Spurs Season’s Preview. Here We Go Again

I’ve been there before
But I’ll try it again
Any fool, any fool knows
That there’s no, no way to win

Here we go again
She’ll break my heart again
I’ll play the part again
One more time

I’ll take her back again

One more time

Ray Charles’s lament for a love who has let him down time and again is not so much aimed at the object of his desire, more a lament for his inability to let go. So here we go again, but then again, where else would I be?

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino no doubt has something more upbeat on the dressing room wall to motivate his side. Our success or failure turns on his capacity to organise and inspire the players so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. As individuals, our men are in the majority of positions not as good as the squads that finished above us last season and probably the remainder of the transfer window will not compensate for that deficiency. Our opportunities, our hopes, lie in the collective, with last term’s drive and commitment with better players in some key roles allied to Pochettino’s teamwork and system.

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Pochettino is a highly focussed manager, comfortable in his own skin and certain in his mind that his way is the right way, without being cocksure about it. I enjoy his outings with the media. He mumbles a few words, gives little away, then back to the training ground. He can’t be arsed but plays the game and keeps attention on the football in preference to creating a sensational backpage non-story. It’s funny: say something, anything and the media are apparently satisfied. Yesterday’s deadpanned ‘Soldado is part of our plans’ was priceless.

It’s taken a season but we have managed to jettison the ballast that was holding us back. The Magnificent 7 were going to ride into town, vanquish the reds and the Blues, and save us all. Now I think of them and see only a desolate bomb-site.

We’ve come out of it fairly unscathed, getting decent money for the deadwood, learning in the process that Sunderland last scouted Kaboul in 2011 and the Napoli coach in his own words “doesn’t know much about Chiriches” having only ever seen him for 45 minutes. It’s puzzling which 45 minutes those were because even a showreel of best bits could not have lasted more than 45 seconds, let alone minutes.

I wish Younes well, he could have been our leader but for the injuries that deprived him of pace and flexibility. I’ll miss Lennon, who will surely follow him out the door, and it will be a relief to see Soldado put out of his misery and get some sun on his back in Spain, where I hope he does well.

Given half a squad that’s so poor, given it’s taken a year to rebuild after the last rebuilding (repeat to fade), finishing 5th last season looks better and better as time passes. This is especially so as we did it without a defence worthy of the name and it’s here that Pochettino has concentrated his efforts pre-season. Alderweireld is the sort of mobile centreback with a decent touch that we need and he could bring the best from his defensive partner Jan Vertonghen, who sorely needs a kick up the backside. I’ve never seen Wimmer play but he seems to be ambitious, motivated to be at Spurs. Dier is a fine prospect with a cracking approach to the game who will only get better.

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The competition at full-back is healthy. Trippier could be the making of Walker – I still hold out some hope for him and the pressure for his place could finally compel him to focus on his naïve positional play. Davies will find Rose hard to shift. All four strike me as determined and motivated.

Lloris is still here, not something I thought I would be able to write four days before the season begins, although with De Gea’s situation at United unresolved let’s not count our chickens. Major boost if he stays.

So to the problems. Pochettino will not budge from his 4-2-3-1, therefore the two and the one come under the most intense scrutiny. Fine player though he is, and even finer player though he will be become, it’s wrong to put so much pressure on Nabil Bentaleb in the defensive midfield area. Considering Dier to partner him pre-season is surely a desperate measure however willing the young man is and Mason is not really a DM. Neither is Dembele.

Up front there’s only Our Harry. ‘For the life of me I can’t work out why we haven’t bought a striker’ may as well be Tottenham On My Mind’s tagline for the number of times I’ve written it over the past five seasons. It’s beyond anger, just unfathomable.

Levy, the so-called master transfer tactician, foolishly betrayed his hand when he said he’s not prepared to pay more than £12-15m, preferably less. Everyone is after players in that price-range so it means we are going to have to wait rather than achieve Pochettino’s main aim, to begin the season with a complete squad. Coulthurst is not good enough from what I’ve seen. Kane gets a knock in the Audi whatever-nonsense and that’s that. Spurs have the lowest net transfer spend over the last 5 seasons of any team in the PL (including Bournemouth and Watford). This is long-term chronic neglect, resulting in large part from a decade of managerial churn, and not just about what happens or doesn’t happen on deadline day.

That leaves the front midfield three where we have a clutter of contenders. It’s likely there will be no newcomers unless you count Pritchard and Carroll returning from loan and of course Alli, who I am looking forward to seeing. Last year’s conundrum remains to be solved, the balance between attack and defence. Eriksen needs to be more influential more of the time, while if Lamela/Chadli/Townsend/Dembele et al attack they either need cover from others or show a greater willingness to not only run back but hold their position when we don’t have the ball. Pochettino’s system requires discipline, focus and an awareness both of team-mates and the space available that was sorely lacking from these players last time around. It’s not about the ‘distance covered’ stats, it’s about where they run, and when. These are individuals, the system works best as a unit until the final third where their skills can turn a game.

Last season’s over-achievement, finishing 5th with a limited squad, could end up being a millstone around Pochettino’s neck. If all goes according to plan, if we play good football as a team and the predominantly young squad progress both as individuals and as a unit, we could still finish lower as our competitors rebuild too and so the pressure will build.

My hope is that we stay genuine contenders, a team able to challenge and have a decent tilt at the cups. In the EL, pick a shadow squad early and drill them together for at least the away games in the group, and keep the seat prices down too.

Tottenham On My Mind will continue throughout the season, same format, too old to change now. Bear with me as some of the pieces around matches may have to wait a day or two, but they will be there, and later in the year I might need your help with a couple of things.

TOMM’s core readership is very loyal, judging by the comments, number of people who subscribe and people who have bookmarked it. My sincere thanks – the comments section is the most erudite and informed around. At the top of this new theme by the way. Couldn’t do this labour of love without you. I’ll be back on the Shelf, next to my son, for another season, and even after all these years, there’s nowhere else in the world I would rather be.

Let’s finish on a song….

18 thoughts on “Spurs Season’s Preview. Here We Go Again

  1. I think there’s a need to analyse statistics instead of relying on net numbers which didn’t explain how the numbers are derived.
    Spend Sell Net
    Spurs 220m 276m -56m
    Arsenal 254m 155m +99m
    Watford 12m 12m 0m
    Bournemouth 15m 12m 3m

    I don’t think Watford, Bournemouth or even Arsenal have Gareth Bale and Luka Modric whom they can sell at such high value which bucks the trend.

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    • Exactly as Thomas says.
      We are a well run club, with an excellent youth set-up. Why the hell lament that? Oh, other clubs are getting into hock, so we should too! Liverpool are spending money they can’t afford – but I doubt they will be anywhere other than competing for 5th/6th this season TBH. They are the fifth best financed club in the EPL, we are the sixth, but we have finished above them in five of the last six seasons. We have finished fourth or fifth for all of the last decade apart from the Ramos debacle and its aftermath. That is definitively punching above our weight. And all while restructuring the youth set up to be one of the best and, hopefully, most productive in Europe, financing a new state-of-the-art training centre and spending money on what will be one of the best stadiums in England. Oh, and what would you rather, another Harry Kane who cost FA or another Soldado who cost something less than £25 million (because part was performance related).

      If you can’t think of a single reason why we haven’t yet bought a striker I will make one for you: we can’t buy a long time before we have shifted Adebayor/Soldado, otherwise we will end up with everyone knowing they can take liberties over those two; we can’t sell those two a long time before we have sorted out their replacement, otherwise…well, otherwise everyone will know they can take liberties over the purchase prices for their replacements.

      I normally like the pieces on this site…but not this one.

      And as for the managerial instability: Harry Redknapp was given nearly four years. If he signed the contract when it was offered him and concentrated on his job he would have got longer. Instead, at his age, having been supported through heart surgery and a court case, he lost focus and cost us because he thought he had the England job. He also wouldn’t follow the party line regarding media and transfer policy, but instead acted as a constant rentagob to his media buddies. And after refusing the new contract offered him because he thought he had the England job and damaging our season by losing focus, he imagined he could get the same contract in the summer, failing to appreciate that the situation had changed. On top of which, he hired an abrasive and aggressive new agent who was so tactless as to phone Levy to pursue this contract, that had already gone, while the poor bugger was burying his mother.
      If it wasn’t for this, instead of saying Rekdnapp got four years (which, in itself refutes this media-myth that Levy won’t give his managers time) we may have been talking about him getting five, six or even more seasons.

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      • Thanks for a well-argued comment.
        Strikers – I have never demanded DL has a spend spend spend philosophy. What I’ve consisently said is that even within his prudent finance we could, should have spent on a couple of players (and no more) at crucial times. We could afford it because he’s been so careful and the right investment, say, when Redknapp got us into the top four and challenging for top four would have repaid itself with extra revenue. Also, regardless of cost we have spent seasons with only two decent strikers, and of course many fans would say men like JD and Ade were not even that.

        Managers – agree totally re Redknapp but we’ve had so many since DL took over. Every time we have to change the squad because the manager likes to play in a way that does not suit the players.

        Regards, Al

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        • Firing managers isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m firmly of the opinion you shouldn’t be stagnant just for the sake of stability. You could argue his managerial hires were inadequate, but I think there were legitimate reasons for sacking each. None has managed at a club our size since. Yeah the Jol sacking seemed weird at the time, but if you saw him a couple years later at fulham the game had vastly outstripped him. Tactics change so rapidly that it’s rare a manager is good for very long, only the truly great ones last.

          I agree that DL should have bought a striker, but not in Harry’s last season. Adebayor was still a star at the time, and he had no reason to believe that the team would collapse like a house of cards, when in late January we were closer to 1st than 4th. He should have bought a striker in AVB’s first season, when adebayor was riddled with injuries and defoe was no longer hot, and our position within the top four was tenuous.

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    • I agree with that Thomas. My point is that because our net spend is so low, DL should be in a good position to invest now. Not to break the bank but to seek quality in those two key positions, DM and striker. Would Levy have ought Luka at just over £16m if things had been the same then? He’s always sought value rather than imposing an upper limit.

      Regards, Al

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  2. Spurs have net funds of 3m on Jun 14 and net debts of 55m on Jun 13. On the other hand, Arsenal have net funds of 90m and 110m for the same periods. I can’t imagine what Man U and Man City have.

    That kind of explains why we didn’t spend much during the last and probably current season.

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    • Think there’s also a factor we can’t control – the demand for precisely the sort of player we are after that pushes up already inflated prices. West Brom and Berahinho for example, if we are after him why should WB sell now? Someone else might come in, we might get desperate, either way the price goes up and the value, Levy’s benchmark, decreases.

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  3. That’s why a lot of these transfers go down to the wire. If the selling club have a prized asset, they’ll hold out to get the maximum price while they try to get a replacement, hopefully cheaper alternative whom they think can do the same job. They have no sense of urgency to conclude the deal while the buyer will not show too much urgency and look desperate.

    We did the same thing with Gareth Bale except that we didn’t succeed to replace that talent we lost.

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  4. I don’t see us pushing on from than last season in terms of league finish indeed as it stands I can’t see us holding off Liverpool for 5th, but hope we give the FA up and EL a real go. I worry we won’t give Harry Kane the support he needs or protect the defence well enough. Centre forward and defensive midfielder are long terms issues and reflect badly on the club’s movers and shakers.

    Mind I think 5th-6th and a good cup run or even final is good enough season.for where we are and given what modern football is. I think we will challenge seriously again but doubt it will be this season..

    I am looking forward to your take on events at the Lane as ever Alan.

    Watching Modric and Bale line up against us in Munich tonight was heartbreaking.

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  5. Pingback: A doomsday preview: What if Spurs are worse? | The Spurs Report

  6. (New) season’s greetings!
    God only knows what will happen but I’d really love to see us win a trophy more than anything. It’s long overdue and for such a big club, our trophy haul since 1991 is very poor, if not downright pathetic.
    It’s surely time to go for silverware at full tilt rather than pouring everything into the top four aim, a false Holy Grail in my opinion.
    I hope the young players continue to thrive although I agree we need another forward, sooner rather later. It’s great to clear out players who had ceased to contribute and I’d love us to be successful with youth rather than the chequebook.What a blow to media spin and ridiculous transfer fees that would be. As stated, I agree we need to spend on a striker but I’m quite proud the club have resisted the spending of ridiculous money unlike our top 6 competitors – we do seem to be the best (of the top 6) at giving youth a chance these days, which is fantastic to see.
    Also, hopefully the style of play is also much more David Ginola than Andy Sinton!
    I wish your blog continued success for 2015/16.

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  7. Good to be back Alan…
    Ray Charles….I bought his Modern Sounds in Country Music (Red cover) Album around the time we were winning everything. Brilliant album.Brilliant team.
    I can honestly say I am exited about our club.I have no expectations of League position, only an increase of our quality of football on the field.
    A stronger defence,brilliant young players like Ali,Pritchard,Onomah (Oduwa looks briiliant but he was loaned out) and others. We may yet sign one or two but tge most important think is the tightness if our defence and expansion and flow of our attack.
    Im on the program and like what Ive seen in all preseason games.
    Bring on United. Lets hope the players stay cool and pkay their game and we coukd give them a game

    Like

  8. Good to be back Alan…
    Ray Charles….I bought his Modern Sounds in Country Music (Red cover) Album around the time we were winning everything. Brilliant album.Brilliant team.
    I can honestly say I am exited about our club.I have no expectations of League position, only an increase of our quality of football on the field.
    A stronger defence,brilliant young players like Ali,Pritchard,Onomah (Oduwa looks briiliant but he was loaned out) and others. We may yet sign one or two but tge most important think is the tightness if our defence and expansion and flow of our attack.
    Im on the program and like what Ive seen in all preseason games.
    Bring on United. Lets hope the players stay cool and pkay their game and we coukd give them a game

    Like

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