Monday, 3 September 2012

Lessons learnt from last week (27/08 - 02/09)

As many a pundit will tell you, a week is a long time in football. Whilst that may not seem the case at times, it certainly has been for Spurs over an extremely hectic last seven days.

We've seen the transfer window shut at long last and once again Spurs were in action the weekend just gone, but what have we learnt from this weekend?

Let's start with the transfer window. It has now become evident that Spurs are able to attract players of high calibre at long last on a regular basis, following the signing of French captain Hugo Lloris on Friday. Whilst the deal for Joao Moutinho fell through (by 4 minutes according to Pedro Pinto of CNN), the player had clearly bought into the plans for the clubs future and it is yet another indication that the club is moving forward.

Acquiring the former Fulham pair of Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele for a combined total of £20 million represented sound business also, despite neither being star names. At the time of Dempsey's signing I commented that it felt anti-climactic following the links to Willian, Llorente, Damiao and Moutinho, but having slept on it, at such a low price the player is great value for money. You don't score seventeen goals in a Premier League season if you're a chump. Dembele is a player that has received endless plaudits since arriving in England for his dominating midfield showings and that could be vital to our season as we look to replace the irreplaceable Luka Modric.

Departing the club this week was Rafael Van Der Vaart, returning to Hamburg in Germany and his missus. Rafa's two seasons at the club have provided us with great memories but his determination to be reunited with his family forced our hand in letting him go. Nevertheless his attitude has been first class at the club and if he ever returns to the Lane for Hamburg he deserves a huge round of applause. The position that Van Der Vaart has left will now hopefully be filled by Gylfi Sigurdsson who has the ability to take up the mantle if he is capable of realising his potential.

Joining Rafa in leaving the club is Giovani Dos Santos who will be leaving behind an unfulfilled part of his football career. Watch Gio for Mexico and he's an unbelievable player. Everything goes through him in attack and his goal scoring record is excellent. In the Premier league however it's been a completely different story. Some may say it's a lack of opportunities and that is understandable, but when Harry Redknapp criticises someone for too many public appearances you know something's not right. Sadly for Spurs, Dos Santos has wasted his talent at the club when he could've instead established himself as a key squad member. All the same £1 million is a minute figure to sell for, so unless there are some clauses that could really knock up the value, surely we'd have been better off keeping him to run out his contract?

Danny Rose and Harry Kane have made Premiership loan moves to Sunderland and Norwich respectively and from a selfish point of view it is perfect for Spurs. Both seem slightly inept at this stage of their careers so taking a chance on them at Spurs was a risk to take. By loaning them to fellow Premiership sides we'll be able to grasp whether they have any chance of making an impact at our club. It certainly didn't do Kyle Walker any harm.

My feelings on this weeks transfer deals are mixed. Whilst we have acquired some genuinely talented players, losing Van Der Vaart gives the impression that we are trying to change things too fast from a side that finished one point shy of Champions League qualification. Missing out on Moutinho was truly gut wrenching but a product of Levy's tough negotiating stance. Fans will be disappointed with the chairman but have to remember that it is because of the man that we have been able to attain such quality previously. For every Deadline Day Moutinho there is a Deadline Day Rafa. Sometimes we have to take the bad with the good.

In other news Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon were both tied to longer contracts keeping them at the club until 2015 & 2016 respectively. As Matt Law of The Sunday Mirror suggested, it may have been as a result of Levy's failure to acquire adequate replacements, but it showed financial common sense to nail down potential assets for the future to long term contracts to retain player value. Whether either are good enough is another question but it means we will continue to have funds to spend when/if they do eventually move on. We therefore know now, if we didn't already that Levy won't let players run down their contracts like they do at the Emirates.

And so we move onto Saturday's game at the Lane. Norwich were the visitors and it was a welcoming return to Tottenham for Chris Hughton, a legend in our clubs history. Disappointingly we were only able to take a point away from the game, but it was not the result that will have proven most frustrating. The team performance was lethargic to say the least and many players will need to take a long, hard look at themselves after less than impressive showings. If we're honest the draw was more flattering to us than Norwich, despite them leaving it late to equalise.

Firstly i'll focus on the positive lessons learnt from player performances. Despite his rising age, Friedel continues to roll back the years and prove he's not ready to give up the Spurs jersey to Hugo Lloris just yet. Many said before the game, including myself, that this game would most likely be his final Premier League game for Spurs, barring an injury to Lloris; Even if you didn't say it you were probably thinking it. Now it seems ludicrous to even entertain the idea of dropping the American for Reading away, following an outstanding display between the sticks. Excellent saves from Snodgrass and Pilkington particularly showed the agility the 41 year old still is capable of, and Norwich's goal was without fault from Brad.

Also impressive, Moussa Dembele's introduction to the Spurs fans couldn't have gone much better from an individual point of view. His goal was a perfect example of the class he is capable of producing whilst his second half cameo impressed, proving it no coincidence that his introduction upped our ante. Unlike the departed Modric, Dembele is a direct-to-attack style of player, which in a system of high energy pressuring could tire out opposition quicker as it doesn't allow players teams to get back and sit, holding their position whilst regaining their energy levels. I can't help but be excited by the prospect of seeing more of Moussa.

Now i'm afraid it's the negatives. Everyone loves his infectious personality, but if we're honest Assou-Ekotto always has a mistake in him. The constant regularity in which he allowed Snodgrass to switch the ball on to his favoured left foot was alarming and indicative of a player who is not aware of who we're set to play until the day of the game in some cases. It's easy to blame AVB for not alerting Benny, but the left back should have seen a common trait emerging and nullified the threat. As for the shirt pull, he's lucky he didn't give a penalty away for a completely unnecessary tug. With limited backup available we need to rely on a left back who sadly is fairly unreliable.

Jake Livermore is simply not good enough either. He's bought himself extra time at this club and greater fan support with his comments after scoring aginst Barcelona in a pre-season cup (Commentator: 'How does it feel to have scored against the best team in the world?', Jake: 'I play for them'), words even the best PR Gurus would've been proud of. This has elevated his stature amongst Spurs fans I feel and led to a blind spot in the way many of us view his game. Highly energetic and gritty determination are the main traits bandied for Livermore, but are they not the exact same traits as Jamie O'Hara? A player who couldn't be kicked out of the door quick enough in some people's eyes.

Our star player is meant to be Gareth Bale, but right now he is looking far from a star. Admittedly he is unfortunate that many teams have identified him as a threat and doubled up on him, but a top player is able to negate his way out of these tricky and tight situations to put their team on the front foot. Sadly even Maicon won't fall for the same tricks again. If Benny continues his poor form, would it be worth dropping the Welshman back to Left back? I know i'll get slated for it but people are quick to forget that he was a very capable Left back when Benny was away on African Cup of Nations Duty four years ago and it was that position that he was able to re-establish himself in in the team. Taking the ball on from a deeper position when attacking is nigh on impossible to defend against unlike starting from a stand still position on the left wing. Defensively would we be any weaker than with Assou-Ekotto?

Those are my thoughts on the players but what about the system? First half it simply didn't work and there were two clear to see reasons why. Firstly the two defensive midfielders, Sandro and Livermore were sat too deep. In a system where AVB wants to play a highly pressurised game, surely the best form of defence is to push forward and encourage opposition mistakes? Not only that but playing two players with such little creativity between them heaps the pressure on the front four to make something happen, making marking up a hell of a lot easier for defenders, as they select those that are clearly more of a threat.

The second reason was Defoe up top alone again. It worked reasonably well against Newcastle admittedly but West Brom showed him up to lack the skills the position requires and that was once more evident on Saturday. Defoe is more of a finisher and a get behind your man type striker so playing the ball to his feet is as helpful as a chocolate teapot. Admittedly Adebayor appears rusty and so this decision was slightly more understandable but let's hope this experiment is finally ridden of by the Reading game.

The final lesson learnt, and it is somewhat of a gripe also, is that fans have a part to play. I'm proud to be a Spurs fan, as I'm sure everyone of you reading this is, and I feel we have the best fans in the league. So why ruin our reputation by hissing and booing in our third game of the season? Our current position is not ideal but what good can such action do? If it is directed at Levy, shame on you. The man has made mistakes this window admittedly, but short memories you have if you cannot see the progress his financial stewardship has brought us. If it is directed at AVB, again shame on you. We are not Chelsea fans, we do not get on the back of a manager after just three disappointing results. As is painfully clear to many Spurs fans, this is a long term change and so short term deficiency should unfortunately be expected. Judge the man on 30 games, not 3. And if it is directed at the players, well just go and support another team.

The performances have been lacking it is clear to see, but the negativity that goes through a players mindset when he hears the criticism at 0-0 must be hard to shelve at the back of the mind. At a time when football is said to contain endless mercenaries, surely booing will just eradicate any care the player has for the club. There simply are no players left, bar Defoe and Dawson, who have a deep affinity with the club. Watch a club escape a bad patch of form and you'll notice the fans will have helped them through it, not barraged players with abuse.

Football is changing for the worse, but our Club has always been a beacon of professionalism. Fans need to take responsibility in this sense and support the team. What is done is done, and nothing can change that now, so let's move on and back AVB's Blue and White Army.

Follow me on Twitter: @Cjipps

1 comment:

  1. Agree with pretty much everything written above, give AVB and the players time, they will come good... COYS