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A Few Bad Apples or The Whole Barrel?

In his blunt-as-a-rubber-mallet post-match interview on Saturday, Tim Sherwood voiced something that’s been in the back of my mind for a while now – the fact that some of the players in the squad just don’t care. It’s something that many of us don’t really want to face up to, because there’s no easy fix. We can discuss various positions, formations and tactics till the cows come home, but if there’s a culture within the dressing room of simply not being arsed, none of that matters.

Perhaps the most telling fact after that interview was the fact that most people, on the forums and beyond, agreed with Sherwood. Even his harshest critics seemed to feel that what Tim said needed to be said. And it’s true – results like Saturday, or the 5-0 drubbing by Liverpool, or either of the fistings we took from Man City highlight the depressing mentality many of our players seem to have – that utter mediocrity is acceptable. It’s failure of the worst kind, and without any of the echo of glory that Sir Bill once spoke of.

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As Tim alluded to, there’s a number of rotten apples within the team right now, some of which there’s a good chance won’t be with us after the summer. We all know who they are and they’ve been discussed to death on the forums so I won’t name names (hint: one may rhyme with Dan Tervonghen). This ESPN article covers these players pretty well.

I’ve seen forum members talk about how we need a major “rebuilding” in the summer. Now, I don’t think the situation’s quite that bleak. To carry on with this tired rotten apple analogy, we don’t need to throw out the whole barrel just yet – we still have a lot of talent at our disposal.

I felt genuinely bad for Hugo Lloris on Saturday. After the fourth goal went in, he seemed to be in utter disbelief at what the four maniacs in front of him were gifting to Chelsea’s forwards. He looked hurt even. I try not to be overly romantic when it comes to Premier League football, I don’t think the Frenchman has real love for the club – but he’s clearly a hardened professional who gives 110% every game, which is more you can say for many of the players in white on the pitch that day. He’s still the most best keeper I’ve seen at the Lane in my life time and I desperately hope we keep him, although I can totally understand if he decides to move on.

Kyle Walker cannot be absolved of blame for Saturday’s debacle – it wasn’t the first capitulation we’ve seen from the right back. But we have to remember how much the lad’s developed – look at his horror show season last year, and then look at him now. He’s obviously worked hard and there’s only room for further improvement, which is an exciting prospect. His higher position on Saturday also suggested a versatility about his game that the likes of an Louis Van Gaal could nurture and develop. Our defence is a bit of an issue right now (which is like saying Oscar Pistorius is a bit trigger happy) but Walker is a saving grace.

“Defensive midfielder” has become a controversial phrase amongst Spurs fans this season. AVB played too many of them, Sherwood didn’t play enough of them. But you only have to look at the impact Nemanja Matic has had at Chelsea to prove the merits of having a player in that role to do the old-fashioned stuff – breaking up play and killing the transition from midfield to attack. We have a similar weapon in our locker – the Beast. Sandro is a player with balls in a season where we’ve sorely lacked them.
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The jewel of our midfield is of course Christian Eriksen. Our biggest foe the past couple of years hasn’t been the or David Baddiel – it’s been predictability. Any team that’s reasonably well-organised can comfortably go out against us with the knowledge they can snatch at least a point. Eriksen’s movement and passing is the remedy for this – as shown by his genius that inspired the second-half comeback against Dnipro at the Lane. He’s young, exciting and any manager worth his salt would be itching for the chance to utilise his talent. He’s our best single asset right now and we have to be building the team around him.

Emmanuel Adebayor has been the unlikely success story of the season. I must confess I was almost certain we wouldn’t see him back in the lily white. Tedious pundits have again and again warned us how he plays for a contract and he’ll let us down, but three months since his return and he’s still consistently committed and (like Eriksen) constantly trying to make something happen. Again, I don’t like to get all romantic when it comes to this sport – but I honestly believe after various personal tragedies over the last few years, he’s a changed man. Since Berbatov’s departure, we’ve all clamoured for that 20-plus goals a season striker – a motivated, fit Ade in the right system can be that man for us.

So it’s not the end of the world yet. Whoever ends up taking the reins next season, there’s enough quality in this squad already to really build something exciting. There’s also a mass of untapped potential – Roberto Soldado, possible 2014 World Cup winner Paulinho and that Lamela guy we spent a few quid on a while back. It’s time to get rid of the dead weight and capitalise on what we have – which note to Danny Levy, doesn’t mean flogging the best talents to Spain.

Because for all the fancy talk about philosophies and long-term strategies, it all comes back to the players. Sometimes it’s just as simple as having quality on the pitch and playing to their strengths. If the manager next season – whether that’s Sherwood, LVG or Ted Lasso – can build around a solid spine we already have, we’ll be going in the right direction.

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