Reinvention Is Survival

Reinvention is survival. It’s one of the most often quoted aphorisms in business because complacency can be as fatal to any enterprise as a economic downturn. Any leader knows that change is necessary but painful. The best way forward is to establish a clear goal that’s mutually agreed by everyone and build on existing strengths so that development is gradual rather than a transformative shock. However, there’s no escape from the harmful side-effects as adjustments are made before a new equilibrium is reached. Change is hard.

I missed Saturday’s match as I was at the Olympic Stadium for an evening of Paralympics, tickets bought a year ago before a disappointing but inevitable fixture clash. Although I’m never one to turn down an opportunity to watch sport, I wasn’t aware that shopping was part of the athletics programme. The fact that come kick-off I was jostling for space in a hideously heaving Westfield Shopping Centre could become the latest in the Life’s Great Mysteries series, coming soon to the Discovery Channel.

The Paralympics is a remarkable event, not merely for the heroic efforts of true athletes but for the interaction between these performances and the crowd. Every single effort is greeted by waves of genuine warmth and appreciation, win or lose, first or last. From what I’ve heard, there couldn’t be a greater contrast between that and the atmosphere at the Lane, where frustration turned into toxic bile at the finish. Still wish I’d been there, though.

Without going too far on the basis of Football First highlights, the irritating international break that provides a false start to every season  also offers a pause for reflection and reassessment. It’s a pity AVB doesn’t have more time with his players to create the blend that will turn frustration into fluency. The growing pains of our new Tottenham are hard to experience. I just hope the players are hurting as much as we are. However, it is only to be expected. My pre-season predictions have sadly been proved accurate. I wish I was wrong but this team needs time to settle. Brace yourselves for a rough ride early season. Hopefully calmer waters lie over the horizon.

Spurs had a decent transfer window. I’m disappointed that Levy did not produce a top quality striker out of the hat. Again in the interests of consistency, whilst I appreciate his financial prudence, I stick with my pre-season comments that he has room to manoeuvre regarding fees and salaries now, not just because we have the cash but also because the high earners have all gone so he can increase the top salaries without alienating the rest of the squad.  Moutinho is a loss, very impressive in the Euros and I would have gone the extra mile for him.We’ll never know where exactly negotiations reached and should take no notice of the bilious tabloids on a Levy/AVB search and destroy mission but the aftershocks of Ch**seas’s CL win are still being felt.

However, we have a 20+ goals a season man in Clint Dempsey, by no means Plan A but an absolute steal at £6m, and Dembele is a high quality footballer I have coveted for a while now. Lloris is good value – we undoubtedly needed a new keeper and competition can be nothing but good for us as Friedel proves once more that he is a wonderful professional. The squad has more strength in depth too. In keeping with policy, Spurs is a step up for all of the new guys so they should be bursting with ambition.

This season was always about the manager and his system. The focus remains on AVB to make the team greater than the sum of its parts and it’s clear he’s not sure what his best team is at the moment. Hardly unusual for any new manager – I said the same about Redknapp – but he’s been given a good squad and has to make a few tough decisions when the break is over. Up front, I don’t see Defoe as a starter. Dempsey was highly effective for Fulham playing around a central striker, with the freedom to come late and move across the field rather than being restricted to hanging around at the edge of the box. Therefore Manu must have a run alongside him. Further back, Dembele provides the vital link between defence and attack. Quick feet, sharp shot and a fine passer, he’s key to our fortunes.

I don’t know enough about Siggy just yet. However, I’d be inclined to play him in midfield.  This could either be at Livermore’s expense, so we have one DM (Sandro) or keep the defensive solidity of two DMs and let Walker offer width at Lennon’s expense. It depends on who we play.

One problem with those two DMs is that they are not defending well enough. They should protect the back four better, that’s what they are there for. Although we are hardly leaking goals, Friedel has had to be on top form and both goals conceded at home came from similar situations, plenty of men back but not clearing the ball and it’s loose at the edge of the area. Kaboul’s injury is a blow – this was to be his season and he’s getting hurt too often for my liking. I anticipate a long and prosperous Spurs career for the excellent Vertonghen, which leaves AVB with a decision to make about Gallas. Unfair to blame him but I’d opt for Caulker or Dawson with a reminder to the full-backs to tuck in tighter when we don’t have the ball.

Regular readers will know that I tend towards mild optimism but above all I’m a realist. So despite the frustration, it’s not wildly out of order to say that our possession is good and we are making chances, both signs of promise. Dempsey, Dembele and Siggy could all make an impact in the box to convert just one or two more chances each game. If we tighten up at the back and do not give away unnecessary free kicks, then we can move forward. Tweaks rather than major surgery. Let that run for a while and we can take stock.

That and get off AVB’s back. He’s ours and he gets enough stick from the media. Luckily Liverpool are falling apart so some of the negative attention is directed their way but if we don’t give him a chance, then he has no hope whatsoever.

Finally, a belated but none the less fond farewell to Rafa Van der Vaart, a fine player in the Tottenham tradition, whose touch, skill and eye for an opening enhanced the team whenever he played. It’s a risk to let a man of this quality go – I wouldn’t have sold him but I guess he wanted to move. He wanted to win and could maintain his form under pressure, and that combination of motivation and ability is hard to say goodbye to. Although he arrived so unexpectedly even the manager seemed surprised, he quickly became a Spur, showing genuine delight when he scored in big games. The long shots and chips make me smile at the memory but I loved those sweeping diagonal passes, 50 yards right into the stride or the chest of the receiver. But here’s one to cherish, from his last game. In front of the Shelf, under pressure he takes the ball on halfway. Bale is on, simple 10 yard pass then peel away to see what happens. For Rafa, that’s not enough. He holds it for half a second, looks Bale in the eye and gestures with a tiny move of his head. Bale’s off, down the line and Rafa knocks the ball between two defenders and perfectly into his stride. Endless possibilities. Class, Rafa, always class.

16 thoughts on “Reinvention Is Survival

  1. Alan, does it not concern you at all that AVB plays two holding midfielders and one striker AT HOME to NORWICH CITY? And then, having rectified matters, by bringing on Ade and Dembele, after we go one up, we retreat back into our shell and revert to one up front again.
    Ok, let’s give him time, but there’s something that doesn’t feel right to me about his impact on players. The way they appear shackled and tentative. Almost afraid. Hope I’m wrong about him but, having spent the whole summer defending him, I’m now not so sure.


    • Man City won the league last year with that system. I would have liked Dembele in for Livermore, but other than that, it is the system a lot of top teams play and is effective. We haven’t played with 2 out and out strikers for a few years now and generally leaves you very open, so it is understandable to go back to the system after gaining the lead. If we had left it as 2 up fron in both the last 2 games and conceded, people would be asking why didnt he act to move into a less open system.


    • I think you, and a whole load more fans need to calm down.
      Give the guy and our team a chance to find their feet.
      We’re not finishing 4th this year, and the sooner you get that in, the better. But what is likely to happen is a better team with greater all round depth than the simple counter attacking team Harry made.
      Giver give them a chance. 3 games means nothing in the grand scheme. Rome wasn’t won in a day, so why should anyone expect this from VB and the team?
      Over the years since ENIC came along, we have generally progressed. Why believe any different now? Juande left the building a lOng time ago and I don’t buy AVB being mark 2.
      Give him a chance!


      • Exactly. And the fans sure need to calm down. Totally different prospect to Juande. AVB understands the English game and has players he wants.

        Regards, Alan


    • patience is a virtue…damn irritating though… 2 Dms can help attacking – can release full backs to join the front five, plus the DMs aren’t compelled to stay behind the halfway line. he might want to vary that, though, depending on who we play and how the game is going.




  2. I couldn’t say it better myself, we gotta have faith. We all know our best formation and line up, and so does AVB, let’s leave it up to him and get off his back
    It’s good to read some sense amongst the dross. Great article


  3. Great article-Change takes time we need a manager who is around for a long time if that means sacrificing top four for one season to bed in a new style I think its worth it.


  4. Another patient and still optimistic one here. I’ve seen enough in the first two games to be so, though Saturday was a little chastening. It should be remembered that the side has generally been struggling since last January! Nonetheless, now the transfer window has settled down and as AVB moves towards a 4-3-3 (with an ability to play 4-2-3-1) I still see us pushing for a CL spot.

    I think the transfer window has brought in good and generally young and up and coming talent, though I also hoped for Moutinho and another leader of line the forward. I always want more! However, if Ade doesn’t play we may have to change the system which may be problematic. I don’t think leading the line is really Dempsey’s game and it isn’t Defoe’s.

    Lovely write up on Van der Vaart, Alan, and I wholeheartedly concur. A wonderful footballer and it’s been great to have him in lilywhite for two memorable seasons. A consistent match winner and saver with oodles of class. Aside from the many goals and goal assists, I loved watching him ping the ball about the field, long and short passing of real class. I also think he worked harder off the all than many seem to think. A real character with a winner’s mentality too which added a great deal to the side. I’d have kept him and I’ll miss him a lot.


  5. It’s all about the right combinations – centrebacks, up front, linking defence and attack. Needs time to work it out. I think the players will respond. Taking one extra of all the chances we made in each home game and we’d be smiling now. Fine margins.




  6. Sad to see Rafa go – wonderful ability but less effective as a game progressed which I think may be one of the reasons why ENIC have decided to cash in. We will miss him for a while until this team settles in. He’s a player I will remember with more fondness than Modric.
    I was very disappointed with Saturday but it’s too early to judge AVB. We may as well have not bothered with a pre-season given all the late comings and goings. It hurts us each season yet we don’t seem to learn.


  7. Sorry to be negative about this but I think you are all forgetting that AVB has a track record with this system having previously tried this with C****ski and turning them into one of the most boring teams to watch. Playing 4-2-3-1 only works if you defend high up the pitch and NOT on your on 18 yard box as we have been. This means the 2 defensive midfielders who seem to be trying to play no more than 5 yards in front of the defence are not able to support the middle 3. As we are playing with 2 wide men this means that the middle man is trying to control the whole of the centre of the park on his own and is being over-run. Coupled with the fact that we spent most of the time trying to hit high balls to Defoe which he was never going to get this meant the ball kept coming straight back towards our defence. By defending on the halfway line you negate most of these problems because you are condensing the field of play. As I assume that the players are playing to a system as instructed by the manager we can only come to the conclusion that the manager is either tactically inept or too arrogant to accept the need to change as he was at his previous club which is why he reverted back to type as soon as we had scored against Norwich. I hope he uses this international break to re-assess the tactics he is employing or I’m afraid we are all in for a long disappointing season.


    • Think he’s modified his tactics away from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1, also with us he has players better suited to his ideas rather than the entrenched attitudes he encountered at the Bridge.

      But without seeing Saturday in the flesh, in my WBA report I noted that the wide men were crossing to fresh air and Defoe can’t lead the line. I find that very odd but again as I said, he’s finding out his best team. Painful.

      Regards, Alan


  8. Alan you cannot be a mildly optimistic realist.
    You, like Spurs are in a muddle.
    5 centre halves; 4 keepers; 3right backs;1 left back; and 2.5 strikers.
    AVB is playing with a team with one foot tied behind its back.Painful.
    It will take time to sort out and settle so relax and take a long term view.
    Champions’ League but not this year.
    We didn’t sell Modric when he wanted to go and having done so, eventually,
    should have held on to VDV.


    • CL next year is mildly optimistic, Jim. And that’s a good thing. Think you’re saying the same as me. Hard work ahead, good times round not the next corner but further down the road. The squad balance is better than last season apart from left back where there’s a lack of cover.No idea why we have 4 keepers, mind, indeed no idea why Gomes is still at the club as no one wants to play him. Centre half maybe one too many, but one is injured, another prone to injury and a third inexperienced at Spurs.

      I would have kept Luka last season and VDV this. Dembele and Dempsey are key men now – short of strikers maybe but the Deuce is a 20+ plus man. Like I said pre-season, all down to AVB to make it work.

      Here’s to another season blogging, Jim. Kind regards, Al


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