Where Has the Spurs Project Gone?

Lately, Jose Mourinho hasn’t been talking much about the project, this ghastly, emotionless term that reduces the heritage and future of a football club to the barren business-speak of a clapped-out motivational speaker.

All successful clubs need a strategy for the future, to plan ahead according to their resources and aspirations. The most effective plans incorporate an understanding of what a club stands for, what it means for supporters, with a leader able to put it all into practice.

Back in December, he was all about the project and the vision. Spurs need that sense of purpose more than many of our rivals because our chairman wants us to live within our means, therefore any manager must make the most of the finite resources available to him.

At the moment, it’s very much about the here and now with team selections and tactics defined by expediency. It’s hard to see what Mourinho’s Spurs is all about. After the Leipzig defeat, he admitted as much in one of his jokey, throwaway but carefully planted and full of meaning press conference remarks that reveal what he really thinks and sum up the state of play so far: “If I could, I would move immediately to the first of July.” It’s a resonant message, born of his frustration. This is not my Spurs. This lot can’t do what I want so I need to buy and to have a pre-season.

Throughout the life of Tottenham On My Mind, my main aspiration has remained consistent, that Spurs are contenders, that we are good enough to challenge for honours. So far, what follows from there, that we might actually win something, has not been fulfilled and I live with the pain. All part of being a Spurs fan, eh?

Leipzig are everything we once were, not so long ago, but are no longer. A well-coached side with players who have faith in their manager because he’s brought out the best in them, players comfortable in their style and shape, eager, able to improvise up front and who know what to expect from their team-mates.

I saw a stat this week, which I haven’t factchecked, saying that since Mourinho took over, only Liverpool have won more points in the PL. We’re fifth in a year when that could mean CL qualification. I’m grateful, but you know things aren’t right. Jose knows. Hence his comments. He’s not trying to sit on the problem.

Mourinho played up his excitement at the squad he inherited. He quickly found out the scale of his necessary rebuilding. His first ten or twelve games were about experimentation, trying different combinations at full-back, centreback and central midfield. He’s discovered that we are sorely lacking. That Dier, a player he coveted when at Manchester United and who he brought straight in to his Spurs, is a diminished force. That Wanyama is gone in all senses except his pay cheque. That our record signing cannot play 90 minutes and whose warm-up on Wednesday was described by my friend Russ as possessing the athleticism of a man dragging a bag of wet cement up and down the pitch. That a team with Tottenham’s resources and aspirations cannot run to a back-up central striker. And while we’ve lived with this for longer than many of what I once called long-term relationships, it is utterly scandalous that our club has left ourselves so open to injury.

Leipzig are not the best benchmark in the sense that they are a coming force in Europe.  The trouble is Norwich, Villa and Southampton exposed the same faults in our defence but failed to take their many opportunities. Last Sunday, Villa were their coach’s dream, time and again doubling up on our left with Serge a-wandering and drawing Toby out of the centre, only to fail to do anything with the space they created. Southampton ran the cup game for extended periods. So open are we at the back these days that Mourinho has almost elevated this to a footballing philosophy: we can’t defend so we’ll do what we can and aim to score one more than you. But relying on the opposition to miss chances is not a footballing philosophy, it’s an admission of failure that cannot be sustained in the long run. Or indeed as far as tomorrow lunchtime.

Leipzig are a team, we are a collection of individuals, and that sums up Mourinho’s Spurs at this point. Some of those individuals are top quality players who deserve enormous credit for their efforts on our behalf. Their goalscoring has kept us fifth in a Premier League that’s average this year with the exception of the runaway leaders. Son lately, Kane before his injury, not at their sharpest but always a goal threat. Kane the leader, his remarkable second half performance against Brighton where he took it upon himself to lift the side and win the game, first with a goal then covering every area of the pitch to compensate for his team-mates’ failings, in the process knackering himself after four or five long seasons unbroken save for his injuries. Bergwijn looks highly promising, Moura unstinting in his efforts, with Le Celso the pick, quickly adapting to the demands of this league.

While it’s legitimate to question Mourinho’s long-term fit with Spurs, it’s unfair to make any lasting judgements at present. This squad and the injuries impose limits on what he can do. A sound team selection could easily contain four or five players each of whom has fewer than 10 starts for the first team.

The above quote is of course classic Mourinho, conveying a message crushingly familiar over the years which has been, when things go wrong, it’s not his fault. However, it’s perfectly legitimate to express concerns about what he has done with the players he has available. We have lots of midfielders but cannot either dominate midfield or stop opponents from playing. If his chosen method is the low block, the problem is that it doesn’t do enough blocking. On Wednesday, there was a moment in the second half when Sacramento, the coach, urgently waved players forward to press in the Leipzig half, the players seemingly unaware that pressing was what they were supposed to do. Teams drive the press themselves.

If sides attack our flanks, e.g. when Aurier stays forward (which despite his problems with positional sense is what his manager tells him to do), we don’t cover that. If we don’t have a striker, methods other than aimless long balls are available, like passing it through midfield.

This is not Mourinho’s Spurs. We’re still passing through the debris from the trail of Pochettino’s comet. And I’ve done the thing about Levy’s transfer policy for many years now, so no more here.  JM needs time and funds to rebuild. He and the chairman have got to sort something out. On and off the pitch, Spurs have become reactive rather than assertive or proactive. That has to end. Spurs need a plan, starting now, regardless of who is fit or not. Call it a project if it makes you happy but find one soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Get Rid of the Racists

Today’s blog begins with a howl of rage and despair. My disgust that Tottenham Hotspur is worldwide headline news because of fan racism knows no bounds. It revolts me that this should take place and that a Spurs fan has dragged the image of all supporters into the gutter.

It is only one or two. Don’t call them idiots, call them racists. I admire Rudiger’s generosity in his tweets, where he says he doesn’t want to involve Tottenham as a club in this because it is only one or two fans. He goes on to thank Spurs fans for the many messages of support he’s received.

Racism is all around us, it never goes away. It’s just that you like to think we stand for a bit more than this. We’ve been victims of abuse, the stands have been a safe place for people from different backgrounds for a long time. Ours is the rainbow stadium, described by the co-chair of the Proud Lilywhites as a bastion of inclusion and diversity. Now we’re the team whose fans provoked calls for a public inquiry.

On social media I’ve been told, repeatedly, that we should wait and see for, I don’t know, something. People around me in the ground said, well, hang on, we don’t know what happened. Well bollox to that. No time to hang around. This all took place right in front of me. Twenty rows back, I didn’t hear anything but when Rudiger walked towards me indicating the monkey noises had been uttered, I felt physically sick. He reacted straight away, something happened. I was ranting off about something or other, I don’t know exactly what I was saying. Basically,  how could this happen, here, with expletives. Me – any shots of that gesture taken from the West Stand, as shown on MOTD, I’m in there. It’s personal.

How do these people think our own black players will react? Do your absolute best while you’re watched by racists. Or our own black supporters? Spurs fans got behind Danny Rose after he talked about his experiences of racism at football. Something clicked then. One of our own, let’s sign a flag, let’s sing his name.

Time for the majority to get that message over. Find this person or people. Ban them for life and prosecute. Zero tolerance. Nobody is dragging me down.

Football reflects society. In the past few years, racists have become emboldened as politicians from all sides fail to address discrimination and in some cases actively mobilise it to sustain their support. Racist and anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise across the country. Not here. No more. Football has to take a stand.

Yesterday was one of the most disheartening, cheerless afternoons I’ve ever spent watching Spurs. I’ve not even mentioned chucking stuff at opposition players. The best stadium in Europe closed. Unlikely but the authorities are going to make an example of someone, some time.

The football. Spurs were awful. Spineless and mindless, to call them a rabble at times is an insult to rabbles. And I hear rabbles get upset at their good name being taken in vain.

More than being utterly dominant, Chelsea’s football came from another era. They were sleek and contemporary, Spurs were dinosaurs, unable to pass the ball through midfield and reduced to predictable long balls up the middle.

As if this were not bad enough, we gave away two ridiculous goals, hilarious if other teams did the same, profoundly concerning as it’s us. Switched on for the corner? As dead as the batteries in a child’s toy on Boxing Day. I’m still shaking my head at Gazzanega. How a straightforward catch became assault and battery, and how the ref gave us a foul in the first instance. It’s the sort of error that eats away at keepers, a rank misjudgement that will stay in the back of his mind for a long time and indicates a more fundamental vulnerability at this level.

Sometimes managers do things that don’t work but you can understand what they are trying to achieve. AVB for example, cautious, possession football to stay tight at the back, keep the ball and wait for an opening. Didn’t work because we couldn’t score any goals, an admittedly basic flaw that escaped him, but you could see what he was up to.

I don’t get Mourinho at the moment. When not under pressure, we’ve played some good stuff and banged in the goals but defensive strategy is sorely lacking. We’re incapable of closing players down when they are about to shoot. Both full-backs have been left repeatedly exposed, a problem compounded by Aurier’s dire judgement and positional acumen. In front of him, Son and Moura have been waving opponents through apparently without a care in the world. Step this way, take your time.

Against Manchester United, they shifted Rashford wide left and won the game. Wolves galloped down the right and were stopped only by Spurs players taking it turns to foul him. Chelsea did the same, doubling up and nothing stopped them.

Mourinho was praised for winning ugly against Wolves. Cue Jose the winner cliches. To me, we got away with one, set up poorly so that our back four were constantly exposed. Winning ugly means digging in, doing what’s necessary and forsaking creativity for redoubtable defence. That’s not what happened at Wolves. The manager’s lack of response to an obvious defensive flaw is bewildering.

In context, he’s inherited an unbalanced squad. Central midfield remains a problem. Dier is being played back into form. So far, he looks fitter but a yard off the pace when it comes to timing. Sissoko gives his best but he’s not the creative player that we’re crying out for. The full-back problem remains.

Whatever the question, N’dombele has to be the answer. He must play against Brighton, despite continuing fitness doubts. It’s wrong to read too much into the Bayern defeat, but Lo Celso did not make much of an effort to take the opportunity presented to him. Mourinho is not sure about him.

VAR, Son’s dismissal and Rudiger’s reaction, I’ve have enough so let’s just say it all contributed to the malaise of the most unpleasant afternoon. Looking forward, Mourinho was comprehensively out-thought by a manager in his first year in the Premier League. He had no effective response to Chelsea’s tactics. Plus, his famed ability to motivate and inspire was entirely absent.

That doesn’t leave us with much. No doubt this will galvanise him into action for Boxing Day and after. The suspicion lingers that Mourinho’s tactics and approach are behind the times. He says he’s had time to think during his break from the game, and note that he’s taken on two youngish coaches, presumably  with fresh ideas. This game has shown him the nature and extent of the task ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

Spurs: A New Era. Just Give Me a Moment to Get Over the Old One

I’m old enough to know that football business is brutal and heartless, but I’m genuinely shocked at the callous way Pochettino was disposed of. Tuesday night, I turned twitter on at about 8.10 to join the reaction to the leaders’ debate, to find that Poch had been sacked. Wednesday morning,  I woke at 6.30 am and Mourinho had been appointed. And they say there are no surprises in football these days.

Another piece with a hundred introductions in the trash folder. What’s on my mind now does not correspond with how this would have looked if I had had the time to write yesterday, the day before yesterday or five minutes ago. If I had expressed my feelings on Tuesday night, the degree of fury would have been therapeutic. In hindsight, and these days in football as well as UK politics a couple of days counts as hindsight, the real surprise is not the dismissal but the way it was kept secret, because the board have clearly been planning this for a while. Mourinho’s contract signed, sealed and delivered and he’s had time to come up with gags about wearing his Spurs pyjamas as the press chuckle along. Always good copy is Jose. Let’s hope he keeps them laughing for a while longer.

So this is what I’m left with. Poch had had enough. I suspect he didn’t put up much of a fight, because his energy had dissipated to the point where the bowl of energising lemons on his desk could do the trick no longer. Not even the unfailing support of his team, his real team, Jesus, Mig and Toni, could lift him.  Key members of his squad, in whom he has invested so much and who, frankly, owe him, remained unresponsive, while his patience with his chairman was exhausted.

I won’t pick over the bones of his demise for too much longer, the last few pieces on Tottenham On My Mind went over that ground. Suffice to repeat the saying that for every complicated, complex problem, there’s a simple, straightforward answer, that’s completely wrong.

In the here and now, the old cliché about losing the dressing room applies. In previous pieces, I’ve said Poch should have been given the time and resources to make it right, but this week shows I was sadly over-optimistic and plain wrong because things were too far gone. Pochettino’s plan was holed below the waterline the summer before last, when essential rebuilding did not take place.

On the surface, Spurs were moving onwards and upwards with the enticing prospect that the best was still to come. In reality, that summer was the last opportunity to rectify the problems caused by a lack of activity in the transfer market and thereby sustain the momentum Pochettino had generated. Rebuilding is a process, not a one-off event.  From then on, lost impetus was impossible to regain. Pochettino knew – he told us. It began to translate into results around January onwards. It just took a while for the ship to sink.

This summer, Pochettino got what were said to be his top three choices in N’dombele, Sessegnon and Le Celso. These grounds for optimism were undermined, however, because the board could not move Dier, Aurier, Eriksen and Rose, which I assume was also part of Pochettino’s plans and, presumably, promised by the chairman. I strongly suspect also that Poch was expecting replacements.

His patience ran out, he found he could not motivate a squad where half of them knew they were either unwanted or had no long-term future at the club because their contracts were due to expire. He makes that clear, Levy then gets hacked off and the downward spiral descends into freefall. None of which excuses the below par performances of some players, who could and should have done better, or Pochettino’s tactical set-ups this season, where the diamond leaves the back four bereft of protection.

In the past, Levy should have acted to support his man in the market. In the present, he had to act. This truth sits alongside the harm he has caused over the years by not investing enough in the squad. Pochettino brought a record of playing good football and developing players but the suspicion lingered that Levy chose him not because he had finally learned the lessons of a succession of ill-thought out managerial appointments but because he knew the Argentinian would not be as demanding a manager as others. Someone like Jose Mourinho, for instance, to pluck a name at random.

Which begs the question, Pochettino, Sherwood, AVB, Mourinho, they all come and go but Levy’s still there. He holds the plan, the future. I’ve never met him and I’m never likely to. I know people who have, and the one thing they all say about him is that he is passionate about the club. The problem is, Levy in my view understands what is required to make Spurs a sustained force in English football but I remain unconvinced that he can choose a leader to put this into practice or that he is prepared to commit the required resources. Building and rebuilding is a process, not a one-off event. You would think he’d know this as a successful businessman, but I wonder if the majority of his work with investments and property development removes him to some extent from the process of building and rebuilding an organisation where people are the key resource.

I wish Mourinho the very best in the job. I hope he comes to understand what the club means to so many people. I don’t like him. I respected Mourinho but never liked the way he goes about his work, although in private he’s said to be warm, generous and loyal. No shrinking violet ever succeeded as a manager but does it matter that an arrogant, moaning, self-absorbed whinger is now in charge? Who took a fortune from United and left them in a right state? Who looked bored out of his wits in his last year there? Who bullied a young full-back? Where nothing that goes wrong is his fault? Who spends money like water working with Dan Levy? Remember, when he whinges on in the media about how hard done by he is, it’s our club and our fans he’s talking about.

JM doesn’t fit the Spurs culture. We don’t like preening self-publicists. We want someone who is close to the fans and who doesn’t put himself before the club. He is synonymous with the success of one of our greatest rivals and enemies. Terry Neill and George Graham came the closest to this appointment – that didn’t work out well. Spurs play expansive, attacking football – JM’s teams don’t. Also, there are practicalities. Never mind his character, at United his tactical approach looked outdated and his judgement in the transfer market was seriously flawed. United didn’t have a director of football to help the manager with transfers, and, worryingly, neither do we.

But as I say, does it matter? It begs the question of whether clubs having a culture is true. I would say damn right it is, and Martin Cloake and I wrote a book about it. Julie Welch in her lovely Spurs Biography firmly believes this, pointing out that all our achievements have come through playing and behaving in the Spurs Way. Or is this an invention to bring comfort to supporters, that in reality we are like everyone else and will accept anything to climb the greasy pole to the top?

So tomorrow, a new era begins. We move on. All the very best to Jose Mourinho, sincerely, get behind the team and up the Spurs. I love the shirt and hope he can inspire the players. In the short-term, he’ll focus on defending, which is no bad thing, and sprinkle around some bloody-mindedness, also needed.

He’s inherited the players to get the ball forward, so on the field there are grounds for optimism. He seems refreshed after his break and is saying the right things about the new challenge. The players need that too at the moment. Longer term, well, let’s see if he sticks around if Levy doesn’t allow him to spend big money. A word to the wise, Jose, don’t bang on about how Spurs were always close to your heart or some such, no supporter believes you. Just get on with it and show us what you can do.

Forgive me if I’m mourning the loss of the old era, that I’m not quite ready to move on yet. I admired Pochettino hugely. I miss him, even though I know his faults all too well and the ending was unbefitting of what had gone before. I cared about him, because he cared about the club. I wish there was some way of telling him, a site or something to gather messages. He’s just gone without saying goodbye.

The most read piece in a decade of Tottenham On My Mind was written just before the Champions League final. At the time it served as an expression of gratitude, anticipation and wonder at what Spurs had achieved and Pochettino’s pivotal role. For a long time, it felt like he could be the one, a builder of dynasties, someone who understood the club, understood us. A Nicholson for the 21st century. Where dreams became real.

Looking at it now, it reads as the Argentinian’s elegy and a lament for what might have been.  What I feel about Pochettino and his team, I can’t express any better here. He understood Spurs’ and the club’s heritage, then gave it his own interpretation. Glorious football, miraculous European nights under lights, the best team since Burkinshaw’s in the eighties, arguably since Nicholson in the late sixties. In today’s jaded, cynical materialistic football universe, he bestowed magic and wonder.

More than just understanding our heritage, he reflected it back to us. He understood the supporters. He reminded us just how much this club means, which tells us something about ourselves, deep down, and what being a Spurs fan means to who we are. he reminded us that, “without football, life is nothing.”

Team and fans have never been as close. He reminded us of the delight and wonder we felt as children when heroes in navy blue and white left us spellbound. He stayed with us as White Hart Lane crumbled under the wrecking ball. As well as a season unbeaten at home, he kept us at the top when we played nearly two seasons away. He gave us daft dad-dancing at Ajax, mirroring the uncoordinated explosions of joy in the stands and in living rooms around the globe. When we didn’t know we could be that happy or what to do, he was one of us.

Good luck, goodbye, Mauricio Pochettino. Never forgotten.

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