"If we're not in Europe, we're nothing". Bill Nicholson.
"When we're in Europe, we're nothing". Tottenham Hotspur since around 2008.
Although to be fair, we had one stunning adventure in the Champions League, but this is more about the chore that the Europa League is for English clubs. Mostly us. We've not won a knock-out stage game for nine odd years. I think. If I'm making that up then it's because it seems like nine years.
Not a lot changed in Belgium even if the line-up was near full strength. Which I guess is the number one problem we have at the moment. Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs is the best in the land (and might well be capable of continental class) if we actually played with our best eleven. It's nigh impossible to expect that from any team, especially one that doesn't have the depth to cover both selection and formation rotation due to injuries. Near full isn't good enough. But then again, nobody really showed enough of what was required.
We're over-achieving when we look at the bigger picture. Yet still just about contenders regardless. It's probably the very best purgatory we've ever sat in. We're closer to heaven than we are to hell. As long as we know we have to get moving soon, otherwise the limbo will drain all of the hope away leaving us to fall into one of those downward spirals again.
It's the same old excuse but it's one that is unavoidable factually, on paper and out on the pitch. No fake news here. Spurs get trumped because we're stretched. No Danny Rose means balance is practically sucked out of our three man back-line and the flank dynamism the wing-backs give us. We looked better when we switched back to it in the second half but we still appeared disjointed and disinterested compared to the levels we're capable of.
Here's the thing. We're in a little bit of a slump at the minute. No goal from open play for a while and we look devoid of sharpness. It's happened before and we've worked our way out of it. The problem with it happening now is, we lose any of the next three games and our season is pretty much done.
The game against Gent was a snooze-fest. It once more illustrates that even a mid-table side from an inferior European league can muster up the desire and urgency in a 180 minute cup game. I've seen it discussed a few times before and again last night; they (European clubs) take it seriously, we don't. Thank Sky Sports money and club owners and boards for redefining proprieties and pressures on their managers and coaches. Top Four is the new trophy cabinet. Finances are pivotal, the business side is the priority. Pragmatically, it makes sense to assist with paying top tier wages because it's the only way to certifiably challenge. The game isn't completely about glory anymore. I'm often pulled apart by the push for progression (of stature) and the one off moments of euphoria cup finals can potentially give. Shiny silverware or the ability to challenge for the title? That's how it's gift-wrapped to us. That's why we are so conflicted.
You've heard all this before. It's bog standard blog fodder for Europa write-ups. Analysing the football played and individuals won't be fun, so I wont. We played collectively like wastemen. Hardly showed any ingenuity. Those questions relating to leadership and that bit of extra something in the final third won't be answered until the next transfer window. The one before last gave us Moussa Sissoko which showcases that no matter what you do, there's always an element of risk with your purchase. For every £5M Dele there's a £30M mistake.
Before everyone screams knowingly they knew he was rubbish before he signed 'because Newcastle', plenty felt Victor Wanyama wouldn't improve our team either. The logic behind Sissoko was to have a direct player that runs centrally and give us a surge of offensiveness that is an alternative to the traditional slow build up play. He's got a heavier touch than a pissed up Chirpy trying to flirt with a rejecting Chirpette. Add to it a smashed to bits internal compass. There's been little evidence he'll ever fit in and even Poch struggles to anchor him to a suitable position.
Modern day football will just pat you gently on the back and say, 'Don't worry, £30M ain't sh*t these days'. Which is fair, but surely we could have signed a player with more recognisable pedigree? Guess playing for France (and doing so with more discipline) was enough for us to part with the money. Mane was the man but apparently (according to him) he wanted the Liverpool move. What happened to the days of plucking out a Modric or a Berba? I guess those types of players prefer a move to Chelsea to either be benched or loaned out.
I'm not scapegoating. I feel sorry for Ben Davies too. He's not Danny Rose. He'll never be Danny Rose. He will always be compared to Danny Rose. If we're going to play with the same system when Rose is out then we need a player of similar agility to cover. We have work to do if we're going to be able to play with true 'champions' mettle that gives way to forceful momentum. Stop start stop start will mean we fall short every time.
Listening to the players talk about the necessity of silverware to solidify a winning mentality is grand but means little if action doesn't match words. This game is one of confidence. A tidy performance against Fulham and we're back in business. Such a fragile lot are footballers.
I'll stop now. Otherwise I'll rant on and on and just repeat the same old same old.
It’s gonna be alright people. Don't fret. There’s a second leg.
Under the lights at the Lane.
I mean at Wembley.
I mean....sh*t...we’re getting knocked out.