Poch’s Judgement Sound As Spurs Stay Stable

I’ve always reckoned that Spurs and Everton fans had a lot in common. Both sets of supporters have remained steadfast through the doldrums of recent times even though loyalty has been sorely tested by the success of their neighbours and bitter rivals. Once members of the so-called ‘Big Five’, the five most influential clubs from the mid-sixties to the mid-eighties (the others being Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool), now no longer movers and shakers.

To a large extent it still holds true but over the past three seasons the comparisons with the other Merseyside club, Liverpool, have been unavoidable. Both Spurs and Liverpool were in the process of rebuilding, both appointed youngish managers, Andre Villas-Boas and Brendan Rodgers, within 2 days of each other in June 2012 whose reputations had gone before them. In the background, both clubs were itching for success and prepared, so it appeared, to invest heavily in the transfer market but looming over them was the expense of rebuilding famous but aging grounds.

No matter – these young coaches were the new breed, their methods and tactics compensating for any shortcomings in the market. Rodgers seemed to settle best but in the end AVB’s Spurs finished 2 places and 11 points ahead of Liverpool even though our side had several weaknesses.

Times change – the following December Liverpool ferociously tore into Spurs at White Hart Lane and ripped us apart as instinctively as a lion tearing the throat out of its prey. We lost 5-0, AVB was sacked and Liverpool’s thrilling attacking football nearly won the league.

Now it’s Spurs who have stabilised and Rodgers who is unemployed. Pochettino has so far succeeded where Rodgers failed. Comparisons are instructive as we pause for breath during the international break.

Pochettino’s choice of tactics is pretty much fixed to a 4-2-3-1 although the system itself has built-in flexibility, especially with the movement of the 3 and varying the attacking freedom given to the full-backs. One justified criticism is that he doesn’t have a Plan B if after 70 minutes things aren’t working, However, he knows what he wants and, above all, so now do the players. This has been at the root of our progress this season.

Also, he chooses players to fit that system. I think he is wary of the challenges that can be presented by players with experience who may have influence in the dressing room and different ideas about how they should play and what they should do in training. That’s why he goes for youth, because he can mould them, and why he was an attractive option for Levy when it came to choose AVB’s replacement.

It’s a shame in many ways but it’s working. The players know it’s Poch’s way or the highway. Those that didn’t buy into the philosophy were ruthlessly jettisoned. Now we have a group of players who can do what their manager wants. Also, the teamwork and attitude of those who are left has forged an excellent team spirit and a side working together for each other. Without any natural standout leaders, nevertheless the culture of hard work and high tempo has taken hold firmly in the squad, witness Lamela’s recent performances. A beneficial culture that exists independently of any individual is hard to establish but once created, it’s powerful and lasting precisely because it does not depend on the character of a few fist-pumping heroes.

Liverpool have spent an astronomic amount on players since Rodgers became manager. However, he’s fatally changed his tactical approach and bought players who don’t fit and/or aren’t good enough. Too many changes, players who are not the right fit for what their manager wants them to do, players who are not right for the intensity of the PL. There’s no spine, whereas our development this season is founded on the axis of Lloris, Vertonghen and Alderweireld, Dier (and Mason until he was injured).

Mulling this article over, Pochettino’s approach comes out in a positive light. The coach making the whole greater than the sum of the parts is at White Hart Lane, not Anfield, whatever Rodgers’ reputation may be. Some of it is refreshingly familiar though. Players with the right skills, the right attitude, playing in the right position, the one that suits them and team best. This applies to every successful side football has ever produced but it’s a lesson many managers and clubs easily forget, including Liverpool. Caught up in tactics, false nines, inside legs, registas, the essence of a manager’s job is player judgement. Still is, always has been. Right player, right attitude.

Rodgers’ experience at Liverpool also highlights a real potential problem, who takes decisions. Much has been said about Liverpool’s transfer committee. Informed sources point to players being bought who Rodgers did not want and an over-reliance on analytics, which provided skill but did not assess their attitude in the highly competitive PL.

Spurs have been here before. Martin Jol did not have full control over player choice and it seems suspiciously likely that Baldini’s bunch, the less-than-magnificent-7, were bought without full consideration of their ability to survive the physicality and intensiveness of 90 minutes in the PL, week in, week out.

It’s vital that we don’t repeat the same mistakes. Although we have Pochettino’s men leading the hunt for players now Baldini has gone, Levy showed in this past window that he has not dealt with a fatal reluctance to support his manager properly. The Berahino fiasco left us with one striker, Son is injured, it only takes one knock and Chadli’s up front…

Pochettino won’t repeat Rodgers’ other error, going public with his criticism of his employer. It does mean though that he will have to make do with what he’s given. Right now, I’d take the talent and attitude in or squad over anything Liverpool can offer.

Swansea – a reasonable performance and reasonable point, all in all. Blunt up front with chances missed. Kane’s fluency has eluded him but he never hides, even after the catastrophic unforced error when he sliced a corner into his own net, having been so reliable at that near post set-piece defensive position. Chances gone but not quite true to say ‘last season he would have hit that first time’, because last season he would often have a few touches and still score, but there are times when he’s thinking too much now.

Eriksen picked us up with those two free-kicks, the first the keeper should have covered, the second just about perfect. Good movement in the front three with Lamela and Eriksen offering some lovely angled balls from centre mid, Lamela really picks those beautifully. Son makes things happen in the box, maybe a different result if he had been on the end of one of them.

At the back, we let too many runners go in the first half especially. A fine header for their first but three Swansea players advanced unaccompanied on the back four. Dier looked weary at the end, still brooding about an unjustified booking. He deserves a rest over the international break plus I think he misses the Liverpool game through suspension. His frustration bubbled over at the end. After a fine 20 minutes when we should have scored, a point seemed enough, then Dier chopped down an attacker. The free-kick imposed needless pressure and all our efforts were about to go waste when Hugo arced into the top corner to miraculously tip a header onto the bar and away.

6 thoughts on “Poch’s Judgement Sound As Spurs Stay Stable

  1. Regarding the Swansea game,on another day we could have won or could have lost so a draw is fair enough, especially after Thursday’s efforts in Monaco. I do think Lamela is more effective with Son in the team as they
    contrast regards pace. When it’s Chadli and Lamela they’re both a little one paced so I think they’re easier to defend against.
    Your point on buying / choosing players to suit a system I agree with totally. It seems simple logic but seems frequently to get lost somewhere. We’ve a bit to go yet, but putting square pegs in square holes seems to be working. Who’d have thunk it?!
    Liverpool spoiled my childhood with their frequent successes and I’ve never forgiven them, especially for the time they totally ruined starting ‘big school’ for me by dishing out that 7-0 hiding. I was tortured for months so when it goes south for them they get no sympathy from me. Rodgers, and now Carragher, have aimed a few jabs in our direction which irks me no end. Possibly because these jibes aren’t totally without foundation ! Spend £100 million Brendan, you expect to be challenging for the league……..

    Finally, and without wishing to come across as as brown noser, the writing on this site, and most replies ( quite possibly apart from the nonsense I spout) are much more articulate than most, so any readers who don’t already download it may be interested in issue 17 of quarterly football e-zine The Blizzard. There’s a piece primarily on Exeter City manager Paul Tilsdale, but includes a little interview with Steve Perryman whose approach to football and footballers made an old cynic like me all warm and fuzzy inside.
    Enjoy the break!

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  2. I was happy to see Eriksen come through in this one. He has been too quiet, too often.
    When Son came to us immediately there was an injection of pace,an injection of desire. The kind of desire that Kane showed for half the season last term.
    One aspect is talent but another is desire and its fuel,energy. Son wants to make a difference. We see that every week in Lloris’s face. Dier all season has offered this kind of energy (this week he was totally tired and gave himself a rest with the yellow card) but Duer has been in it lije a Mackay might.And Alli,what a fine player,mature kid he is and ge puts it out there.
    Eriksen never seemed like that. He runs around almost anonymous at times but this week when we needed it,he produced 2 wonderful goals (Im giving him the first) and steadily through the game became our best player with his incisive passing sonetimes more medium distance forward even rather than the usual short pass to the sides.I mean he challeged the brilliant Montero for MOTM for sure.
    Spurs are different every week for some reason. For me a flow is a great group of passes often at pace that flow through from one end of tge field to another. We’ve seen such footie many times this season already.Its not constant but its there. Didnt even see it in this game . Infact one of Swansea’s goals were like that. We let them pass right through us and aroubd us while Lloris saw that whole mess in front if him unfold. Nobody touched one of their players.Nobody was witjin 5 or 10 yards if them all the way through.
    I was thinking maybe Poch had our players playing zone and marking blades of grass ratger than other humans. Still we held the game in our hands more than they did but coudnt seem to put it away.
    I was so appreciative of Kane last year to save us from ourselves,this year with me he has had a free ride.But no more. The man has to start standing up and ge may need to start doing instead of thinking.Him straining doesnt help. But its only Kane that can get out of the mess.
    Im seeing so many good things around our team now.Poch system us beginning to show.Its absolutely frustrating at times but a lot less than last season.We do see some football.
    The Americans want success NOW.Liverpool demand success NOW. We have waited eons so we have tge oatience to wait longer. The plan looks good. Lets hope that we continue to build and grow.

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  3. Thanks Alan,
    It was a super game. We’ve improved in terms of cohesion and tempo in a short space of time this season.

    Rodgers’s sacking is interesting when compared to Spurs as you show Alan. The ups and downs (rapid turnover) of acclaim or brickbats are instructive. While Rodgers suffered by comparison with AVB (indebted to Bale, but not only) in the first season and we all breathed a sigh of relief, Rodgers’s stellar second season (indebted to Suarez, but not only) had him telling all and sundry (and most people listening) how he turned Spurs down as Levy doesn’t have the patience to allow a man to build a side, unlike Fenway Sports. It looks like Levy is learning the lesson, while Rodgers will do well to get another gig as big as Liverpool. Sobering stuff football.

    To think Bill Nick and Shankly had many a struggle. Shankly took 3 years get Liverpool out of Div 2!!! We had some low finishes even under Bill Nick, but both were given time to build and rebuild (which they’d eventually earned with their great times by then). Other times, of course and football is poorer in many ways for it.

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  4. The introduction of Townsend and Njie, rather than propelling us towards the three points, had the reverse effect. Townsend was horrible – a one-dimensional player if ever I’ve seen one. He’s below par far too often and, personally, I’d like to see him shipped out. Clinton is very raw but one can see that he has pace, flair and natural ability. It will take a year or two for Poch to cultivate him.
    The conversion of Dier to DM is a masterstroke; the solidifying effect on the side cannot be underestimated.
    Our Harry will come good, for sure. He has all the tools. Alan is right, he just needs to think less and allow his instincts to come to the fore. The Liverpool game, with them under the stewardship of Klopp, will be a barometer of how far we’ve come since the 5-0 drubbing that Alan talked about. All in all, very encouraging.

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  5. Couldn’t agree more that we are much more of a club than that mess up in Liverpool. There’s another factor to add to your comparisons that fall firmly in our favour. For some reason, recent managers (and new ones coming in also beware), have had to contend with a rats nest of former players going back many years who seem unable to cut ties with the club and instead seem content to undermine whatever is going on there with whispering campaigns. Some cliques like to do their dirty work in the shadows and more than one capable manager has found it hard to handle. I suspect the place is such a goldfish bowl that there’s nothing else to occupy themselves. Tottenham, however, have enjoyed better relations with its players and it’s rare that former employees go on the attack or do damage in that way.

    Swansea. It could have been so much better. Poch seems wedded to a midfield of Lamela, Chadli and Eriksen, who haven’t got a tackle between them. They all “nick” the ball off the opposition. And when we are defending they often go missing. Lamela proved unable to recognize that Walker had his hands full and left him to it. We also had proof that his above average appearance against City was a flash in the pan rather than a curtain rising on a new attitude. Has any player looked so awkward jogging about and running with the ball, each uncoordinated limb at odds with his brain? As Harry would say, he’s not a proper footballer. Lamela should take note of a proper footballer and watch Delli at work.

    Once Poch saw the error of his ways and brought on Dembele things improved considerably but why do we conspire to let opportunity slip away so often? Not just the goal chances but our collective will to win.. We could’ve gone third or fourth with a win but still lack a “take charge” mentality that would have had a Mackay or Mullery or Roberts, or Yorath like figure telling them that it’s not “We can win this match”, but “We will win it”. We just don’t have that in us at the moment. And that’s why we’ll float up and down the top half of the table from 10th to fifth on any given weekend until next Spring.

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  6. IAlan,ve never compared Livrrpool to Tottenham.I coukdnt care less about Liverpool.I couldnt care less about Carragher. When we were at the height of our game,in tge early sixties,I think Liverpool were just coming up from Division 2,Arsenal was crap tgey had 3500 (hundred)for a top division game against Leeds. I didnt worry so much about any of them. I compare Tottenham to Tottenham.

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