The first few moments of wakefulness, befuddled your mind adjusts to consciousness and the day ahead,then BAM! It hits you. Your football team is hopeless. Wide awake now.
There are other descriptions. Rest assured they were used yesterday afternoon, frequently. I used up many last week. Stick with abject for now. Hopeless as in without hope best fits my emotional state for now. Not a literal assessment of Tottenham’s plight – it’s only early November – but sums up my feelings and those of many others, judging by the shellshocked faces in the queue at White Hart Lane station after the match.
Not everyone of course. Many were laughing, laughing at the players, the performance, the absurdity of Spurs allowing themselves to be in a position where they cannot fulfil the basic requirements of any football team, like defending, passing, trying. The absurdity of having expectations of at least some progress this season. The absurdity of paying all that money only to be catastrophically let down.
Spurs could not have made it any easier for Stoke to win yesterday. They did so without breaking sweat. For the third time this season, under no pressure, Spurs allowed an opponent to run unchallenged from halfway to score. This was after 5 minutes. Someone trying to get in the way would be nice, never mind a tackle. Not asking too much, surely. Hardly a supporter with an unrealistic expectation. Apparently it is. Second, give the ball away under little pressure, cross to a man unmarked, unnoticed. Chadli’s stunning late volley provided no consolation, only turned the knife. A reminder that it’s the hope that gets you.
Analysis of tactics and individual performance yesterday is immaterial if players can’t control the ball, pass it or move around so someone can pass the ball to them. No one emerged with any credit from an unremittingly dismal afternoon where performances differed only in the degree of negligence.
There are more fundamental questions to trouble us. The players are disorganised and lack commitment. They are not responding to their manager who appears powerless but recent shabby efforts have demonstrated that like his predecessors, he’s been left exposed and unsupported by his chairman. Supporters remain loyal but are increasingly distanced from a club that cold-bloodedly refuses to engage or respond. To repeat something from our previous home defeat to Newcastle, the resignation of the homeward-bound crowd speaks volumes. People have not been given a reason to care.
This is a spineless team in more ways than one. Every decent side has a strong spine. We have Hugo Lloris, not only top class but currently one of the very few who looks hurt by what goes on in front of him. Pochettino’s decision to have faith in Kaboul was always questionable given his injury record and now looks downright incompetent. No questions about his motivation – he’s just playing terribly. This week another potential stalwart, Jan Vertonghen, has been talking a good game in the media. Put things right, determined to turn the corner etc. Most publicity like this is not worth the effort of a single finger hitting the keyboard but ok, it was positive from a quality player who has to do the business for us. Come matchday, he’s not even in the side. Perish the thought that we paired Fazio with Kaboul to deal with crosses to Crouch only to find the ex-Spur was on the bench. Surely not….
Eriksen was substituted at half-time, such was his lack of impact. Capoue’s early season solidity has long since faded. The game passed him by, as can be said for his last five appearances. Up front the striking options are scandalously bare. Therefore we can’t rely on any of our experienced key outfield players.
I’ve seen worse Spurs sides but I can’t recall any as unmotivated or lacking commitment. Ostentatious fist-pumping and shouting is over-rated in my view but when we concede, there’s nothing. No arguments or fingerpointing, however misjudged. From where I sit I can look into their eyes and all I see is blank acceptance of the inevitable.
Motivation comes from a variety of sources. The right values offer inner drive and purpose, to be the best you can because that’s the way to be. Motivation has external stimuli too, a goal, something to aim for, or sometimes ‘away from’ motivation from the fear of the consequences of failure. In teams it comes from collective responses, do it for your team-mates, help them and they’ll help you. I see nothing except apathy and resignation.
Three reasons. One, too many of the signings don’t come with a built-in winning mentality. They want to stay within their comfort zone, play at their own pace and not impose themselves or change up if the game requires it. Chadli, Eriksen, Lamela to an extent, that’s our attacking midfield for most of the season.
Two, and related, many of these players didn’t sign up for a battle. They expected some success, progress in their own careers. Irrespective of whether they wanted it enough to work for it, they are not motivated for a fight. We learned from the World Cup that the best teams in the world work like stink, it’s nothing to do with the demands of the Premier League or the traditional virtues of British hard work.Too many of this shower want success without paying their dues and don’t want to fight for the right to play.
Three, they are not responding to the manager. I don’t know why. Pochettino’s pressing game is a distant memory – they won’t do it. If you need something else to worry about, this has become worse as the season has gone on. Too early to say if he has lost it with the players but he too talked this week about putting things right only for the message to fall on deaf ears.
For his part, Pochettino has to address a problem he’s not come across before, motivating and changing players who appear to be disaffected and who certainly aren’t responding. He knows from Southampton that he can motivate but with a squad that came with different expectations.
Our manager has had time to assess the squad. Almost certainly these are not the type of players he wants, especially for a high tempo, pressing, forward looking midfield that was the key to Southampton’s progress. That’s not his fault – probably. Levy true to form hasn’t backed him heavily in the market. I can’t believe it was Pochettino’s choice to have the three strikers now in the squad. However, we have no idea how Spurs’ buying policy works. It looks as if Baldini as Director of Football or whatever pseudo-management title he possesses buys them and then the coach gets on with it, fraught with danger at the best of times and fatal if you appoint a guy with a distinct philosophy.
In the end, there’s Levy, always Levy. His lack of a long-term plan for the club and an inability to judge a manager or to know what he wants from a manager and his staff have blighted our progress. He fires, hires then fails to give his man effective support. He knew what Pochettino wanted when appointing him. Or that’s what you would do if you were a diligent CEO of any other company in appointing your senior operational manger and leader. They come with a package, with demands. Not Levy.
I take no pleasure in this analysis. There’s no agenda here, just a supporter for half a century who still feels the pain despite the passing years and their seemingly inevitable disappointments. Supporters aren’t moaning for the sake of it. It is because we understand the heritage that we see the damage being done to our proud club. The problems on the field are profound but pale into insignificance compared with the distance between the club and alienated fans, precisely at the time when the club need us most.
Maybe all or some of this is accurate. Whatever goes on behind the scenes, everyone is culpable to some extent but 75% of the players need to take responsibility for diabolical personal performances over the past few weeks. What’s certain is that the consequences of any explanation are distinctly unpalatable. Players not responding to the manager. Chairman with a track record of lousy decision-making. The stench of decay and neglect hangs like a toxic cloud over N17.