Spurs: Stating the Bleedin’ Obvious

The sole advantage of writing this blog infrequently is a sense of perspective. I’m not compelled to respond to the latest piece of gossip, Emerson falling over as he attempts a tackle or analysing Conte’s latest stream of consciousness news conference. Big picture stuff, an overview. A thousand yard stare into the recent past. 

There’s no plan here. There never has been really, come to think of it, not for Tottenham On My Mind. Life gets in the way, you know how it is. Obscures the real plan, if I’m honest, that life should never get in the way of football, of being there. The contorted logic and twisted priorities of a football fan. You’re reading this, you understand.

Perspective provides invaluable insight, but, and this is a warning to all my readers, it can be dull. Here’s one for you: building a team takes time. I know! 

Who knew? We all did, but still we banged on about a lack of progress, one step forward, two steps back. I would have, if I had written more often. Conte’s a football coach, not a magician. The touchline flamboyance, bordering on hysteria sometimes, is only a part of this complex character, the 10% of the iceberg visible, out of sight is the 90% of relentless graft on the training pitch. 

And he’s getting through to the players in a way we’ve not seen since Pochettino left. There’s togetherness to overcome the disunity he inherited, motivation instead of apathy. Above all, there’s teamwork, a shape and pattern that strengthens the team as whole and brings out the best in each individual. 

Here’s another dazzling observation for you: the players know what they are doing. They understand what is expected of them in key situations in the play. For instance, the first half against Newcastle was a little dull, especially compared with the deluge of exhilaration that was to follow. And that’s the evidence of true progress. We kept the ball for extended periods, probing to find ways of breaking down a 10 man defence. No panic. Players were seldom caught on the ball because a teammate was always available, and that is a big difference compared with the last few years. Ben Davies’ post-match comments on Sky were interesting. He phrased them not in the usual ‘we got stuck in after half-time Geoff’ mode, referring instead to how they altered their approach from control to overcoming the low block. Like I said, they know what they are doing.

Wingbacks are self-evidently important to Conte’s formation. I had given up on Doherty, so I’m delighted he’s found a way to release himself from the constricting fear that inhibited his play under all four of his managers. Sessegnon has potential but rather than developing his huge teenage talent, it feels starting from scratch, Sess turns 18 again. At least he no longer looks like a kid who has wandered by mistake into an adults’ game. Reguillon flatters to deceive in my view but there’s something there if only he would learn to calm down at key moments. But I forget how young these men are. Time is on their side.

However, the key lies in the Conte’s core. Spurs have a backbone at last. For example, the wingbacks can make better choices about when to go forward because they have confidence in the back three. Dier is by no means the perfect centre half but this back three revolves around him at its hub. Over the last few matches, we’ve given up less space in front of the penalty box. This is not just down to the efforts of Bentancur and Hojbjerg but also because Romero and Davies know when to come out and intervene. That’s made a significant improvement to our defence and in our ability to play our way out from the back. Son’s goal on Sunday is a masterpiece, beginning in our area and ending with Son having time and space to pick his spot.

And then there’s the Paratici perspective. The man with a contact list longer than the Yellow Pages ended up with a couple of castoffs and two players unwanted by his old club. Or so the story went. Yet in a comparatively short period of time, Bentancur is shaping up as a high class midfield stroller, unhurried, exuding a sense of control that has become contagious. Unobtrusive, he makes others around him better players, linking with Kane and releasing Hojbjerg from his self-imposed burden of being two midfielders at once, thus trying to be everywhere and being less effective for it. It will be fascinating to see if Conte pairs Bentancur with Skipp when the latter is fit again, which should be imminent. 

With Romero at the back, everyone is better. We have a proper defender here. He appears calm and unruffled, his expression an inscrutable mask of concentration. He looks the same if we’ve had the ball for 20 minutes or if he’s been under intense pressure. Like Bentancur, he is unhurried, then bursts into action when he sees danger. Dynamite over 5 yards. His tackling of Saint-Maximin was a throwback to football’s bygone age, one on one, the defender coming away with the ball. It was good to see him (mostly) standing up rather than going to ground. He can’t defend corners, so we’ve got to sort something out there. 

Kulusevski solves a problem we’ve had for years. Changes of manager led to changes of tactics and recruitment, leading to square pegs in round holes, leading to forwards playing as midfielders. No matter how much tracking back Moura and Bergwijn offer, they don’t have defensive instincts, yet Kulusevski is comfortable as a multi-faceted midfielder, highly skilful on the ball, physical and with good positioning.

So Paratici is doing ok, as it turns out. Scouts, directors of football, whatever we call talent-spotters, never have a perfect strike-rate. It’s not a numbers game. Quality not quantity. Two or three players who make a real impact is good going. If some fall by the wayside (Emerson has a lot of improving to do), so be it.

And so to the bleedin’ obvious. Let Conte get on with it. No need to pour over the implications of every news conference seeking portents for his future. Put aside the media campaign to sell Harry because we’re not worth it. Instead, relish every touch from a remarkable, single-minded footballer who gives everything, every time. It is a privilege to watch him, even at this stage in his career adapting his game for the team’s sake and just getting better and better.

Conte has got something going here, a vision for the future that his players have clearly bought into. Let’s pause in this age of overbearing expectation and instant gratification to recognise the scale of this achievement, especially as he’s not been as well supported in the transfer market as he would have liked. Spurs looking to the future – now that is something out of the ordinary.

25 thoughts on “Spurs: Stating the Bleedin’ Obvious

  1. Great to hear your analysis again, Alan. You’ve obviously spotted trends and been able to deduce positive progress. Please don’t leave it too long until the next time you feel the urge to solidify your analysis. Now, let’s see – is the system becoming second nature? … if only!

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  2. I think.. well maybe I think. Romero could well be positioned just around outide the box at corners as the unleashed coil to take the ball up to and possibly beyond the centre circle then passing theball onto Sonny, Deki,Harry, Doherty Reggy, Emersony, Etc ety. Because he certainly can’t jump to head the ball.

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    • On Saturday we played zonal marking – for the first time or have we tried that before? Definitely a reaction to set piece problems in the air

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  3. Thanks Alan. Yes, Conte needs, and has earnt, time. I have faith in him bringing us success, even if we dont make top 4 this season and even if Kane leaves in the summer.

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  4. As the coach says there’s room for improvement, for evolving, Reguillon is learning to be wingback . He has always been fulback.

    Loris needs to evolve how he covers his near post, take a cue from other top keepers, ie use his feet more to attack near post balls (deGear, Allison and the Man C chap block plenty chances with their feet, oh te-Stegen too )

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  5. Overall i think that this is a finely balanced and realistic view of where the team is now. It would nice to see the same clarity though of where the club is going i.e. are we up for sale or not ? Are we going to buy younger players who can improve thus having a ‘sell on’ value or buying anyone we can ?
    Always enjoy in seeing your thoughts.

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    • Thanks Steve. I don’t believe the club is truly up for sale in the sense that levy is actively seeking a buyer. 3bn was mentioned a while back but that’s not a “real” price, only an offer that is so inflated, levy would not say no. In that sense, Spurs has always been up for sale because Levy would take a huge return on his investment. But he’s stuck around long enough to show he’s committed for a while longer. He could have got out earlier if he really wanted to.

      As to the buying policy, we’ll have to wait for the summer. I’d like to see a couple of proven players able to get up to speed straight away. Plus we don’t have to buy youngsters, more like players for whom a move to Spurs is a step up and/or is attractive.

      All the best, Al

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  6. Still the best Spurs’ blog by a White Hart mile. Thanks for continuing to update it. As ever, nail on head.

    Got to admit Conte’s demonstrable impact has surprised me in its pace. So often managerial hype-tripe ‘he’s a serial winner’ etc is followed by a load of lacklustre. The transition from Nunoball, which was some of the most negative football I’ve seen from Tottenham in 45 years, to today is astounding. Obviously the two January buys have panned out in truly unSpurslike fashion. But also the clear-out of so many players has resulted in a more balanced, more hard-working side. Anyone remember that bloke Ndombele?

    The one player who I’ve been disappointed with, given his ability, is Lloris. A captain in name only. As the defence has begun to coalesce around Romero, Lloris still seems prone to shaky decision-making. I never fully trust him these days. Like most of us I have huge hopes for Skipp and Sess, and if their bodies can hold up be good to see them back in the side to end the season.

    Wherever we finish, it’ll be gravy given we were in full reverse gear under Nuno. Levy has dropped some serious balls in his reign, but that appointment was shocking. Mourinho’s wasn’t far behind. Still, all we have is today, and today I’m enjoying Spurs and the Contenaissance. COYS!

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    • Thank you kindly, your support keeps me writing – genuinely. And I will.
      You should trademark Contenaissance – I’ll nick that!
      Agree re Sess and especially Skipp, And I know what you mean re Hugo but he did OK on Saturday! Need a proper replacement in the wings, not the ridiculous Gollini.
      Regards, Al

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  7. Thank goodness Doherty stayed on the bus and didn’t pack it in. He had every reason to, but his rehabilitation into the team reminds me of the way Sissoko made fools of his doubters and flourished into a vital part of Poch’s team. Doherty is this team’s Sissoko. He and Davies are good at what they do and the defence, for the first time in maybe two years, is now being protected by a settled midfield. Hopefully Skipp can recover in time for the run in to offer options and maybe allow Bentacur a slightly more advanced role. Watching Bents is a painful reminder of what we have lacked these past couple of seasons. Failing to replace Dembele and then Eriksen and the disastrous signings of N’Dombele and Lo Celso has robbed the team of the quality needed to survive against the best. Bentacur is a big step in the right direction and another defender, midfield beast, and striker in the summer will begin to offer better choices off the subs bench, especially with five subs (!) allowed next season. We all suspected dropping out of the lousy Europa Conference League was the best thing that happened to us in months. The Thursday-Sunday routine was crippling our preparations for the Prem and the win against Wham was an example of that. Even though Toni C. goes bonkers with the rest of us at each goal, I spotted him having a genuine and deep smile to himself after the final goals went in at the weekend as if to confirm his belief that there’s a point to sticking around a bit longer. Arsenal and ‘Pool up soon in quick succession…no prizes for guessing which game we absolutely, positively must win…
    Good stuff, Alan. Makes a pleasant change not having to bang on about the team suffering the consequences of the club’s poor husbandry by its hierarchy, eh?

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    • Yes, for once I didn’t feel like I was writing the same old stuff again. The last few games, it’s feels like Conte is ours, not someone we have on hire from a better team. And you’re right about europe – this is something I have written before, these appear to be competitions structured so you are pleased when we go out of them. And feel for Doherty, now out for the season.

      Regards Al

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  8. Conte is certainly building togetherness in the squad, and making many players better, Alan. .
    I railed against the fact we never replaced Eriksen, being convinced Alli was all but destroyed in the wake of the collapse of that world class (Kane/Alli/Eriksen) triumvirate.
    And while Conte’s system is built on flank play, rather than central playmaking, I thought ‘oh sure’ ..if only Walker/Tripps and Rose were here again (at their best) to fulfil our, and Conte’s, dream.
    However, I’m beginning to feel optimistic. My gosh, Romero is a class act, and Dier and Davis are revived. Bents is looking 3 times more effective than Ndombele for less than half the price, and the
    addition of Kulu may have a positive influence on Moura’s and Bergwijn’s consistency levels when they no doubt step in. No worries with Winksie either, and we may even get a revived Lo Celso back next season. To think we’ve also got Skipp, Sessegnon, Reguilon and Tanganga (all improving, and not just on the injury front either)! And as for Kane and Son! ..OK, one player short of that triumvirate, but a world class duo nevertheless. So now we know. The squad was pretty much talented and strong all along (even Doherty and ahem, Emerson) and simply needed tweaking.
    And now it’s bonding, and Conte is doing that, despite publicly criticising players without naming any, just a month or so back.
    We were unlucky under Poch as injuries at critical times hampered our trophy search with what was a fine team. We surely can’t be unlucky under this man ..if he stays, and if Levy looks after him.

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    • Agree wholeheartedly. The injuries thing though is our Achilles heel because we don’t have class cover in some positions. Conte has worked wonders.

      All the best, Alan

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  9. “especially as he’s not been as well supported in the transfer market as he would have liked”
    I do wish people would get over this – it was January. You can’t just get who you want off the shelf from Sainsbury’s. You can offer the biggest salary and the biggest transfer fee – it still doesn’t mean a player will sign for you.

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    • Thanks for dropping in. I agree with you – I don’t have inflated expectations, but I think it is right to say that in an ideal world, Conte wanted more. Either way, it’s always been the summer window that is key,
      Cheers, Al

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  10. Brilliant as usual Alan!
    Maybe Seb can get you guest appearances at the Athletic.
    I linked your article in a group I’m in!
    All the best Alan

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    • Thanks for your loyalty Ron, much appreciated. I think Seb should take all the slots going at the Athletic, he’s the professional (and a decent bloke too).

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  11. Hi Alan my dad first took me to Spurs when I was nine years old now I am 79 so 70 years supporting the team that brings out every emotion known to man. I still feel sick in the stomach when we are only one goal up because I know Spurs but to be 3 up against arsenal made me feel 20 years younger. Spurs have ment the world to me, Hope it continues for a few more years. Stephen.

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