Going Home

 

Tottenham have embraced a c-word that is only offensive in the face of our rivals; consistency. We've finished in the top three of the Premier League for the third successive season. On each occasion pre-season predictions amongst pundits and grounded supporters would have bet against us each time to achieve this. The odds are always stacked against Spurs, more so this season what with half of the 38 games sat in rented accommodation in Wembley.

Yet amazingly we can knowingly accept disappointment in not producing something a little more. Not just in the way of silverware but in truly challenging in the league. Le's be honest, one hundred point Man City have been on another planet this season. So we're left with our ENIC budget and glorious net spend and the reality that we have once more marvellously over-achieved based on the financial comparisons so many obsess with.

What if? hey? What if we did break the bank or take a risk? Is that even viable when you start doing the math and work out we fall short several hundred million to even wish we could duplicate others sat above us.

Poch will interject here to clarify a summer blueprint of hope that we finally admit consolidation of consistency is grand but to push things forward we need something more.

"We need to talk between us and the club. I have a very clear idea of what we need to do. I do not know if the club will agree with me or not, but we are going to talk next week to create what I think we need to do together again, to try to improve.
That is a little bit up to Daniel and the club, to agree with us because, after four years, I think we need to assess that period if we want to compete for big, big trophies.
I think all that we achieved until today is fantastic but it will be so important to create again. The clubs ambition is always to win but it is not easy to find the way. I think it is so important that we are going to move to the new stadium, but not only that is going to make us close to winning.
I think they are going to listen to me but sometimes I have some crazy ideas. But you need to be brave in this kind of situation, in our club with our unbelievable fans, and take risks. I think it is a moment for the club to take risks and try to be competitive.
I am sure Daniel is going to listen to me and of course we can create together to help the team to move on."

Battle cry in at the end. To repeat, Spurs are the most consistent side in the league. It's a very decent foundation we've built. We either retain this label of over-achievers or we force our way into truly breaking the seasonal expectancy.

Back to this later.

The game against Leicester was utterly bonkers. It played out like a pre-season friendly, frantic and untidy (especially in defence). Our excuse at the back was the four changes made and the awkward Wanyama and Sissoko partnership. That and the fact the game didn't truly mean anything (regardless of supporters wanting us to finish above Liverpool - which let's face it, is a nice touch). 

Not going to analyse the game. Mainly because of its irreverence. Although massive shout out to the king, Harry Kane.

His record thus far:

13/14 - 3
14/15 - 21
15/16 - 25
16/17 - 29
17/18 - 30 (41 in all comps)

I'd wager he'll score 33+ next season in the league and continue to claim record after record. He's so good that some are beginning to take him for granted. He's so good that we still haven't figured out a way to suitably protect him with cover (like for like, if that's even possible).

KWP had a superb second half and recovery after some early game naivety. He does need bulking up. Erik Lamela scored goals. They'll be diminished thanks to the occasion. To be honest, he remains an enigma of debate. Does enough of what Poch wants him to do but not enough of what we expect him to do. Toby was involved, perhaps for the last time. Jan injured pre-match and announced as our player of the year. I guess handing it to Kane every season wouldn't be fair even if he deserves it. Jan also deserves to be rewarded for his graft and elegance. 

Meanwhile, expect the press to suggest Spurs have had another disappointing season whilst they turn a blind eye to others around us and pretend their low key output financed by untold millions isn't worth a mention. I'll probably repeat this line again later.

As for Wembley, we've had some classic entertainment, leaving us with memories we're able to cherish during our stay away from N17. Liverpool. United. Madrid. Then there's that early form were we stuttered which probably meant in the end that 2nd place was surrendered only because of that unavoidable transition. To put it into context, at home this season we've placed 5th in the form table (on goal difference) with 13 wins, 4 draws and two defeats. In total 43 points. In comparison to those above us (ignoring City) it's not that shabby. If we were still at the Lane...yadda yadda yadda.

Away from home we enjoyed Madrid, Dortmund and of course Chelsea. Our league form on our travels sees us 2nd in the table behind City. Fine margins. We lost five games and collected 34 points. City notched 50 points. They've had a freakishly great season and the comparisons I guess are unfair on us and others. But my point is, we've been bloody superb regardless of the obvious deficiencies we suffer from occasionally. I think it's healthy to feel despondent at times because it means in these rare moments we accept the truth that there is still room for improvement. If there wasn't, this project by Levy and Poch would be doomed to failure. Which in this instance is not winning the title (or a cup). Which is no different to any other team we've had accept this team should be winning silverware. In the past we deluded ourselves.

I wont miss Wembley. I want us to return again even if it means chewing on my heart for the duration of a semi-final that no doubt I'll expect us to lose. I wont miss those long walks back to the trains. I miss N17. I don't frequent games as often as I want but when I do I've felt detached much like most of us making that awkward journey to the national stadium. Sat in a place with God awful acoustics and fragmented support. I wont miss the popcorn eating casuals either.

What awaits us back home in Tottenham is a canvas that we must make sure we paint with the vibrancy of emotive passion. Sure, the popcorn will be replaced by cheese boards and a micro-brewery. The clubs calamitous decision making over the 1882 section of the single tier stand (tickets still available) is also something I can't quite shake off. A case of customers before loyal supporters. Still, that canvas is blank and I have faith in us - as a fanbase - to vocalise our desire and inspire this team onto great things. The year away will fuel us no doubt. 

To go back to Poch and his quote, we do need something special this summer. Yes, it's highly likely Spurs will finish top three again next season. City might not produce the same imperious brilliance again (to the levels attained this term) and the title chase might be a close affair. Unless they go out and spend another £500M.

We can't, however, hope this happens (them suffering micro-stutters). We can't allow the universe to dish out another Leicester City fluke of circumstance. Reactive is how we've progressed, pushing onwards and digging in. We need to be pro-active. Every area that is deemed a weakness needs patching up. We need to raise competition within the squad again but also sign players that aren't just squad filler. 

I don't mean this in a detrimental way. We're not old Spurs, we're not going to sign marquee players to mask the impotency of others. We do need an injection of pace, a resolution to how we cover Kane if required (rest or injury). A means to rotate with more freedom and not lose the cohesive nature of safe guarding momentum. Levy needs to give Poch ammunition to fire back at the corrupt narrative that Spurs are under achieving. We're not. Based on what I've discussed here already. But if we do bring in players of genuine quality (the finished article type) then sure, let the media pin a target on our backs and watch us thrive under the pressure.

Spurs are easy to pick on when it comes to fabled soundbites like 'they've got to win something or else' whilst other clubs are routinely ignored or protected (tin foil hat is on). I don't mind, I enjoy the idiocy of the mainstream press and tv coverage. If we want to close the gap, make the margin so fine that it comes down to the raw football and not the accountancy of a wage bill. Levy has to find a way to give Poch what he wants. Then internally, belief and ability is galvanised. Considering the work the Argentine has already achieved in changing our culture, it would feel like a criminal waste of his potential not to back him in what is (to borrow from Gary Lineker) a watershed moment for the club.

That's if the club want to be more than what we are now. Surely there is no better business model than having the team (The Investment) push their stature and worth higher by claiming titles and the like?

Now, I have not a clue what the answer is. We can't break our wage structure. We're talking £100M or so difference between us and other clubs when it comes to wages (if not more). Can we get creative with it to bridge that gap? We know we have one of the best bonus structures in the league. If we're going to let a top tier player go, surely replacing him will cost as much? Is Poch a victim of his own success when it comes to in-house development and improvements which is why we always buy young, maturing talent?

It's not only about signing players that will be epic (Sanchez) if a little rough round the edges presently. It's about signing certifiable game changers that give us an edge and make the difference in games where we currently fail to find a way through. We have some truly superb players in our team but it's not enough. It's just a fact that we can't ignore if we want more out of our endeavours. We wont get close to City in terms of the sheer depth of their quality but signing players for the future wont push us closer either.

As for potential targets, are players likely to want to sign for us when they can go elsewhere and earn three times as much? Maybe after everything I've said, consolidating top three is all we can do based on what we have available.

I saw this at the end of every season. We discuss this at the end of every season. Then we don't quite match the proposed ambition we lust for. Next season Spurs will be expected to finish top 4 or top 3. Unlike prior seasons. So this is a watershed moment for us.

Maybe the Poch quote above is just Poch being Poch. He tends to avoid saying anything that can't be consumed with relative ease by the journos and sometimes even us. On this occasion, he seems to have a plan and he's mass broadcasting it to the world. It's as direct as you can get without being threatening. A sort of a passive semi-polite threat.

From a business perspective, this plan might break the model that Levy lives by, if it is about money. We can only assume so because, well, money is the be all and end all of what makes football work. Unfortunately.

Surely we can afford (even with the stadium build) to take that risk. To speculate to accumulate. Because if we do something unexpected or leftfield...and from that births a moment history will never forget...then it was worth it for all involved. This chance, this opportunity, the slow brooding momentum we have forged in the past three seasons...it can not be wasted. After-all, echoes of glory, why not just say f**k it and go for broke. Spiritually rather than literally fiscally. Take that leap of faith. 

This blog has turned into a bit of a stream of consciousness. So apologies for the lack of editing, typos and grammatical misdemeanours but it's end of season and the players aren't the only ones needing a sunbed.

I know that deep down ENIC have this thing about being straight laced, straight down the middle, fully committed to their targets (with profit and potential profit) and are proud of the on the field achievements of the team whilst running the club in this fashion. This is probably enough for them. At least that's how they're perceived by us. The aforementioned calamity with the new stadium seating prices is proof of this too. So them suddenly switching to match the hunger of the supporters and the coach is quite far fetched. Yet it now appears to be an ultimatum that can't be ignored. 

Poch can't take us any further forward if there are constraints within. Again, I could go off on a tangent here and write 10,000 words on how belonging is all that matters and Spurs are in the best shape they've been in for decades. I agree, we are. I also agree this side deserves accolades beyond the niceties of plaudits. We've not had this ilk of talk from Poch in the past, aside from very recent statements made after the FA Cup semi-final defeat concerning his future. Maybe something is being exaggerated or lost in translation. Or maybe not and the finality in his words are truth bombs detonating around the house that ENIC built. When he refers to '100%' when discussing staying or leaving, I understand why you would be uncomfortable with his tone.

However, it wasn't too long ago Poch was suggesting him and Levy were best mates, both sat on the same page in the same book singing the same hymn. If football has taught us one thing it's that things can turn to sh*t over night. There's no suggestion it has turned to sh*t. It's simply self-awareness right? We're not going to settle with what we have because if we do - as manager and players - then it will fall apart. It's the flaw in Levy's business model. You can't settle for what we have even though what we have is outstanding. Outstanding becomes the expected, the norm and thus a standard that needs to be bettered.

Gary Neville stated we've had a brilliant season. Ignore the narratives in the media that only exist to deflect the misgivings of others, we are punching well above our weight which is why Poch should be lauded for his efforts. Again, to repeat myself, the fact we do feel disappointed is because we know we can refine our team further. To do so means changing and if that change is a risk, a gamble that Poch offers up...Levy simply has to accept it. Or prep for another reboot.

If you step back a moment, and digest his comments, perhaps you'll conclude what I do having written all of the above and taken some time to stare back at it. That this conversation (between manager and chairman) has possibly already taken place and Poch is simply outlining a reality that has been accepted and signed off within. He's telling us (in Pochglish) that the necessary change is going to happen. Maybe.

We have the best manager we've had for generations. We have Harry Kane. We have a core and a spine. We have almost everything we need. We are going to get stretched if we don't reach out and pull ourselves up another level. We have to have a clear masterplan to improve this squad - with or without Toby. And Dembele. And Rose.

Next season is the one. We fly or we drown. It's uncharted territory for Poch, Levy and the players. To get to that next level. He has taken us this far so he is owed the opportunity to take us further but to do so with additional support above and beyond what he's received so far.

If for whatever reason that doesn't come to pass then the next man in has a near perfect platform to build from. Only if that platform is generous with budget. If not, then we'll have to find another Pochettino. Which means we retain the ENIC stalemate. It's all getting way too paradoxical.  

Ask yourself this; how long did it take us to appoint the right man? We are now London's top club. Whilst the others find themselves reflecting their future outside of the Champions League and looking to rebuild, we've qualified again. Our springboard is fully functional. We need to get on it.

Don't look back at those struggling behind us. Let them squint their eyes searching for us.

We are going home.

We fly or we drown.

I can't wait to find out.