Spurs: Change Or Continuity?

You think the game has had enough of you when you get to my age. The personnel changes, so does the kit, but they play out the same old dramas of lust, envy and disappointment, the search for trophies, bitterness towards those rivals who succeed where we have failed, the crushing burden of unfulfilled hopes and dreams. And then the next season begins.

Looks like the beautiful game is fluttering its eyelids and flashing come hither glances in our direction once again. This transfer window has been astonishing. The sound of jaws dropping and hitting the floor has been deafening. Our own Good Friday brought three high class footballers to the club, Chiriches,  Lamela and Eriksen to join Paulinho, Capoue, Soldado and Chadli. It’s likely there’s still time for a left-back. In writing that list, I had to stop and remember them all. Chadli seems so long ago now, there’s been so much change, I had to work a bit to get his name.

The Guardian tots that up as an eye-watering £110.5m but remarkably we remain in credit, or at least we will be after Bale is sold. No fairy godfathers, disgraced ex-dictators or russian/arab oligarchs, just Levy the businessman. Ten years of frustration in the market gone in the blink of an eye. Or perhaps they just repaired the fax machine and this is the backlog.

This may be our Good Friday but we may have to wait longer than three days for resurrection (apologies if I have the timescale wrong there but I’m jewish so the details never sunk in). Amidst all the changes there remains a thread of distinct continuity. Soldado aside, all the incoming players are on the make, young men who see coming to Spurs as a step up where they can prove themselves. This has been the template at Tottenham for some time now. The difference is, their baseline, their starting position, is several steps up the graph compared with the past.

They join a manager on the up too, a man who is calm on the outside but is fuelled by a inner furnace of ambition, to prove doubters wrong, to show that his methods work, to achieve through his team the success in football that a man of his meagre playing talent could never fulfil.

The manager’s most important signing is unquestionably Franco Baldini. Going about his business in an admirably low-key manner, his arrival and the influx of young talent cannot be a coincidence. Lamela especially – you wonder if the young Argentinian had ever heard of Tottenham Hotspur let alone believed he could up here, but damn right he knows Baldini.

Spurs fans are suspicious of the role of Director of Football after our experience with Damian Comolli. however, as I have said in previous posts, the main fault lay not so much with individuals but with an unclear management and accountability structure. The Levy-Jol-Comolli triumvirate failed because Levy as head of the company did not set clear demarcation lines about who took transfer decisions, so Jol was coaching with players he either didn’t want or had to fit into his tactics and Comolli took advanatge to go beyond his remit. Villas-Boas on the other hand has players who will fit his system. He coaches, Baldini gets the players. If we have any success in the coming years, that’s the foundation.

By the way, as a rule I don’t say much about players I don’t know well so I don’t pretend I have the encyclopedic knowledge of european football that everyone else in the social media has, apparently. But that you tube highlights video of Lamela…and he’s going to play in a white shirt with the cockerel badge…

Also as in previous years, this team is one for the future. It will take time for everyone to bed in, and just to repeat a simple fact that no doubt will be easily forgotten in the months to come, this is still a pretty young squad. Eriksen and Lamela are inexperienced despite their promise.

With the spending comes the pitfalls of increased expectations. Our Andre won over a media baying for his blood in August but any failings and they will scent weakness once again. The fans have to be patient.

Also, the team spirit at Spurs has been extremely good lately. Changes threaten that, as does the disappointment of not playing regularly, so we have to watch out for what could be a huge change there, especially with so many nationalities now. It may not seem much but these things matter. Villas-Boas is good at this.

However, the signs are positive so far. Thursday night’s victory over Tiblisi was a statement of intent. 8-0 on aggregate is usually described as a stroll but our attitude and performance was anything but. From first to last, we kept playing. The movement was excellent, Holtby and Carroll impressive. It showed players want to play for Villas-Boas and that our manager has his system. We don’t look like a side that is full of new players getting to know each other.

I’ve already mentioned one reason for this, that Villas-Boas has players who fit his way of playing. Another is that he is playing the new guys in roles that are familiar to them. Capoue, Paulinho, Sandro on Thursday (how good to see him back), that defensive midfield position is comfortable like an old wooly jumper. Not just sticking a foot in but starting attacks from deep and sniping in the middle of the field.

That is a key area for any side but especially for us where we have left our back four unprotected in the past, to our cost. It may be ‘one-nil to the Tottenham’ but that’s what the big boys do. United and Chelsea were lambasted for a dull midweek game but both knew the danger of giving ground at this stage in the season.

Spurs fans are long-suffering and accustomed to disappointment. What that means is that we have greeted these signings not with the triumphalism and sense of entitlement that supporters of our London rivals tend to exhibit but with grateful astonishment. No predictions from me, except that this will be one season to look forward to. The game may have given up on me but I’ve never given up on the game as so many fans seem to do these days. I might finally get some reward.

7 thoughts on “Spurs: Change Or Continuity?

  1. Absolutely! Spurs will be difficult to beat this year no doubt about it. When Chelsea and then City came into money the first thing they did was bolster the defence, our soft underbelly has always been the centre of midfield with players wanting to ‘express themselves’ rather than work hard to protect the back four. With overlapping full backs this is even more essential.

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  2. wow well written full of insight. i was unfortunately one of the many who think that the sudden influx of signings may disrupt the team. but it is true that from the past few matches, we have seen players started in their “favourite positions” with, to my knowledge, the exception of gylfi who was instructed to hug the left against tblisi in WHL.

    then again, we never know in football but i’m comforted by the fact we have an intelligent manager in AVB who has overcomed challenges in the past and will see the latest one as a tiny hurdle that he will once again triumph over!

    the future is bright peeps 😀

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  3. I remember you being surprised at everyones optimism after the disappointment of last season.
    Most remained convinced that our AVB was the future and our faith is being rewarded.
    I am worried about so many opportunities failing to be converted into goal chances (Premiership) but feel this will come.
    Sandro’s reaction to Holtby’s goal mid-week was great to watch and Tom Carroll seems to get better with every pass.
    As for the new boys I think 4 wins and 4 clean sheets says it all.
    Must look for 3 points tomorrow.

    COYS!

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  4. Thoughtful, insightful stuff as ever Alan,

    I fully agree about time being needed to bed in, with so many new players. Also, about buying up and coming young and hungry talent that is just below the radar of the cash doped clubs. It’s where we’ve been at our best in the transfer market since Berbatov.

    I’ve seen a lot of Lamela. He’s a wonderful player to watch, very much in the traditional Spurs mould and he’ll get people off their seats. The Paolo Bandini, who I think writes well on Italian football on GU Online, did a good job of disscussing Lamela’s qualities and sareas he can still improve learn. He tells it much better than I could, of course.

    http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2013/aug/29/erik-lamela-tottenham-totti

    Nonetheless, to watch this boy play fills one with joy. He can play wide, either side, or off Soldado. The way he smoothly glides past players and the pace and control are sumptuous and he’s an eye for goal and a good deal of persistence about him imo. He’s still wet behind the ears and often takes too long to pass the ball and move or get a shot off or a cross in, or just makes the wrong decision altogether, but he’s only 21, which are very common problems with such young skilful attacking players. He’s almost has/can appreciate too many options in his head. He might be asked to track back a lot more than Roma have asked him (or more than he’s been willing to do – I am not privvy Roma team talks!). He really came on a bomb last season. Though Serie A isn’t what it was admittedly, it’s still tough for young attacking players.

    Roma’s also a very tough gig for any player, as they are very volatile and unforgiving in the boardroom and on the curva sud, let alone for such a young player. Every Roma fan I know is aghast that they’ve let this guy go.

    I really hope it works for Lamela, not just for Spurs, though mainly of course, and him, but because if he develops as he should football will have another special player.

    He may take time to find his feet and patience and good husbandry from AVB will be key, but he’s a special talent.

    I reckon we’ll be fending off a ridiculous bid from one or more of the criminal oligarch-owned ‘clubs’ or Spanish giants in the 2-3 years for Lamela.

    He’s going to be rubbish now, isn’t he?

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  5. and of course if we were to win tomorrow chances are we’d be top of the league! (I know it doesn’t mean a lot at this stage but nice anyway.)

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