later point but there you go. Many Spurs fans thought we weakened the team by playing Walker ('He's got no positioning' in the first place whilst others abused Rose and his five year contract. Guess what...none of us know anything. We just pretend to do after the fact.
No matter the complaining about why we let Walker go in the first place (regardless of everything, he'd have left, the 'falling out' made it easier / or less easier to digest), we are still working towards improvement. It's just fragmented. It'd prefer at this point to chuck in Serge and Rose and let them work towards peak fitness and style, only chopping and changing to protect them rather than sharing two positions between four players.
By doing the constant swapping, there is no intensity with competition. Look at how well Davies played last season when he came into the side as cover and performed to consolidate that honour (not just slot in believing he was safe as there was no further back up option). You need your players, all of them, to respect the privilege of being in the starting eleven.
Is Toby really out until April? Sanchez will be missing for three games now so perhaps this is another opportunity for Dier to slot back into the centre of the backline and retain that responsibility for the foreseeable future. He's far better there than he is in the middle, at least on recent showings. It's not what he'd prefer but this is about the team and not the individual. We need to see that the individual(s) also believe in this ultimately pivotal mindset.
We look like conceding goals every game. That's very unlike this team. If the fullbacks do more than simply react to having to defend and are used as an outlet, then the backline will return to a more robust and suitable foundation to build on. It's not helpful that our forwards are struggling to alleviate the pressure down the other end. If you wobble at the back then the encouragement the opposing team get will apply further pressure. Football in these moments is fairly simplistic, hence the frustration from us. We don't have to pretend here.
Injured players -
Victor Wanyama has been a devastating loss. The options centrally are almost limited because of his absence. With him in there, we have our defensive destroyer. The anchor. Then depending on the game we can play Winks (quick, short passing), Dembele (retention of the ball), Dier (if we are in need to flood the midfield with muscle). When you consider Toby's absence then Spurs have serious spine damage. The nerves are causing intermittent spasms. It's uncomfortable for all concerned.
Poch has made mistakes in selection (hindsight is wonderful), playing Mousa when Harry W should have been the choice and vice versa. Dier's continued shift from defence to the middle is an annoyance he's struggled to hide and at times this season he's appeared pedestrian when partnered centrally. The war is won in midfield. Winning isn't just about containment of territory. You have to destroy anything that dares to claim it back from you.
Here's the crux of it all. We are super reliant on our key players. Our key players are almost all of what we would consider our best starting eleven. In the past few seasons under Poch, the team have had to prove worthy of selection via Hotspur Way. Returning players would have to fight to get back into the team. Because of the nature of how we 'came to be' (nobody predicted it) it lends to the theory that the momentum of rediscover and reinvention moulded the side and its strengths. Everything fell into place.
Poch worked out the issues of burn out. He forged tenacity and fortitude. The more games we won, the more confident we got and the easier it was to retain a sense of calm and composed intelligence in games where we went a goal behind.
But what happens when you reach the top end of the level you're at?
Have we hit that top level?
Probably so with what we have available to us - injuries and all. There's depth when everyone is fit and we're on form because it all works. Stating the bleeding obvious. But we've had to accommodate several 'key' players this season whilst they've struggled to find their imperious form. We don't have anything to counter the mass drop in confidence. An issue of player acquisitions? Stubbornness with targets? Questions for the ages right there.
We need more of the same type of quality we already have so there's no room for excuses that X team has more top tier players than us. We've proven with an eleven that you don't need to spend half a billion quid. But if we spent a little more like we've done already we'll have that difference waiting on the bench.
There's a Champions League game on Wednesday. We all know the players that need a rest. Even Kane has been lashing hopeful shots in desperation. Eriksen has been emotionally drained for a while (gaffer has even admitted it) yet he's still selected. Lamela isn't fit enough to start every game (yet), so here's where the depth issue rises up again. We've qualified top so the game against the Cypriots might as well be a training exercise. Poch has prioritised Europe this season, which let's be honest, should not be a criticism considering the point of qualification to the competition in the first place. But it shouldn't be detrimental to our league campaign. For this game, there is no risk. So take a risk.
The real issue is rotation in the league games.
Sometimes there's too much, sometimes there's not enough. I guess this changes depending on the result and the analysis we dish out in the aftermath.
An interesting fact from @F365 that can be translated depending on your mood states that Spurs have made 67 subs in all comps, resulting in one goal and one assist. Either we don't have the players to make the impact required or the stat is an irrelevant piece of fluff. Relevant only because of the past few results. What about all the games in those 67 occasions that we won? And the subs consolidated that victory right? I would still be concerned when chasing a game. Perhaps an Edwards on the bench would aid that something extra required?
Attacking issues -
I'm not worried here. It's more about the team as a whole, if not functioning right, it will have detrimental effects on players and our natural flow. We've been missing sitters recently so getting into goal-scoring situations hasn't been a problem even with the lack of influence from Eriksen and others. What is worrying is how snatchy we are in the final third. Too eager to shoot because we're admitting to ourselves there's pressure. The presence of composure has been lost. We look like we're over-thinking it all, too anxious to set it right.
Culture of Comfort -
Poch got rid of the CoC we had festering to different degrees over the past twenty years and now he has one of his own doing. It's not like he's purposely allowed it to happen although it's up to him to manage it and avoid it next time.
It's a consequence of evolution.
Like hunter gathers from primal times, living in the wild and adapting to the threat of predators and rival tribes. Now we're swaggering around with iphones, immersed in augmented reality and sat indoors all day at a desk basking in artificial light. Then wondering why we feel depressed, ignoring our subconscious that is screaming imprisonment. Sure, there's little to no chance of being eaten alive whilst you dash to the local convenience store but our bodies and our minds are not suitable for this modern day concrete jungle. But we have the option, to escape. Not forever but enough to maintain a healthy life style, one we control rather than one that controls us.
wtf does this mean for Tottenham? Simply put, we've accepted what we've become and have given our freedom to the system that allowed us to blossom, surrendering that primal instinct to adapt. Why? Because at the height of success you don't consider losing it. You believe turning up is enough for it to play out. We've momentarily lost it. We have to adapt to survive. We have to adapt to bring it all back home to roost.
Poch has to fix it like he's fixed everything else. He fixed all the legacy institutionalised problems that were created by those before him. The culture of comfort Michael Carrick referred to back in the day. This one is different because our comfort comes from breeding on field footballing success (in terms of contention). That past comfort was because players saw Spurs as an easy place to settle into. Money and no pressure to improve. That is not a Pochettino mantra.
The complacency can also be a consequence of not being at White Hart Lane. We've all tried to under play this, even Poch. But he's even come out and suggested the national stadium is a problem.
I think the positive thing here is that we already know what a full pelt Poch team is capable of. So we have an expectancy to re-target. We want to succeed and because of Poch's mantra he won't accept the dip. Everyone has to pull together if they want it reversed back to what it was. Individual dips of form and injuries won't make it easy.
The spirit of the team, the togetherness -
This is everything. It comes about when players are on form and the transitional phases of our play sync into one fluid movement from back to front to counter. It's the glue. Without it we're unstuck. You're seeing that now. Spurs are getting bullied. Looking a little soft centred.
The big question is, are the players capable as a unit of producing that same momentum we previously owned? The spirit came from that surge to better ourselves. We claimed that, now what? Do they have that desire to grab it all back and push on up to the next level? Or is there a ceiling to the level we face? Do players prefer to look elsewhere for rejuvenation, because money is the most vital of all ingredients when it comes to ambition?
My raw thoughts on all of this?
I accept we can dip and that every team can face struggles. It's how we react to it that remains paramount. In the past the dips were one off occasions. We're a team that up until this season hardly lost games. Although we did experience a dull set of results last term that we grafted through and recovered from.
Inexperience and naivety has cost us on those one off occasions. That's an unavoidable learning curve and essential to our growth. But this current run of form is different. We're not reacting. Not enough. Some of the body language of certain players looks way off point. As a collective, it's criminal to simply give up and not fight to claw it all back.
I'm not about to implode over it. Not yet. But I'm close. Nobody has given up. It will harm them more in the long run if they did.
Worse case scenario?
If the players don't react, I won't be left with any other option because there's a point in any narrative when you know if they no longer care. When self-sabotage kicks in to force a reboot. My belly is full of kool-aid and I refuse to believe there's no honour and pride in these players. I personally think it's a disgrace to even suggest it. I'm having to validate my support and it's so unnecessarily dramatic.
Faith. I can't lose it. But I can have it stolen form me.
...concluded in Part III