And They’re Off! Spurs Up and Running. Where To Exactly?

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.

25 thoughts on “And They’re Off! Spurs Up and Running. Where To Exactly?

  1. It will always be confusing Alan, but I’m with you on the striker front.
    Let’s hope when we are in our new home we can compete on a level playing field with the top 4 teams.
    So glad we won that game and I believe we have enough about us to be in the top 6 when our new players gel.
    Keep up the good work Alan

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sheesh, Alan, that was rather depressing, and it got worse line by line! Didn’t quite get the social event metaphor but Mclovin had a nice sardonic suggestion. And Mr. Levy must be totally off your Christmas EM card list by now, eh! Nudge, nudge… In brief, I bet Dier appreciates playing every game not backing up RB or CB; I also bet that fellow tykes like Ali, Pritchard, Carroll, and even Bentaleb (20) are happy no other midfielders came in, so they get to play more – and why not play our own; okay, maybe a little short at striker and CM….but now you play with the cards you’re dealt with (and that is Mr. Levy’s dealing), and hopefully play them well! I’m with Ronald. COYS!

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    • Ash, I think it is a shame that all the promise and optimism you rightly acknowledge could go to waste for want of two class players, and that’s my point. The squad have plenty of talent – I wanted those new players to take the weight off the young men and let them develop at their own pace. Maybe Dier already is! If you’re in our place as fans or Levy’s as chairman, why risk it?

      I’m disappointed because the team could do something in the next couple of years, really could with just a little something more.

      Best, Al

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  3. Please Spurs fans, don’t be so negative!!
    We have a lot of really good young players who can develop in top players.
    I like our defence this year and I am sure the attack will come.
    COYS

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In a way, the season will only start for real about now, when the games come thick and fast. August is always a strange month with most teams still not set and looking to do business in the transfer window while having at least one player “whose head is not right” because their name is being rattled around by a big stick in the transfer drum. Then the momentum is halted because of the internationals break. Hopefully we can have a proper look at Trippier, Wimmer, N’Jie and others in the next couple of weeks as the form players come through and Poch can settle things down. But this was turgid stuff at Sunderland. Mason’s shining moment covered up a lot of poor stuff. The fluid, sweeping moves of just a couple of years ago are a fond memory. Now it seems we are content to meet teams like S’land on their own terms and scruff it up for 90 minutes. It seems like the longer Poch has with the team the worse we are getting. There’s still no discernible style or approach and every week is a guessing game of who, what, why, where, when, and how. Poor Son must be wondering what he’s let himself in for. When last seen he had his head in his suitcase hoping to find a return ticket. And Chadli gives the impression that he’ll do only just enough – maybe even less – when he very occasionally appears with the ball. I get the feeling this season that the mid-table teams are getting stronger and there is now no distinction between them and top four teams in the old perception of “winnable” games. We’ve proved that to ourselves in the first five games of this season. It pains me to say it but I’m not sure we’ve got sufficient quality or smarts on the pitch, or a manager able to extract those vital moments of inspiration that are needed to match the very best quality elsewhere in the league.

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  5. Thanks Alan,

    Not an especially good performance but a lovely move for the goal (worthy of winning a game) and I’m sure we’d all like to see much more of that sort of play and more pace and urgency in general. Nonetheless, I’m of a mind that any away win in the league is ultimately a good one. I thought Sunderland were very fired up and much better than I’ve been led to believe they’ve been so far this season and we did well to wear (side) them out after 60 mins or so and largely control the game from thereon in..

    Mason was good (again) and I was pleased for Townsend, who was very dangerous and effective on coming on.Alli, Verty and Dier, and yes Lamela too, were good. Harry will be more than all right as well.

    I do agree that left ourselves a hostage to fortune, or injury, suspension or plain loss of form in one or two key positions after the closing of the window and that the bell of a long, hard season will ultimately toll the deeper we go in competitions … like last season really. Poch used a very narrow squad in the last half of last season, so I hope the feels he can trust all the squad now and we don’t have the same stagnation as last spring..

    Still I’m quite optimistic that we continue to improve as the season progresses.

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    • I feel more optimistic reading the comments!

      I see the promise in the squad and that’s why I was angry, that once more promise could go to waste. levy truly mucked this one up.

      Regards, Al

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  6. I would agree we need another centre forward for, if nothing else, to give Kane a rest now and again, but I don’t agree about the midfielder – I think we’ve enough options there, and once again I think Dier was very effective this weekend.
    Where my head tends to explode a little is my constant frustration over any given 3 in the area behind Kane in our seemingly inevitable 4-2-3-1 formation. Chadli, Dembele, Eriksen, Lamela, Townsend etc have all moments where their qualities are very evident for all to see, but equally are too frequently anonymous at best. I had hoped Son & N’ije were an upgrade of consistency for these positions, injecting some pace. I think Alli looks a fantastic prospect but I’m trying to keep my hopes in check over one so young. In all honesty I’d very reluctantly given up on Townsend & Lamela. I mentally said goodbye to both, assuming they’d be used in the UEFA Cup & League Cup to hopefully attract decent bids in January. And what happens? The pair of buggers come on, play as well as I’d ever dare hope and give me that most cruel of emotion once more – hope! If we could get some consistency in that position of ‘3’ behind the CF I genuinely think we’ll have a team that will challenge for top 5, by which of course I mean 5th.
    But isn’t life a much happier experience when Spurs win? Pathetic how my mood is affected by 11 (or 14 nowadays) young blokes in a Spurs jersey each week, but there it is, too late to change now alas….

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m the same. I’ll stop going when I don’t feel it any more but no doubt my mood lifted on Sunday and has stayed that way.

      Njie is young, one for development, impact sub and the EL. He and Son have pace, Son has more movement up front, both something different from what we have now, as you say that mess of midfielders who are decent but never quite seem to be right for the job.

      Regards, Al

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  7. Hi Alan
    A cracking goal by a player who had decided to make something happen.
    I was delighted for Mason, he looked so frustrated at times due to the lack of movement ahead of him, at one point he strode toward the half way line, gesticulating at the lack of options open to him.
    Maybe the next stage of his development as a player is to start stinging a few teammates ears.
    Was Poch aware that Kaboul is a flying winger, his run and cross that nearly brought the equaliser was admirable.
    Is Poch aware that Lamela is no good.
    Dier IS good, everybody tried hard.
    I apologise for the disjointed nature of my comment this week but it seems in keeping with the team’s performances.
    Regarding the transfer window, I think that WBA’s chairman may have started a trend that all fans should be pleased about.
    Let’s face it, anyone who tells Levy to “Get Stuffed!” must have a seam of decency running through them.
    Boing! Boing! COYS!

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    • That’s the irony – I applaud the way that money for once was not enough! Although football should also see us not as a ‘big club’ but as one that has reached the top six and broken even.

      Regards, Alan

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  8. This is not confusing at all. You either buy the goods or you dont.You can also opt out at anytime. But what it doesnt guarantee is success ir giving you your time back when you pack it in.
    You want guarantees there are seferal clubs around where the odds are better. But look in some ways the owner,Joe Lewis is in a worse position than you. He invested nhis money,gets no respect unless he competes with the oil boys,and for him there is guarantee either.
    We are not in bad shape. Poch has a plan. I can actually see some of what he wants to do. He has been steadying the defence and what he mostly want you do now is create movement. What has movement to do with the past year of slow short passing?
    I think intention was to hit faster with counters and tons of movement on our way to attack but we had to start somewhere. I can finally see some of that. I saw it in the first half of the Stoke game and the first 20 minutes of the Sunderland game and especially the goal. Creating a flow once you have the defence more solid is number one.Its starting to happen. Never mind the opposition its getting it right for us first.
    I still have questions and Poch stillhas to make adjustments. The wingers that invert and the wing backs to begin with. The defence needs voverage when players go up and weneed to also use tge whole field.
    Narrowing thefield also helps the opposition to focus.
    We still have to get those right.
    Also lets face it we didnt need another striker this game we needed a calm Kane. Kane not straining to make things happen. He could have givenus a couple of goals for the win earlierbutI can blame him.Hehas beenour saviourlast season and now wants it badly. It will come.
    While Son started well he drifted out of focus too soon. We were saved by Mason,a brilliant Dier,and some old deadishwood Walker,Lamela and Townsend.
    Its not so bad and thereare some good signs.

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    • Plenty of promise, that’s true. I wanted some experience to take on some of the burden, let them develop, a year or two and we would really have something.

      Poch needed more backing, he deserves it I reckon. He has a way of playing, Levy needs to support that. I don’t want another squad, manager, players to go to waste.

      But Poch has created that promise. Something to look forward to.

      Regards,

      Alan

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  9. When we got some width we played better against Sunderland. A simple observation (cameo) making me nostalgic for the Bale/Lennon years. Maybe Son, when he gets fit, can balance out on the left what Townsend can provide on the right (a bit of pace, beating the full back, and crossing into the box), and hopefully that will happen in lots of games and ‘half’ games to come, when other tactics are falling short. When we were narrow in our play, as we’ve been in too many games in the past few years, we didn’t accompany it with a pressing game, as we’re supposed to do, let alone cutting edge creativity. Sunderland pressed us instead, for the first 70 or so minutes! And if we’re not pressing high up the pitch when playing a narrow midfield fuelled game, what’s the bloody point?? ..soulless ‘own half of the pitch’ possession with little imagination and thrust going forward, that’s what! We got away with this result because Sunderland missed their chances when they were on top, and then ultimately ran out of steam ..while we also introduced good old fashioned wing play. Yes, I know the goal came through a well worked move through the middle, but these exceptions are like hens’ teeth ..and rather than a fluid moment in the game, it was more like a bloody minded determination by Mason to inspire our team by leading from the front. Almost a ‘Gerrard’ moment. I hope the man kicks on, because what I’ve seen of Mason in the past couple of games, he can be a great driving force for us in midfield, even if not the central playmaker, pulling the strings, that we’ve been desperately seeking since Modric left. . .
    Meanwhile, continue to throw in as many midfielders (as decent as they individually are) as you like, Poch, but what happened against Sunderland …us getting outfought and overrun in a narrow midfield for most of that match ..will keep happening (and other teams won’t miss their chances like Sunderland did) until you finally realise that as well as good fitness levels in our young squad, and an admirable desire from them to play wherever you instruct them to, we need balance and width in our team, and for each player to be able to play to his strengths, and know the strengths of his colleagues around him.

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    • Good post CB,Mason did have a great game and does seem a kind of Gerrard type at times.
      Right on about the width but I am trying to comprehend what are the backs/wingers supposed to do in this plan.If the backs are supposed to fill in for the wingers while the wingers invert? Or is it about not having width?
      Its difficult to understand what the intention is.
      Taking away the option for the winger to keep the defender guessing which way he is going is a killer.Lennon was always great veering to the left and then hitting right and gaining that half yard to go round the outside and when AVB inverted him he was lost and with Poch its happening in general again.
      So did Poch throw on Townsend and ask himm ust to find space? Its hard to know.
      I also cant understand if Mason can pull the strings to the creative side of our game,why cant Eriksen?

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      • I don’t think Eriksen is an all round playmaker, Ron, that’s central to the heart of the team. He’s best in the hole behind Kane (although he’s been occasionally wasted by Poch on the left wing ‘problem’ position) and can score goals as well as create in the final third. When Eriksen comes back to the team, Kane will need the Dane’s support further forward, centrally ..as well as from wing play by players such as Townsend, Son, Njye, Lamela, Chadli etc… Problems occur when Eriksen goes deep to find the ball when he’s not being fed it by someone pulling the strings behind him (so gets out of position from that final third, and is not playing to his strengths etc.). Mason has great energy and drive, but seems to play the game at full tilt. He’s not a Hoddle, Ardiles, Modric etc. who created their own time, looked up, considered and then sought out the best options, but I believe Mason (and Eriksen) would thrive if we had a deep lying playmaker. I’m genuinely not sure whether Dembele, Bentaleb, Dior (in that DM position, rather than in central defense) or others, are the type of midfielders who’ll kick us on into that top four. Obviously, there may be a few players who’ll really step up this season (if we can help them find their best positions within a good team fit) including all those I’ve mentioned, plus Del Alli and Pritchard. The trouble is I don’t think Poch, like AVB, really knows his best team yet, or his best tactics.
        And if he thinks he does, it’s worrying because they ain’t workin’!

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    • Mason is developing that ability to make something happen, to change games. I have been really impressed with him.

      Agree re width. Townsend a wide player, should stay wide. Poch gets width from the full-backs but we really need pace up front, either on the ball or speed of thought and movement. That will create impact in the box and space to allow players to move wide. And Dier as a defensive player gives freedom for the full backs to get forward. It should all work…

      Regards, Al

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      • Lots of passing at pace tonight. Alli,Son and co really showing the good side of Pochs plan. Its going to get really good I think. Watching the flow gives me great hope.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Reasons to be cheerful; part 3:

    1. Lloris, Kane and Eriksen stay
    2. All the deadwood now clear
    3. Defence strengthened

    But overall I think the team isn’t really any better than last year.

    1. We still only have one out and out striker
    2. We have little real width
    3. We still have a surplus of steady but not creative midfielders

    We really need both an out and out striker and a flair creative midfield player. Nico Gáitan has a release clause of €35m from Benfica. Much as I’d love him to stay at Benfica, he’d be perfect for Spurs. Wide on the left but cuts inside. Just seen him play tonight. He’s sublime.

    Liked by 1 person

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