And we’re off! Spurs’ first win of the season, the transfer window mercifully closed for a few precious, peaceful months, so let’s get on with it.
This invitation I have for a forthcoming event, ‘7 for 7.30’, what does that mean? Do I get there at 7 or 7.30? if it’s going to start at 7.30, because I cannot magically beam myself from the tube station to my seat in one millisecond I will get there early, in all probability between 7 and, oh let’s say for argument’s sake, 7.29. But the seeds of doubt have been sown. Does it really begin at 7pm, will the real business take place over a glass of warm white wine in the foyer?. So that means I should be there at 6.45 to hit the ground running at 7, right?
Wrong. It’s a social work event and they never start on time. Someone will wander up to the top table at 7.40, when I have been in my seat for 10 minutes because that’s when it starts, and announce they don’t want to interrupt the buzz and flow in the room, and that’s what’s important on evenings like this. No it isn’t – what’s important is what the speaker has got to tell me.
The Premier League is like that these days, except of course by now I’ve shelled out over £100 for the privilege of being kept waiting while clubs and players sort themselves out. Contrary to popular opinion, social workers can (and have) organised a p**s up in a brewery whereas Daniel Levy can’t organise a Tottenham transfer window.
More about that later. For the moment, 3 points from the Sunderland game and a fabulous goal, the memory of which will linger long after this uninspired performance has faded from our consciousness. You can keep your 30 yard thunderbolts, nothing like a bit of pass and move for me. Mason, who has impressed me this season, began it in centre field. Too often Spurs’ movement and passing had been good yesterday only to run out of steam when we reached the penalty area. A nothing ball from Walker, hold on to it as the clock was running down. On top now, Spurs had escaped from a first half that ended goalless despite Defoe giving the back four the right run-around and might settle for an away point.
Mason however, was intent only on driving forward. To Lamela and back, still forward. To Kane, Lamela again, now Mason is in the box and on the end of a perfect ball, chipped over the keeper and in. No pass over 10 yards, pass and move, Mason involved three times, runs 45 yards to apply the finishing touch.
Plenty of effort and movement from Spurs, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Class however was in short supply. Dele Alli provided the only other instance, a little shimmy wide left and the defenders were gone. To the byline but no one was on hand to touch in his graceful cross as it slid across the 6 yard box.
Otherwise, for much of the game we looked like a side getting to know each other, which because of the window is what we are. The 4-2-3-1 is familiar but in Alderweireld we have a new centre half and going forward Son and Alli, welcome though they are, are new to this. Hence lots of movement off the ball when we had possession but it quickly became disjointed and the moves broke down without creating shots on target.
Both these attackers will learn. Son had some freedom to work around and off Kane – with Chadli given a similar brief from the left, it’s likely this is where Pochettino plans to generate some goals. Son provided the third memorable moment, managing to pass a corner straight into touch on the same side of the field.
Alli gives attacks that little bit of impetus whenever he gets onto the ball. I like players like that very much and I will get to like him a lot over the next couple of years. Highly promising.
All was not well at the back. Sunderland hit us hard and effectively on the counter with all members of the back four finding themselves stranded at one point or another. If Vertonghen is going to come to get the ball, he either needs to be coached out of what I suspect is his footballing instinct or someone needs to be ready to cover for him. In the second half he held off a Sunderland break then timed his edge of the box tackle perfectly.
In fairness, Defoe was crafty, playing off the shoulder and darting onto well-placed through-balls. It’s hard for a defender to have eyes in the back of his head. Clean through, he hit the far post when he should have scored. Lloris left a fraction more space than usual at his near post as he advanced. He knows JD and suspected he was likely to put that ball across not inside him. Shrewd, leaving a more difficult angle.
Spurs had the better of the second half. Sunderland’s attack was blunted because we cut the supply at source by keeping possession better and dominating the midfield. Defoe made the runs, now there were no passes reaching him. Kane missed a good chance, Dier headed over, Son dithered, Chadli dithered then dithered then dithered again.
My wife’s grandson popped in as Mason scored. I rewound to show him the goal, OK four or five times, then I joked about how a minute behind live now, we were bound to have let Sunderland back into it. How funny am I. The Black Cats wanged the ball against the bar but we got away with it, and three points.
Mason was carried off after the keeper clattered him in the act of scoring. Let’s hope he recovers, his workrate and insistence on getting the ball forward (vital to Pochettino’s approach) has marked him out as our best player so far this season.
Another young man with a mature, impressive attitude was voted man of the match on Sky. Eric Dier made several timely interceptions and penalty-box tackles. What we lose in passing and creative ability in possession we gain in terms of defensive stability, plus he allows Mason to get forward. On balance, a good thing, especially as Bentaleb has begun poorly and we didn’t sign anyone in that position.
One more observation – this season we have had no problem in getting players both forward and back as needed. I’ve criticised Spurs teams for this basic fault over the past seasons. Not a problem at the moment. On several occasions our waste of good opportunities was all the more galling because the final ball did not reach willing players in the box. At that other end, the incident I described above where Verts made his tackle, it was a quick break yet by the time the ball reached the danger area we had four men back.
The window, ah yes. I was busy on deadline day, BBC Sport asked for a 100 words at the beginning of the day and straight after the window closed. I left the article, best to let supporter anger subside, cool heads.
Here’s my summing up for BBC Sport. In the morning:
“Starting the season with only one striker, Harry Kane, is unfathomable or bang stupid. Either way, it’s left fans frustrated and angry. Son’s arrival injects pace and goals into an attack that badly needs both.
Deadwood from successive failed transfer windows has been shipped out. That leaves Adebayor and, sadly, Lennon to go. Milan is wooing Lamela, unable or unwilling to play to the pace in the Premier League, while the lumbering Fazio is an anachronism in Pochettino’s high-tempo, pressing style.
The summer arrivals of Alderweireld, Wimmer and Trippier brought overdue reinforcements to a beleaguered defence. Another striker will be handy but an experienced defensive midfielder to protect the back four and hold the team together is essential.”
And an hour after it closed:
“Spurs’ failure to sign another striker or an experienced midfielder signals a deplorable lack of ambition that could stifle the development of a young squad full of potential and leaves us vulnerable to competitors. The right men in these two positions could make a significant difference but chairman Daniel Levy, the so-called shrewd negotiator, catastrophically misjudged a market flush with TV cash. Teams no longer have to cave in because they just don’t need the money. Another window, yet another missed opportunity.
Today’s desperate Berahino or bust shambles obscures concerns that Spurs’ overhaul of scouting and recruitment failed to find alternatives. The club site’s pathetic attempt to solve the problem by reclassifying Heung-Min Son as a striker did not play well with frustrated and furious fans. Now let’s get behind the team. COYS.”
Two weeks and three points later, I don’t feel much different. I search for patterns and a plan, often in vain, What are Spurs, Levy, Redknapp, AVB, MP, what are we trying to do? This is my biggest problem with our actions during this window. This isn’t about the cash or so-called financial prudence: Levy failed under his own terms.
Not only do I think we need a striker, it’s clear Pochettino thinks so too, despite his bland PR assurances that everything is fine. Why else would Levy have made a sustained effort to sign Berahino? Leaving aside whether or not this young man is good enough for us and/or value for money, the manager wants and needs a striker and in the Supporters’ Trust joint meeting with the Board, Levy assured us that he was going to back the manager.
He has a funny way of showing it. A feature of this window is that clubs have been better able to resist big bids for their players. Everton were able to turn down £40m for Stones, Saints sent us packing when we asked about Wanyama. This is because clubs are flush with TV money. It’s a shame and a sin therefore that Levy, the so-called fly sly negotiator failed to move with the times. His tactics in the boardroom were as outmoded as 5-3-2 is on the pitch.
It’s embarrassing but I’m not really worried about that. I care about the team and we are poorly equipped for a long and intensely competitive season. I get the purchase of Son for his flexibility and goals but designating him as a striker on the official site when (allegedly) he was previously a midfielder and (definitely) the club have registered him with UEFA in the EL as a midfielder is just insulting to fans.
This is failure under Levy’s own terms. Buying a striker and a deep-lying midfielder is not only essential, it’s an investment for the future. Supply and demand – the demand for a striker and midfielder at Spurs is high, the supply of said players willing to come to a team that does not pay the highest wages is low. Pay the market price. if it keeps us in the top six, it is worth it. I’m not talking about the top four, way out of our league. Teams who finished below us last time around are getting organised. Drop out of the top six and Europe, it’s tough to get back, certainly without more investment than the cost of two players. Good players will be tempted to leave and we have a new ground to pay for.
To me this is why this season is a big one for Spurs. Get it wrong and we fall back burdened by the expense of a new ground. Levy has approached it on the cheap. I like our current squad, like their attitude, want to see the young men prosper. I fear that Levy’s rank mismanagement of the transfer window will make their task extremely hard. It’s avoidable, unfair and wrong.