You happy with the 2-2? I am and at the same time, I’m not. That’s football summed up perfectly; a mess of emotion, head and heart. Much like the tactically daft match at the Emirates.
That’s as good as Arsenal can play. Let’s hope so. They won’t improve by much. Controversial opinion perhaps. I’m sure they will improve a little but when you sign David Luiz to solve your defensive problems you have to question whether the cunning play is no more than a comedy sketch. We will improve. We have to because we know we have the capacity to do so. We are sat at around the 45% mark. The second half was a non-event for Spurs. The defence needs to settle down, regain shape and purpose as a unit - and nullify the individual mistakes and errors that birth said mistakes. You can’t build on a rocky foundation. The rest will come together like it always does and we’ll no doubt finish 3rd.
It grates heavily that Arsenal’s best results against us come as a consequence of Tottenham under performing. It’s frustrating. It happens against West Ham too. We seem to allow the little plucky sides to raise their game, gracing themselves with social media heroics in victory. Their insincerity with celebration and posturing is the most fraudulent fronting in European football. I don’t believe for a second their players ‘get it’. The rivalry. What they do persistently get is the memo on what their beggy, desperate supporters need to assist their mental fragility and insecurities. I don’t know why I always fixate on this. Perhaps it’s the desire to want a more defined hatred between the two fanbases, like the one we have with Chelsea. It’s clear cut and raw. Where as with Arsenal, it always feels like we’re being forced to watch a pantomime. It does tickle me though how once upon a time we got mocked for celebrating a draw against them.
Our problem, or ‘crisis’ if you’re a journo or Spurs Twitter bedwetter, is one that involves a fix requiring fully fit key players, a settled back four/three and complete squad harmony. Something has us rattled and yes, our expectations are heightened so any drop in form feels agonising. More agonising than its actuality.
Spurs won’t stagnate. We bought well in the summer. Others in time will rediscover their groove, especially those that were perhaps distracted by the European Transfer deadline. Poch will settle on his tactics. He’s in a state of flux too, attempting to negate this tricky transitional period where all involved (coach, players and formation) need galvanising. Last season felt like we had come to a natural conclusion. It would have been had we won that final where the official stole our hope and dreams of glory after 25 seconds. Rebooting, readjusting - it isn’t easy but it’s hardly beyond us with the quality we possess.
We have so much in attack - midfield/flanks/upfront. So much potential for variety. It’s hardly the worst conundrum to attempt to solve. The defence was the first thing Poch sorted when he arrived at Spurs. Team synergy is not right but we have that benchmark we’ve set in previous years to work from.
Peak Poch Spurs would have shut the game down at 2-0. That late conceded goal before the break. We’ve definitely lost that bullish, arrogant edge. This was the first time since the Battle of the Bridge that we have given up a two goal lead. We can still regain that edge. Self belief, togetherness. All the hippie stuff needs to be reignited. Spurs need to go from Fyre Festival to Woodstock. Find the enlightenment and brush aside the unnecessary hype.
It’s a blip. Perhaps arguably the biggest we’ve had. In five years ffs. Calling it a crisis is ridiculous.
It's perfectly natural and okay. It’s growth. Cycles of football can be brutal and unforgiving. Top top sides that win things, they go through cycles of change. Spurs are not yet in the luxury lands of a Chelsea, capable of blowing their load endlessly (well, transfer bans permitting). Spurs fans often slate players for being gutless and yet, surprise surprise...they sh*t the bed at first sight of trouble. Rather Harry Winks in centre mid than some of our very vocal miserable supporters.
Had we beaten Newcastle, we'd be talking about team spirit during our period of adversity and loss of form. Perspective and chill.
Two points dropped or one point gained?
I guess there’s no disputing that we’ve had more success away to City and Arsenal this season than the last. At least Poch did what we wanted him to do. Start Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen. Davinson Sanchez slotting into the right-back position isn’t ideal, what with us not having a recognisable RB (Serge is more slurge than he is surge) and Foyth is out injured. KWP you say? Never heard of him m8. Wasn’t even on the bench.
Eric Lamela also got another start - a requirement in a NLD based on the bite ya ankles talent we spent £30M acquiring all those years ago from Roma…AMRITE? It was probably the best line-up we could expect, all things considered.
Spurs and especially Son were on song for the first half. Not so much the second. The South Korean was sensational (for that first half of the game). If this isn’t us at our best we could have still killed them off completely in that period of time. Margins. Conceding the Lacazette goal when we did was proper old skool Spurs and typical bloody Arsenal. The timing of this was pivotal to how the second half played out. It also illustrated our own team fragility. A softness, that has for the best part of five years been eradicated, decides to make a cameo. Word up. We have to be ruthless, even in moments of control or pressure and not just in and around the opposing sides penalty area. Studs on ball and boss it. Kill time with peak professionalism. Don’t panic. DON’T PANIC.
Danny Rose, much like Lamela, is a player that defends his team-mates like a solider protecting his threatened platoon from the invading enemy. The band of brothers ethos is personified with his rage football and I love him for it. What I’m not too fond of is the manner in which we conceded possession that lit up the move for them lot to grab that critical goal. Rose needs respite. He’s not bang on it at the moment but there’s no real alternative. For now.
Sissoko needs a bite too. A big hefty bite of reality. The amount of times he pulsates into an offensive position and ends up just offending us like the quagmire he is…I’ve lost count. It’s like there’s two of Mousa, flexing and fluxing between parallel universes. One is like a tangled set of earphones you pull out of your pocket and try to unravel. It’s knotted and yet you have no idea how something so simplistic has ended up such a mess. The other is a set of earphones that you can pull out of your pockets and slot into your ears with not a seconds hesitation. Accept one of the earbuds isn’t quite working right. There’s distortion on it. Basically, you need to purchase a new pair. The first one is functional when you finally untangle it. The second is functional but has flaws. Perhaps upgrade to headphones for better fidelity and no knots.
Cometh the second half and the inevitable. They equalise and it was hardly a shocking moment of surprise. We lacked that urgency in reactionary football. That astute mechanic to perhaps catch them with pace on the counter attack. Our containment was poor. Perhaps not half as bad as it felt when watching the game based on our very early season form. Why Lucas Moura wasn’t called into action is a Poch head scratch to mumble over.
I’m guessing the supporters that don’t rate Harry Winks won’t be sharing their thoughts after Sunday and will wait until a performance where they can critique with the aid of circumstantial ambiguity (like the congested Newcastle game with the lack of forward player movement).
Winks was tremendous. Why we have to dissect the lad and either claim him to be brilliant or state he’s ordinary (no middle ground as per usual) is beyond me. Sure, he’s style of recycling and distributing the ball might not be adaptable in certain games that are over-run centrally, but in high intensity derby matches he turned in another display of maturity and intelligence. His play in the build up to our penalty was sublime.
Talking of which, Harry Kane from the spot. That’s ten goals in eleven NLD’s. Outstanding. Kane getting a reputation as a diver? I can file this with the other famed reputations like penalty and tap-in merchant, fraud, goal hanger and so on.
Over the years, we've been accused of being too soft, don't have ability to be a little bit Machiavellian when it matters like 'the big sides'.
Go Big Daddy Kane.
Imagine being so desperate to critique a player you have to make up some sh*t to try and discredit his ability because it hurts too much to accept Kane for the absolute baller he is.
And yes, there's a difference between actual cheating and what Kane does. I mean, sure, I want us to be a big club on the field, but not at the cost of identity. If VAR was around in the 90s and early 00s, gooners would have won nothing, right?
Arsenal, at their peak of their Wenger powers had a world class side and still had to cheat and dive with blatantly encouraged expression. Kane sometimes embraces gravity on the way down to make certain the officials aren't left in two minds. He's the real cheat tho. The massive fraud. Meanwhile, Arsenal (Torreria and Guendouzi especially) spent most of the game throwing themselves on the floor like second-rate jobbers in the WWE. The media will no doubt gloss over the fact they are the only club to have had three players booked for simulation in a single game. But let that not stop Sky from interrogating Harry over his ‘dive’, showing him the footage like he’s committed the most heinous of crimes. It’s like the Aubameyang fall in last seasons Wembley game never happened. It’s like Mo Salah never happened.
As for those 10 goals in NLD’s? ‘He only scores penalties’ the haters scream. It’s as if pens don’t count as legitimate goals. It’s as if the high level pressure to score them in high intensity games doesn’t exist. It’s as if scoring pens in a NLD is easy work. It is for Harry.
The other penalty incident involved the returning Dele Alli being wrestled / rugby tackled to the ground by Ceballos. The incident started just outside the box but ended inside it. Yet the masterfully crap Atkinson failed to react. To add to this, why no yellow card for Xhaka on Son for the pen? He seemed to dish out cards for lesser fouls than the ones he completely blanked.
In the end it comes back to killing the game off. An old issue that was fixed but now needs revisiting. Kane hit the post at 2-1. Those God damn margins. Then again, Hugo Lloris was (ignoring distribution by the foot) was solid with plenty of highlight reel stoppages).
Spurs have to recapture the mettle of our once powerful and committed away form and then rebuild fortress Lane. Over to you gaffer.
Getting Jan back at the back, the fullback headache pilled off, Dele fit and focusing on Ndombele being available and the ice cool super composed Lo Celso bedding in - we can perhaps expect the high level discipline of the past to return with a vengeance.
I’m going to go fully happy clappy here. If we sort out the defence in terms of consistency that will aid stability. Get Ndombele back in the middle, Eriksen starting and Dele space invading just behind Kane. Son, Moura and Lo Celso gives us pace and dimensions. You can’t not be excited by the options available. Poch has to work out the dynamics and width to get past parked buses like Newcastle. We’ve been here many times before and cracked it. The only reasons we suffered in that game as badly as we did seems to be down to issues behind closed doors with that aforementioned impacted harmony. But Poch is claiming the togetherness is back. That European deadline window seems to have been the axis of evil that has generated the first real claims of doubt and dented spirit.
“The most important for us is not the table, not the points, it’s the performance. We have recovered the good feelings after the Newcastle defeat last Sunday and a very tough summer – all that happened in these last four weeks. I am so optimistic that we have the quality to build again because in our three previous games this season we didn’t show our quality.
“We need that togetherness. The team wasn’t settled and I told you from day one of pre-season that I wasn’t happy. The most important is to be all on the same page; that the players have a clear idea of how we need to move. Clear minds – like Christian today and different players. Tomorrow [when the window shuts] they are going to be only focused, 100%, in Tottenham – not thinking different things that make management so difficult.”
Action > words Poch, action > words. We now move on.
Spurs haven’t won on the road for eight games now. What this stat doesn’t tell you is the quality of opposition we’ve faced.
The Kane ‘dive’ will continue to bore on. Okay, so he moves his body in front of their defender. It’s calculated. I said earlier that there’s levels of cheating. Is this cheating by using a cunning ploy to deceive? Can we really argue - can I really argue - that making certain of getting the decision involves having to exaggerate the inevitable with subtle theatrics? If he doesn’t then surely there is no chance of a pen being rewarded. The onus should be on the defender not to make illegal contact. Was it then (the decision) inevitable or a risk that simply had to be taken? Should Kane have stood ground and crossed the ball instead ? No doubt a player of another club deemed more important by the media would have cited the clever body positional play of the attacker to guarantee the official point to the spot. The fact is, Kane was shoved.
A bit more finesse and we could have should have punished them on the break.
Long term musings
These are some questions posed on the recent The Fighting Cock podcast. I’ll let you all talk it out in the comments section:
With 3 long-serving, incredible players walking out the door for free next summer, its clearly the end of this great era of Spurs. Worried?
Do you think he (Poch) should be criticised for not doing enough with this squad in terms of trophies and titles? Under Poch we've been runners up in the League, League Cup and the CL, when we could and maybe should have won all three.
Do you also think Poch is fully committed to the next era/phase? He seems to have lost some of the enthusiasm that he had when he first joined and a full rebuild could take another 1-2 years at least to get going. If his head is going to get turned in the middle of a rebuild then we could be left in no mans land if he goes.
Goodbye sweet handsome prince. ‘nando Llorente has joined Napoli having left Spurs during the summer. The greatest Plan B we’ve ever had and a player that will forever be cemented into unbreakable Tottenham folklore for those inspirational Champions League goals.
No goodbye yet for Victor Wanyama. His move to Club Brugge fell through much like his worth to our midfield defensive duties. That season, alongside Mr Dembele, he was a phenom. He seems destined to join the likes of Sandro and Palacios as one-season giants. A tremendous season followed by injury and the failure to recover.
Bruno Fernandes revealed he had agreed to join Spurs but Sporting Lisbon did not accept our offers. Makes you think. Was it Daniel Levy making sure to push the Lo Celso deal though? Unlikely as that one was finalised as an initial loan. With Eriksen no doubt on his way come next summer, perhaps Bruno will still pack a punch for Tottenham.
“Mauricio Pochettino has revealed that he has rejected "plenty" of job offers during his Spurs career” - says the tagline. Meanwhile in Madrid, ZZ is struggling for wins. The Poch to Real clock is currently sat at three minutes to midnight.