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.