Eleven games into the season and the optimism that surrounded White Hart Lane this summer has soured. Despite only being five points off the top of the table, it has been a frustrating season for the new-look Spurs. “9 goals in 11 games” is the statistic every fan is sick of hearing, but it only tells part of the story.
The really frustrating fact about Spurs this season is that there are glimpses of how great this team could be; those rare moments where it all clicks together – I’m talking about Paulinho’s injury time winner against Cardiff, the opening stages against Everton and the first half-hour against Chelsea at the Lane, where Mourinho’s men looked utterly shaken, only for the roles to have reversed after the break.
What is really worrying is the fact we’ve suddenly become the most tactically predictable team in the league. Our Plan A is possession – of the slow and methodical kind, politely passing the ball around until any kind of attacking opportunity for us is nullified.The width we were once feared for has been replaced by a preference for inverted wingers that is being crowbarred into our game when we clearly don’t have the players suited for it. The resulting congestion in the final third means our solitary striker is starved of service.
Yes, bedding in seven new players was always going to take time, but the way we’re set up right now doesn’t help matters. I get the impression that our manager is trying too hard to install his own personal philosophy into these players rather than playing them to their strengths.
Now I’m not suggesting we go back to the “fackin’ run around a bit” approach of ‘Arry, of course tactics have their place but can easily run the risk of over-complicating the game. Sometimes you just have to let the players go out there and play. So I’m promoting we look at the considerable talent we have in our squad and go back to basics:
– Our defence is looking good. Conceding 6 goals in 11 games is nothing to sniff at. Obviously Hugo’s isn’t going anywhere (no matter how many knees to the head you throw at him) but we need a consistent back four in place. We have four quality centre-backs with their own individual qualities, pick two and stick with them. Walker is a player I think is hindered by AVB’s tactical over-thinking, and is someone you should just let him do his thing – look at how good he was in Harry’s last season. Having Danny Rose back on the left on his return will undoubtedly bring back the balance we’ve lacked in his absence.
– Our central midfield is a trickier one – we have a lot of quality options. What’s for certain is we don’t need two sitting midfielders. Let Sandro stay with the defence and take care of the ugly stuff – it’s what he does best. Paulinho perhaps unsurprisingly works best with his fellow Brazilian, and has looked his most ambitious attacking-wise when the two have started. Holtby is another option, and along with Sandro has perhaps the best pure work rate in the squad.
– Attacking wise, we’re also spoilt for choice. Its just our current system is stifling their creative potential. The inverted wingers have to go. End of. The new boy wonder Townsend on the left and Lamela on the right. I’m impressed by how AVB gradually eases players into the team (see Lloris last season) but Project Erik has to get up and running for real now. With these two stretching the play, our number 10 gets the space he needs to supply Soldado. Poor Bobby Soldier’s individual season sort of reflects ours as a whole – often frustrating to watch, disconnected but with flashes of real talent. I’m still confident he’s the man to lead the line for us.
I think AVB has something special under his big sexy Portuguese nose – but at the moment we’re spinning our wheels. Our manager has the players to get this club to the next level. Levy and Baldini made sure of that this summer. And I think AVB is more than capable to achieve this, I really do. He’s introduced a stronger mentality to the club; where once we may have lost faith and fell apart, now we work for 90 minutes and grind out points. But he has to recognise his system is hindering these players rather than guiding them. We’ve got some bloody great names in our squad, let’s take off the constraints and let them play to their strengths. Or in another words, we’ve got some triffic lads, just tell ’em to fackin’ run around a bit.