You don’t need to dive too far back into the history books to see the last time Tottenham deployed common sense on the pitch to great effect. In the good old Harry days the players knew what they were doing and the system was so effective, they actually achieved some modern form of success. There was width, pace, creativity, strength, character, and most of all cohesion.
There are a lot of complaints at Tottenham, largely justified about the board, director of football malarkey, constant managerial changes and so on. I’ve got to say though, a lot of those managers, particularly of late, haven’t dusted themselves in glory.
Poch has spent most of this season looking like the ghost of Christmas past, constantly haunted and suspiciously clueless (on occasion). All that for a manager who came with great promise and a decent reputation (who does that remind you of?). When I look at his team selections, I often wonder if Baldini is up in the stands pointing a red dot at his back. Baldini in turn probably has Joe Lewis ready and waiting with pictures of him dressed in latex, whipping his donkey on an Italian vineyard if the likes of £30m Lamela don’t come up trumps. Everyone seems constrained by something. All in some vein hope that these extremely average players will become superstars.
There is a major tactical issue with the current setup that has dogged our performance for 3 years now, through 3 managers. A distinct lack of width, creativity and pace.
This dates back to the AVB days, and continued with Sherwood and now Poch. I’m no genius, but if you have no width, pace or creativity, it is very hard to become any kind of threatening force. The fact this has gone on through 3 managers leaves the conspiracy theorists among us wondering who really picks this team. Tottenham’s season was dead for weeks, if not months which begged the question, why the persistence with the same old average crop?
The most obvious problem with the lack of width, comes from the selection of Chadli (and Lamela).
Chadli is the Houdini of football, and I would argue, a dangerous illusion to have in your team. He crafts himself goals by drifting around the pitch like an old fashioned goal hanger, with very little regard for the team, the shape, or the position he frequently abandons. At the same time he contributes as much to the game as the bloke doing half time entertainment. He crumbles away like a chocolate tea pot filled with lava. He also waltzes around the pitch auditioning for Strictly Come Dancing, whilst carrying the Ballon d’Or in his hair.
Erikson is the biggest sufferer of Chadli’s antics. His room to operate has become a crowded space, reducing his options in wide areas to be creative, with a constant requirement to cover in defensive positions when we lose possession.
Chadli is a dangerous illusion because he will always raise support from the fact he gets on the score sheet, but the greater good of the team deeply suffers. You would be naïve to think that part of our defensive frailties don’t come from the way we defend as a team. Having poor shape opens up gaps for your opponents to exploit, time and time again.
The modern argument dictates that old fashion wingers are a thing of the past, and the game has ‘evolved’. For me, that is nonsense. Chelsea don’t necessarily deploy old fashioned wingers, however Hazard and Willian are masters at shape, making the pitch wide and narrow to dictate the game whilst working extremely hard defensively to complement their huge impact the other end of the field. Of course, we’re talking about great players here, but the real master is the tactical genius of the manager. Talking about old fashioned wingers and going back to my first point in this rant, it didn’t do us too much harm under Harry.
There is a huge amount of work to be done before next season, not least a major clear out of dead wood. Poch needs to take a real hard look at the tactics we’ve deployed this season, and beyond. The system can be effective at times, but is easily exposed and almost fails completely when teams put up a brick wall. We lose shape defensively, and leak goals for fun. We are predictable going forward, extremely narrow and easy to defend against. We’ve been so heavily reliant on Kane, it’s almost embarrassing. Ultimately there is no plan B when things are not working, and if we want to get back to being a serious challenger to the top 4, like it or not, a return to width in our play is vital.
I’m not saying it’s all doom and gloom, the rise of youngsters this year has been a huge positive, and great credit to Poch. I expect this to continue. However frustrations in the crowd are there to be seen and there won’t be many places to hide next year.