There is no doubting it’s been a tough and extremely disappointing week for everybody connected with Tottenham.
Pochettino has been heavily criticized for getting it wrong tactically twice, the players have put in two very weak performances (regardless of tactics), and the fans are squabbling amongst themselves with those defending him happy clappers, and those criticising him deluded and in need of reality.
There is no doubt the loss together of Vertonghen and Rose has been much tougher for us to take than we realized. There are several reasons for this beyond simply their own absences.
Last season, at the same stage we lost Jan to injury. It had no real effect at all. In came Kevin Wimmer, and excelled in the role, so much so, that when Jan returned to fitness, there was a large split amongst us as to whether Jan should come straight back in the side. Wimmer after all had done nothing to justify being left out, and had made that huge match saving tackle to deny Ramsay in the derby.
The Kevin Wimmer of last season has been missing throughout this season, and therefore is just as big a problem as missing Jan is. As far back as pre-season, there appeared to be a problem with Wimmer, never described by Pochettino as having an injury but never played not single minute in pre-season, and it was Carter-Vickers that was preferred on the bench.
Rumours of a bust-up circulated, but surely this was purely unsubstantiated gossip. Wimmer signed a 5-year contract extension on 21st July, and remains in the squad past 2 transfer windows since a ‘bust-up’. Capoue, Kaboul, Adebayor, Lennon, Townsend were shipped out as soon as they could be, and rarely got selected after their bust-ups.
Wimmer was trusted to come in for key away games at Woolwich, Chelsea, Monaco, and at Manchester City, the first two he was shaky in (scored own goal at Emirates), the Monaco & City performances way below what we needed and rightfully expected of him. The final straw was that shocking defensive performance v Wycombe, which meant, he was taken off at half time as he had been at City.
Article continues below...
We also have a problem with Eric Dier, way below his best, again looking short of confidence. That according to some is because Pochettino has moved him back from his best/favoured position. He has moved back into the position he mostly played prior to joining us, the position that he played in much of his first season at Spurs, and indeed the position we all felt at the start of last season he should remain in, after all, 95% were against him playing in central midfield.
We are now left with a conundrum of a back 3/back 4 with Jan injured, Wimmer woefully out of form, Dier below his best and also lacking confidence, and Rose unavailable.
The argument we should have seen these weaknesses in the summer is partly valid, but in amongst all the criticism of our summer window, I don’t ever remember one person suggesting that Wimmer & Davies were not good enough back-ups and we needed better.
We then move further forwards in the team. We saw Son play left midfield on Saturday and fail woefully to provide any defensive cover, leaving Davies cruelly exposed time and time again. He did likewise away at the Bridge, when Moses ran 70 yards off the ball to get into position to score. Without Rose, we do need that width Son offers though, the next solution is to move Eriksen/Dele to play from the left. In Gent that was Dele, but tactically that is wrong because you take him away from the area he thrives in, but does help defensively.
Jermain Jenas quite rightly highlighted this problem with his analysis after the game against Gent, but didn’t then offer a solution to fixing the problem. As with many, we know what’s not working, but can’t offer a solution to making it work.
Next solution is use a naturally wide player, albeit on the wrong side but who can cover defensively. That is Lamela, who is unfit. Next up is Sissoko, clearly nowhere near good enough. Pochettino brought him, so carries the can, should have brought better, but that doesn’t actually solve the problem right now, and it’s now we are looking for a solution. We could go with N’Koudou, again a player who Poch has seen day in day out in training and clearly has reservations against. Like Wimmer, he was poor against Wycombe and taken off at half time.
We shouldn’t invite pressure leading to the mistakes at Liverpool when pressed, we should just clear it, but Kane has 2 central defenders marking him, one drops off the other goes with Kane. Go long and the gap between the forward line and defensive line becomes 60 yards, leaving huge spaces in midfield. Any coach will tell you the importance of staying compact, and not getting the team stretched.
So to avoid the press, defenders can’t go long so must pass into midfield. Wanyama & Dembele in these 2 games have both been caught in possession, both played sloppy passes. Every player at the club tells us Dembele is by far the best player at the club, and I would not argue against that. However, he has also put in back-to-back poor performances, and has admitted we underestimated Gent last night who were motivated better, this despite us being told we were hungry to put Liverpool behind us and return to the level of that new year period. You can’t be hungry and lack motivation at the same time Mousa!!
We should have noted what Hull did, parked the bus and hit on the break. To a degree we did match Hull’s plan, theirs was to play to their strengths, which we tried to do. Their strengths were parking the bus, our’s aren’t.
Even the Carragher/Neville debate on Monday Night Football showed two hughly respected hugely experienced and successful players actually disagree about what we should have done. Carragher rightly said we needed to understand the magnitude of the game, be pragmatic, be safe, not take risks. Gary Neville said we shouldn’t have been so timid and we need to take the game to those big opponents. We are Spurs, I’m happy on the odd occasion for us to park the bus, but do so and you won’t involve Dele, Eriksen or Kane in the game, Kane will be criticised for not touching the ball in the opposition box, Eriksen will be accused of not grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck, and concede that first goal and then be slated for being negative and sitting back. We are Spurs, To Dare Is To Do!
It’s very easy to say we got the set-up wrong, very easy to say we’ve been shown as tactically clueless, lacking, inept etc, but fixing all of our problems and getting the set up with square pegs in round holes and trying to mask those weaknesses is not easy.
With Fulham in mind, can anybody put a team together that has 3 injuries, 2 CBs lacking form, 2 central midfielders below their best, no left sided player suitable of bringing us the quality both offensively and defensively, of having two number 10's that ideally play centrally, and lacking on the right hand side also lacking penetration because of injury and form.
And if a UEFA Pro-Licence coach who had outsmarted Conte and Guardiola this season is struggling to solve those problems, it’s probably not easy for us Sunday morning players/watching fans/ even FA schoolboy/local football level 1-2 coaches. If you can come up with a better plan fair enough, but remember, that whatever plan you do have, there is a coach in the opposition dug-out who has a plan of his own, and a plan to stop yours working. By the way, he’s also almost certainly a UEFA Pro-Licence coach, so we’ll need to know more than him as well as our own one. And remember, you’ll need a plan B to keep the critics away, and be spot on with every substitution.
In Gent, plan A back 4 failed, Plan B switch at half time to back 3, Sissoko from right to left didn’t work. Finally, the man accused often of having no plan B, tried plan C of pace and width of N’Koudou, and that failed with most of GKs touches in our half. Poch’s problem is that he needs a Plan D & E !!
As I sit here thinking of Fulham, I’ll be honest and say I have no idea how to fix those problems, so if Pochettino doesn’t, I won’t be calling him clueless without being able to offer a cast-iron guaranteed to succeed alternative plan.
Our recruitment has clearly not been good enough, that is down to Pochettino, but there is nothing we can do about that until the season ends. So go ahead, pick your team and set up!
© e-Media Group 2017 All rights reserved no part of this document or this website may be reproduced without consent of @e_media_group