Pochettino Searches for An Answer as Spurs Toil


I’m struggling to recall a Spurs game that I enjoyed less than Sunday’s match against Everton. The absence of ideas or inspiration. The inability to pass the ball. Eriksen unrecognisable as the creative hub of a top-class team, unable to control the ball let alone the midfield. Gomes’ injury – my very best wishes to him.

I have of course seen Spurs play worse, a lot worse. When I tweeted about this, a few people mentioned Colchester and Brighton this season, or end of season Newcastle. But these did not have VAR, an absurd, incomprehensible blight on the game of football, sucking the joy and numbing the excitement from a game that has entranced billions for a century and more. Winning and losing is important but VAR proves that some things matter more.

The game was virtually juddering to a halt without VAR’s assistance. Neither side was capable of stringing together a vaguely coherent move. Spurs were slowing everything down, holding ankles and heads after most challenges, while Richarlison hurled himself to the turf at every opportunity. The extended examinations of the two possible penalties, Son and then Dele’s handball, were excruciating for me watching from the comfort of my sofa. I’m certain the people who paid good money for the privilege of being the last to know what was going on felt worse.

These problems are intrinsic to the VAR system. Once you scrutinise decisions with the technology, you can’t unknow or un-see. You look and keep looking. Football seldom lends itself to clear-cut decisions. The Dele incident was the ultimate farce, and I say this on a weekend when a player’s armpit was ruled to be capable of scoring a goal. If it takes refs in front of a bank of screens over two minutes to make a decision, it’s not a clear and obvious error, regardless of what that decision is. Therefore, referees should look a few times, decide whether clear and obvious comes into play, and if not, review ends. Doesn’t matter if it is a penalty or not. But they can’t unsee it, so they’re sucked into the decision from scratch, penalty or not.

The Son penalty – a couple of minutes, restart then they come back to it after another angle is made available, according to Tyler on Sky. Why on earth was that angle not made available in the first place and more the point, who decided it was or was not available, because human beings run VAR? I don’t excuse Son’s tackle on Gomes in any way and I think common decency means Spurs should let it go and not appeal, but changing yellow to red was not on the basis of the tackle itself.

VAR has added to the controversy this weekend, not quelled it. The waning authority of on-field referees has been further diminished by their colleagues in the studio. Match-going fans can’t celebrate without a nervous look at whether the ref is sticking his finger in his ear. And, to repeat, that’s why we pay cold hard cash, a lot of it at Spurs, to tell stories of being there, to remember the moments of exhilaration and elation that only football can provide, unsurpassed by anything in the world.

The way VAR works in the PL hammers home a reminder to match-going fans that we don’t matter. We are the last to know because VAR is a product designed for television. Television, or at least big business in football and in the media money men who sign the contracts want predictability, to exclude as much of the unexpected as they can. For us the unexpected is fundamental to the appeal, a game where many things may be unlikely but anything is possible.

It’s not as if we need a reminder. This is on top of achingly high ticket prices and, as on Sunday, no public transport from London to Liverpool. So out of touch are Sky, Martin Tyler interrupted his droning 90-minute monologue to complain that the station should be open when big matches are on, oblivious to the fact that his employer changed the kick-off to this date and time, knowing about the transport problems. Sky as the centre of the universe.

Without fans, football is nothing. A cliché but true. Except that football chooses to make it as hard as possible to enjoy the experience. In the past, supporter dissatisfaction in the ground is marked with abuse, in time honoured fashion. So far, supporters are getting behind the manager, which I endorse. However, what we’re seeing is a lot of grumbling, sure, we’re football fans and that’s what we do, but also people not coming to games. I know a few diehards who have barely been to games this season. When the time comes, they’ve lost their enthusiasm. When the fun stops, you start doing your sums and ask if that credit card bill is worth it.

Not enough of our money has been invested in the team we’ve come to see. The gaps are less visible at the moment because many tickets go to football tourists or fans who have not yet been to the new ground. These prices are storing up trouble for the club because fan dissatisfaction affects the team negatively too.

There’s always been an unspoken bargain between all fans and all clubs. We don’t ask for much and we’ll put up with a hell of lot to follow our team, and in return expect pay some attention to what we want. It’s not the fortunes of the team that is the tipping point – we’ve ridden ups and downs before, and we’re still here. Just don’t exploit us endlessly. Football is fun, or should be. At the moment, the equation is way unbalanced. We know that if we don’t turn up, and I always will, Spurs will fill our seats with another customer number. Sky plus VAR plus prices is a toxic mix.



Biog of tottenham 3d-400x400To cheer us up, Julie Welch’s terrific Biography of Tottenham Hotspur has been updated and the third edition is out now. A revealing insight into the club a beautiful book wonderfully written, essential for Spurs fans, as I said at the time. My review on TOMM is here


And relax, deep breath, in, out. Except I can’t relax because Spurs are sinking fast. Should have reached this point in the article earlier, but the VAR rant ran away with me.

I’ve wasted enough of your time already so let’s keep this short. Another reason why Sunday was so awful, as if one were needed, is that the gloom and mist has settled on the side and it’s not clearing in the foreseeable future.

Pochettino: I love him but he’s got some hard work ahead. I think that over the summer, he took stock. Legitimately, he could say that he had the basis of the team, tactics, fitness and motivation that he wanted. Sorted. The core of the side were experienced players. We’d demonstrated our resilience.

Poch likes to get the ball forward quickly. Attacks build from deep, from the moment we win possession. Therefore, he bought creative footballers to achieve this. We needed them. However, he made a couple of assumptions, which for what it’s worth I shared, that have proved to be wrong. The defence is not strong enough. We sold a full-back without replacing him. I cannot fathom that a club with our supposed aspirations and where full-backs are vital to our pattern of play could make such a crass error. Levy knows the answer and he won’t tell.

Poch also assumed that everyone shares his commitment and motivation. They had up until then, so it’s a reasonable assumption, but Toby, Jan and Eriksen are off their games, in the case of the first two by just enough to make a significant difference. Rose is brave but waning. Above all, we don’t have a defensive midfielder. Poch has never liked a purely defensive minded player. Wanyama and Dier were necessary steppingstones towards his attack-minded fluent building from the back. But now we look weak and undermanned when sides attack, not just when Aurier flounders but also there are gaps between our centre halves as we get pulled this way and that, even by sides as limited as Everton or Watford. We don’t have wide midfielders capable of digging in for ten minutes to cover out wide, as our awful defending at Liverpool proved. Dier’s vacant, distant expression when the camera caught him unawares told you everything you need to know about where he is right now.

Poch’s book portrays a deep thinker where values and doing things the right way matter.  He knows that doubt can be the seed of progress, because doubt puts a leader in touch with what is going wrong. Then, he must lead change.

Outwardly, he must show certainty. Instead, his teams show the truth, that he’s struggling to find a solution. The last time this happened, he exerted his authority and booted out the miscreants. Now, he doesn’t know his best team or formation any more. He can’t trust his players to deliver. His alternatives are limited. As I said in my last post, the squad restricts his options because of the lack of right-back cover, Wanyama and Dier a yard off the pace for almost a year, no alternatives if Kane is out, no youngsters with enough match experience coming through because they don’t go out on loan.

Pochettino needs the support of fans and his chairman in finding a way forward. It may provoke Levy to spend in January, but, well, you know, you’re heard that one before. In any case, those players won’t be fit enough to slot in.

It’s hard to see what could change in the immediate future. Maybe VAR is affecting my capacity for optimism. Eriksen has been superb for Spurs over five seasons and one bad one won’t change my assessment of his influence, but he’s woefully off-form and should not play. Foyth, Sess and Le Celso must join Ndombele as the nucleus of the new Spurs. Play them now and plan for the future. Sunday’s game left me deflated and frustrated. I fear I’ll have reason to say that again before the season ends. COYS





24 thoughts on “Pochettino Searches for An Answer as Spurs Toil

  1. Pochettino does not deserve the support from the fans because he is the real reason for our slump in results.
    He is totally bereft of ideas his so called game plans are too ridged and need a much quicker change when things are clearly wrong.
    He plays his favourites and makes substitutions far too late to be effective.
    His general demeanour is just terrible he sits down crossed legged and just talks to his mates. When, it’s obvious that the players need some encouragement.
    How can any manager keep his job with an away record like his. At any other club he would be SACKED.


    • Problems for sure, but he deserves some patience and time. If he wants it – i think he’ll walk if he gets a better offer outside England. Plus, a new manager won’t affect the underlying problems. Jan Toby and Eriksen will still see their futures elsewhere and on past form, Levy won’t welcome any new man with a fortune to spend.



  2. Why keep playing Erickson at the moment, to sub him off as injury time starts against Everton was rediculous, also Lo Selso should have been brought on much earlier. It looks quite clear that Erickson does not want to be at Spurs anymore but showing his current form who wants to take him on. Hopefully Poch will start to use Lo Selso instead of Erikson.


  3. Don’t disagree with any of that, Alan, except – “I think common decency means Spurs should let it go”. The red card was a nonsense; the hurriedly-drafted referees’ guideline on “consequences” of actions on the pitch is absurdly all-embracing. Spurs had to appeal, on every principle of fairness and reason, whatever the bureaucratic outcome might be.


  4. The German Bundesliga has the most workable solution for VAR that I’ve seen around Europe. The ref has a screen on the touchline that he can use to clear up any confusion and he makes his decision within 30 seconds. He relies on a studio ref to tell him if he’s missed anything but the match ref makes the decision and is able to take all of the intangibles into account when viewing the touchline evidence. It’s so much better than having a ref taking control from a couple of hundred miles away in his antiseptic box and detached from the cut and thrust and emotion of the live action.
    Poch is on borrowed time. (I think he’s the fourth longest serving ref in the top leagues with six years in the job). We’ve had four fantastic years but I think the best has come and gone and this season is a write off. We are now paying the price for the lack of signings in those two transfer windows not so long ago . If we are standing still by not buying new talent and energy and ideas then all the other teams are running past us and the results are obvious as every week goes by. It’s shocking to see the way the club has fallen apart. Without an away win since February? Having given up leads at Liverpool, Arsenal, Leicester, Man City, Everton and elsewhere and failing to defend the advantage? With all this frustration building Poch will probably go on to win the European Cup!


      • Oh ye of dodgy faith! Hey, Alan, we have seen the future (“Foyth, Sess and Le Celso must join Ndombele as the nucleus of the new Spurs. Play them now and plan for the future.”), and the future is beckoning now! COYMFS!


        • Yes we must give these new players a chance but unless the tactics are feasible then we will be back to square one.
          POCHETTINO really is not 5he right man now for Spurs. He has nothing new to offer.. All he has done is upset the senior players who now wants out.
          He hasn’t helped by saying he also wanted to leave. Well, with 5his poisoning being branded about the club it’s no wonder our form has dropped.


          • Yikes, totally disagree. But there you have it! The players wouldn’t be taking the coaching staff out for dinner if they didn’t support them. Poch wanted a refresh, and hopefully, having our three new signings healthy is the way forward, along with bringing in Foyth, Dier, and Gazza. Once again, totally disagree with your assessment. Wow!


    • Agree with both parts of this David. It astonishes me that the refs seem to have forgotten their own guidance re VAR and ignored experiences of other countries. Somebody else told me it works pretty well in Holland.
      The problems date back as you say to the lack of planning re purchases two summers back, which I’ve written about extensively.. We will never know who this comes down to, but on past form, Levy won’t give any new manager a crock of gold.

      All the best


  5. Agree with the above posters. Poch has lost the plot. You’d think he’d have a glance over at what Lampard’s doing and try and introduce the likes of Tanganga into the equation. His loyalty to now sub-standard players may be admirable but is misguided.

    A debut should be a memorable occasion but he gives Sessegnon a few seconds. Bizarre. We have fallen so far, so quickly that even the likes of Sheff U and Bournemouth look bigger, stronger, fitter and faster than us. Surely on Saturday, at home to the former, Poch needs to do what you say, Alan, and build a new team around Ndombele, Lo Celso, Foyth and Sessegnon. Everyone can see it except for Poch it would seem.

    I fear it may get worse still before it gets better.


  6. I agree Eriksson never play him again Maura and Lamela have to go in the summer at the V latest, we’ve got some great youth players so start to bed them in they can’t play any worse than what’s on show now
    get van da bik and zayeta from Ajax for 80 m in Jan and loan them back to the club in till the summer


  7. You’re spot on Alan. Horrible game, and yes, even though I saw the odd horrible Spurs game in the 1960s, and quite a few since, we really don’t have mediocre quality representing our club at this time, so there’s no excuse. Horrible incident, although I really believe Son’s card should be rescinded ..not because I think his shell-shocked presence would benefit us over the next few weeks (the lad needs some help,rest and mental reassurance), but because the tackle was no worse than a thousand others made during the weekend, and in yesteryear, and the decision against Son would set a dangerous precedent in football if the card were allowed to stand.
    Yellow card, yes, because it was cynical. But the referee was clearly wrong in changing the card to red based merely on the awful outcome alone; and is there a previous time when this has ever happened?!
    Like I said, dangerous precedent to set. Heading will be banned next.
    Meanwhile, we all wish the very best to Gomes, and thank goodness it’s looking like he’ll make a full recovery following his op. I’m also sure he, and most Everton fans, wouldn’t want to see Son pay penance any more than he’s done already.
    Horrible VAR! I remember watching Spurs Barnsley on a freezing night at Wembley in an FA Cup replay a couple of seasons back. The ‘new’ VAR, in that game, was a joke (even if often in our favour). The fans sat there clueless (but almost uncaring as it was so cold) as almost every decision resulted in a statuesque referee listening to ‘whatever’ for minutes at a time, while the players froze silently around him, and the fans’ enthusiasm for the game dissipated. We saw gradual improvements in VAR since, in FA Cup, European club and World Cup games, but in its first PL season it’s undoubtedly done more harm than good, creating and compounding errors rather than rectifying them. It appears to have reverted back to that Barnsley game on a freezing night at Wembley. If VAR is going to succeed, and be consistent, it has to be about ‘clear and obvious’ errors being rectified, and quickly. That’s ALL. Many VAR errors have been made this season, based on awful ‘subjective’ decisions, and lengthy game-killing delays, which make nearly all on-field decisions look fast and correct!
    We would have won the game at Leicester if Son’s goal had stood (thereby making us 4 points behind them, currently, not 10) and there was absolutely no clear reason to overturn the referee’s or linesman’s decision that Son was onside. Son was ‘visibly’ level, looking at the VAR ‘stills’. For that alone, he should have been given the benefit of the doubt as the attacker (or does that not count anymore?). And for those who argue that even if a toe is offside, it’s offside, let me ask them if absolute proof exists (categorically) showing at which point the ball leaves the toe of the ‘passer’! No, that proof does not exist, and when it’s far too close to call, common sense dictates you must stay with the referee’s or linesman’s decision. Otherwise a ‘subjective’ VAR decision can become paramount in overturning an objective decision on the pitch. The Alli ‘handball’, too, reminded me of Llorente’s ‘handball’ when scoring the goal that ultimately knocked City out of the QFs of the CL. There was no clear cut way of seeing if the ball had actually touched Alli’s or Llorente’s arm, or whether the trajectory of the ball had changed. Fortunately, common sense prevailed in these cases and the ref’s decisions were upheld, but now everything has become foggy and absurd. VAR is farcical, and we don’t go to games for that reason.
    Both teams were awful on Sunday, but the worrying thing is that Spurs were ‘gutless’. It hurts like hell to say that, but we were. No Glory in this side at the moment. I watched the 9 men of Ajax continue attacking Chelsea tonight (at 4-4) still looking for a winner. Now THAT is Glory! THAT is what Spurs should get back to. Not shutting up shop with nearly 20 minutes of playing time left (should have been 15 minutes of OT anyway) merely because Son was sent off. We sat back, allowed Everton real momentum, and then that other poor team inevitably scored. We do it too often, even with 11 men, trying to protect a one goal lead when there’s ample time left to incisively counter and kill teams off. It’s sickening, awful to watch and it isn’t Glory! It’s Fear! Just like the powder puff passing game throughout on Sunday (with only 5 seconds of Son/Alli magic). I can accept Spurs being poor, off colour, having an off-day, being outplayed by a good team, being undone by misfortune ..but I can’t accept that ‘gutless’ display, and I further hope Eriksen NEVER plays for Spurs again!


    • Thanks as always for your thoughts. I too have seen some rubbish. It was the poor quality of both teams, Spurs’ gutless as you say, no idea how to change things, the irritability of players on both sides. Sincerely hope the newcomers freshen things up as they did last night. And if Dier can be the centre half many thought he could be, that would be a boost too.

      Regards, Aaln


      • Interesting Dier talking about his issues: “My immune system just really struggled with the medicine after the appendix and I kept on getting ill.People said I was injured but I was never injured, I just kept on falling ill because of it afterwards which was very frustrating. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t a normal thing for anyone. It was a very strange experience but something that hopefully I will be better for.” Having him healthy, and his on-field aggression (remember taking out Ramos) and leadership, and flexibility will be very beneficial. Also, his honesty about what was going on shows how much or little we actually know about the inner workings of the team; like Eriksen not doing it in games, but being very professional otherwise, in training, no strops, etc.


  8. I never wanted VAR. It’s a recipe for sterility.
    Football pitches are four sided rectangles. All I ever wanted was a referees assistant on all four sides to give better on the spot decisions – and to avoid clear and obvious errors like Clattenburg’s Pedro Mendes “goal” decision at Old Trafford.
    From what I’ve seen this season, I’ve not changed my mind.


    • It takes far more away from the spectacle of football than it brings. This is all predictable, I said all this would happen when they first introduced it. The most surprising thing about VAR is that anybody is surprised this is happening.

      Regards, Al

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Alan, wow, I was looking for a ray of sunshine, here. (Surely, this isn’t as bad as being relegated in the General’s first year. Or, those nameless player days in the 90s?) But didn’t find much. Luckily, we have a lot of it out in SoCal! TTID!


    • Sorry my friend, spare us all a few rays from the land of eternal sunshine!

      Can’t hide my frustration after Sunday but yesterday helped. Red Star are poor but we played the new players who all did well. Keep playing them, get them fit in matches. I am greatly encouraged by the return of a leaner, motivated Eric Dier. This could help. Sheff Utd will put more pressure on that creaking defence though…

      All the best, Al

      Liked by 1 person

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