Spurs Roll Back The Years To The Bad Old Days

Those of us of a certain age are fond of rolling back the years to the glory glory nights, where memories are rich and warm, where the lights were bright but none shone as brilliantly as the stars in all white. Against Bayer Leverkusen, Spurs went back in time to a reality most of us prefer to shift out of the way to gather dust in a dark corner, the cupboard under the stairs of the mind. Instead of rising to the challenge, Spurs sank without trace.

Spurs stunk the place out. The stench lingered longer than the queue for Wembley Park. Back to the bad old days. No purpose or ambition, no passing or basic team play. No idea.

I really thought we had got past this, that even under par we could make a good fist of things. The combination of the inexact science of the NHS appointments system and southeast London’s totally inadequate transport system meant that I missed this one. For once I was almost glad I was spared the gloom of the Wembley queue.  The second half was utterly atrocious.

A first half hour high in effort and low on opportunities was punctuated by absurd methods of giving the ball away when under pressure, Lloris’s fluffed passes and Eriksen’s crossfield pass being the two most notable examples. We could not keep the ball for any length of time but neither side were dominant. The Germans looked more dangerous with runners sliding into the channels, something we conspicuously failed to achieve at the other end. When we did so on a rare break, Eriksen ignored four other options in favour of a shot from distance.

I can’t recall a proper chance in this period. Later, Spurs roused themselves briefly around the hour mark with Walker leaving four men in his wake then shooting wide from an angle, while a cross drifted past Janssen. Otherwise we were too narrow, missing Rose on the left and Sissoko keen to drift inside without linking effectively with Walker to the outside. Son was peripheral and when he had the ball he returned to his old habit of running well then kicking it straight at the defender in front of him.

Everyone’s decision-taking was poor. This meant we had no possession and promising moves quickly ended with a misplaced pass, a tackle because we were hesitant or simply trying to pass or run the ball into a space where none existed. Sissoko and Dele were especially guilty of this. I’m talking basic stuff here, 10 yard passes became worthy of applause by the end such was their rarity.

This rather implies we had some sort of plan. I’m sure we did but it was not evident to anyone in the English record crowd for a club game of over 85,000. Pochettino fumed on the touchline. The defence, our rock this season, was stupefyingly awful. Leverkusen could easily have scored four or five. In the first half Vertonghen blocked and Lloris saved when a score seemed certain. There were several other great opportunities in the second.

How can players fall apart in this way? Kyle Walker: a case study. He’s been outstanding this season, without reservation, going forward and, given his previous positional frailties, remarkable at the back. At least some good came from England’s Euro 16 debacle – Walker had matured. Last night it was as if he’d been exposed to that memory eraser from Men in Black. Failed clearances, caught on the ball near the box, hope rather than judgement conditioning his response to a ball on the byline. He lost it and the Germans somehow contrived not to score. His expression turned from the determined professional we’ve seen all season to the bewildered nervous schoolboy of times past. What was he thinking?

I could go on but it makes me sad. Sad and disappointed, not angry. What a waste of the opportunity. Spurs fans thrilled by the availability of cheap seats and CL football, sent home desperately disenchanted.

The team have let themselves down and left fans frustrated once more. We earned a place in the CL: I wanted Spurs to show Europe how good we could be. That’s all – get out of the group and see what happens, we weren’t going to win it. Probably. Not a lot to ask. Hardly unrealistic expectations, yet unfulfilled.

The Wembley effect: compare and contrast. Playing at Wembley may inspire opponents – it can inspire Tottenham too, but doesn’t. The pitch is bigger than White Hart Lane and again that’s something we could turn to our advantage. Instead, we seem overawed and frankly out of our depth. The CL is one thing, an entire season like this quite another. If we can’t play at Wembley, pointless entering the cups then.

Any focus on changing circumstances conceals the sobering reality of continuing issues that have been bubbling under since the season began. This is still a developing squad without concerted experience playing as a team at Champions League level. Teams who do well in this competition depend on experience. Summer purchases by and large were made with an eye to the future rather than instant gratification. Wanyama has taken a big step up while Janssen may be an international but is only part way through his second season playing in top-flight football. It shows.

Without Kane and Alderweireld, the spine of the team was weakened and we chose not to buy one or two seasoned professionals who could have conveyed their experience to the others. Last night there were no leaders on the pitch. I don’t mean fist pumping gobshites but men able to assert themselves when things are going wrong. This applies as much in respect of their influence on their team-mates as over the opposition.

The squad is just not deep enough. Harry Winks is a fine prospect but with all respect to him, we should not have to bring on a player yet to start in the Premier League to add creativity to a side chasing the game.

Also, this may be dull and obvious but we have several players not at the top of their game. On Saturday we ground to a halt in the last fifteen minutes, devoid of ideas, players shrugging their shoulders at each other, bickering, something I’ve not seen for many, many matches. Eriksen is busy but remains an actor who knows the words but is searching for the plot. Janssen is up for the battle but loses the ball too often, Dembele is hesitantly groping for fitness and form, while Dele’s habit of leaving a touch to the last second is getting him into trouble more often than it creates opportunities. Sissoko has not had a proper pre-season and clearly has yet to grasp what is expected of him. All players need time to settle so I will leave it there, although long-term issues are surfacing about where and how he fits the way we play. We embraced Son and his goals but perhaps our enthusiasm understandably obscured these underlying problems. The City performance, as good as anything I’ve seen in decades, was heralded as a sign of a step-change in progress. Now it looks like the outlier, a hint of what might be but last night showed how much there is still to do.


15 thoughts on “Spurs Roll Back The Years To The Bad Old Days

  1. Alan. I called the team effort last night appalling… I think your “atrocious” is even more apt.

    God help us on Sunday lunchtime!


  2. Left Oxford at 4.00 pm yesterday and didn’t get back until nearly midnight. Thats 8 hours of my life I’m never going to get back just to go and watch the most miserable performance that I think I’ve ever seen in over 50 years of attending “home matches” ( and many away ones as well ). Son, Janssen and Sissoko cost the best part of £60 million between them. I doubt if we’d get 60 quid for the lot of them after their performances last night. What on earth do this lot do in training for pity’s sake, or do they take their brains out and stuff it up their backsides and then tell them to “run around a bit lads” aka H. Redknapp, and we’ll be alright
    If there was a game plan, I’m damned if I could see it
    Answers on a postcard please


  3. I can only assume that Wembley is an upside down spaceship and that whenever an English team, or an England team, enters its portals some giant scanner sucks all the life-force out of our limbs, rendering us brainless, legless, and hopeless. I tried to laugh this one off, in the hope that it was an aberration, but our performances are getting incrementally worse. I’ve not often been shocked by our team, but the recent decline has been shocking. I accept that one or two players are tired, and one or two more are struggling for form, but the whole team shouldn’t have caught a sudden dose of crapitis. There’s no point is repeating Alan’s spotlight on the shambles (more like not enough room) and we shall see just how good Poch is with three days to grab this squad by the scruff and get it battle ready for the weekend. Hopefully we’ve bottomed out, otherwise it could get ugly over the next few games.


  4. Honestly, by the last 20 minutes I had lost interest and was spending more time thinking about how to get home than anything else.

    We were very poor, with few if any exceptions. Sissoko is getting a lot of stick but I can’t say he was that much worse than some others.

    As you out so well, Al, this was a chance to show Europe what we’re about and we have fluffed it. Not for the first time, mind. The Dortmund games last season were a warning of how ordinary we look against European teams. The last run in the Champions League feels like a very long time ago.

    Unless we raise our game significantly Sunday could be very embarrassing.


  5. Yeah, dreadfully disappointing, and compared to my thoughts last night when standing in the slow moving, but thankfully short, queue at Wembley Central station, you’ve been diplomatic when describing our under performing players. One in particular made me Grrrr quite a bit . I’m sure you can guess which.

    The reason I read and enjoy this blog, and its one of only about half a dozen football sites I even look at, is because it’s not knee jerk, click bait, nonsense. I like the reasoned response and the different perspectives offered by you, and also your Readers. All that said, the thing that caused me to look on in disbelief last night were the atrocious attempts to be too clever in our own box and the surrounding areas. I think you’ve been quite gentle on them on that front. This type of play is often described as ‘amateur’ or ‘schoolboy’ defending on TV – I’d be surprised if any amateur or schoolboy anywhere would have tried to do some of the things Spurs tried last night! Crazy stuff.

    Having criticised him recently though, I thought Vertonghan excellent last night. Him aside, few others emerge with credit in my view. I dread Sunday after such a showing, but am unable to shake off an ‘and yet’ feeling I have , where hope is triumphing over reason – perhaps part of me thinks there has to be a positive response after the team serving up such dross.

    That was my first visit to the new Wembley, though I realise it’s no longer ‘new’ to most fans – I was very impressed even if the atmosphere is nowhere near WHL on a good night. Mind you, I think most fans had their mouth hanging open in shock and so were unable to add to the noise generated in pockets around the ground.

    Sissoko was my Room 101 player last night. I’ll say no more than ‘must do better’.

    Crap performance. But still a good read!




  6. Agree with all comments & would like to add that it’s not just the rest of Europe we were hoping to impress – there’s near on 50,000 extra fans at Wembley that don’t go to the Lane we need to be impressing. Don’t think they’ll be signing up to the new stadium season ticket list based on the showings so far.
    Can’t believe how far we’ve fallen since beating Man City – we’ve totally lost our way.


  7. Our performances have generally been underwhelming in Europe under Poch, and AVB before him, even when winning. There is much less intensity and cohesion to our play in the EL and now CL. Mind, last night’s shambles was on a different level completely. Many of the European teams we play seem more composed and smarter than us and a better team shape.

    a Gory Gory Night for the Spurs.


  8. What made us so good last season (until those final few matches when we lost fitness, focus and discipline) and what we’ve displayed only on occasion this season ..was/is a unified drive and determination in a team based on the sum of its parts, led by a fine orchestrator in Poch.
    What we have at present is a malaise ..a shambles.
    And I agree with Poch …it’s not Wembley, it’s us! Despite the fact that a wide Wembley doesn’t suit our narrow game (in which we couldn’t even press high to compensate) while visiting teams seem more than capable of playing to Wembley’s strengths, as well as their own.
    So why are such fine (if not brilliant) players putting in such shoddy performances? Did some think that, individually, they’d ‘arrived’ as great players, when we beat City? Because it was our system that beat City ..the pressing, the in-their-face determination, the no letting-up of pride (and resolve) for themselves, as players playing for their teammates, the team, the club and the fans. Do some players suddenly think they’re better than what they are, or better than the players they’re playing with, following all the signed contracts and increased wages? Again, they are only exceptional within the team framework that Poch has built up …despite his lack, still, of a plan B!
    Lloris and Vertonghen, experienced pros that they are, must have wondered what team they were playing in last night! I’m also wondering, for example, if Alli is like the emperor with no clothes, he was that ineffective. Eriksen? What on earth has happened to him? Son, well that’s been mentioned before. Stuck up front again, before Janssen came on for Dembele, he ran around like a headless chicken, both before and after …thus reverting to last season type. Dembele looks injury prone, out of touch, and has struggled badly since his excellent contributions up to last April ..so therefore, in the absence of any type of form from Eriksen, we have no creative link at all between defense and attack. Dier, Davies? Awful. Maybe they’re both feeling negative pressure from Rose and Wanyama ..although I still see Dier in the midfield holding role above Wanyama (many may shout me down for that, but I believe Dier is a more natural passer going forward, and influential breaker-up of play within Poch’s system). Walker, we can excuse ..he hasn’t had many poor games …and Janssen is still doing the right things, in my opinion, within a team that’s doing the wrong things. He just needs to get sharper (like the chance after the Dier free-kick off the bar) but he’s not the problem. I’m loathe to mention the elephant in the room ..and I referred to him, or the lack of any reference to him, in my last post with you, Alan. Sissoko! He joined us for Champions League Football? Frankly he would do well to make it in Championship football. He makes Chadli look like a Galactico. He can’t run, he can’t cross, he struggles to track back, he can’t beat a man, and he’s no threat on goal. His swallow in the Euros does not make a summer for US unfortunately ..but then it’s not HIS fault we spent £30m on him, a player manifestly unsuited to Tottenham, let alone Poch’s plan. No point looking for scapegoats though ..it’s unfair as many were poor. Poch must take some of the blame too. Something has happened to our squad, our team, and currently we can’t seem to lift ourselves out of it. I never thought Mason, Chadli or Townsend would take us to the next level, and was glad for them, and us, when they left …but right now I miss the options they provided, over current players who may well (temporarily I hope) be taking us backwards.


  9. Poch had to take some responsibility here. In truth the last four games of last season and with the exception of City and Stoke we have been very poor and the league position flatters to deceive. We are in this period out of two cups and threw away second place in the league. Clearly losing Harry and Toby is a big factor but I believe moving Dier has been a mistake. He is a better passer than Wanyama and while not super creative has better vision. Also his positional play is better. When any of our defenders move forward he has the inate ability to fill in maintaining the defensive line. Finally Janssen is willing but currently just not good enough. I fear that with his embarrassing lack of pace he may never be good enough. We need a performance on Sunday and the manager needs to put together a team that can give us a result that does not mean we lose our one current record of note – being unbeaten. This is unquestionable a crisis moment.


  10. What a shambles it was – I was beginning to think, like many others, that the bad old embarrassing days of yore had gone. Seems not so, not at the moment anyway. I’ve been a Spur since 1958 and, Dear Me, I’ve seen some performances that defy description – Newcastle 7-1, Derby 8-2, Sheffield United 6-0, The Manchester United 5-3 debacle, the Manchester City 4-3 FA Cup meltdown. Further back in the 62- 63-64 years I remember us tonked 7-2 by Burnley, Blackburn and Liverpool but, due to my dad’s Army postings, I actually didn’t see those – maybe the result didn’t portray the performance, I can’t remember now. But this show ? Spare me. And another thing – where’s Kevin Wimmer. Last I heard he was a centre- back by trade; there must be something seriously wrong with him if he can’t get a game. Come on Lads – you’re better than this. Or are you really.


  11. I’m totally lost for words Alan.

    Froze me nuts off to watch that can’t be asked attitude from our team. They were all poor, why?. How can we be brilliant one minute, then totally devoid of ideas the next…it’s as if someone has spiked their food/drink to stop the receptors in their brain from connecting quick enough..every time we decided to pass the ball the other team knew wewould give it to them.Maybe it’s a pressure thing , and we lose it when we are under pressure, like the end of last season.

    Flipping gooners on the piss take again now they have the upper hand. I just hope we can shut them up on Sunday, I really do 🙏

    Keep up the good work Alan


  12. Crikey, I’m glad I missed all the wonderfully optimistic comments here, as we had some wonderfully optimistic Election stuff going on over here (NOT)…But we Spurs fans do like nothing better than a good moan. LMFAO! Well, at least the Dark Side of NL haven’t beaten Poch in 5 games in the PL, that’s something positive! COYS!


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