It’s not all rosy at White Hart Lane

Pre-season’s expectations: 

AVB-Erik-Lamela

Lamela hasn’t lived to his price tag

After spending £108 million, despite the loss of the EPL’s player of the year, there were definitely some high talks of spurs. The whispers around white hart lane sounded a little like ‘if this season goes right we could even challenge for the top spot’ and with the other teams also rebuilding, it was any ones league. It seems like this position has now on reflection, been taken by Liverpool but that’s another matter. There was a feeling that the new man up front, Soldado, could get them 25 + goals and there were hopes that Adebayor would go on loan and cut the wage budget. Lamela was at least going to do half of what Gareth Bale did and the prospects of Holtby, Paulinho, Eriksen in midfield was exciting. Sandro, the player the fans missed so badly last season, looked like he was coming back and there squad was bigger than ever. This Spurs team looked good.  

It didn’t morph though. AVB signed a striker who feeds off crosses yet played two inverted wingers nearly every game. A left back was never found and those few additional tinkers never came. Injuries began to build up and this squad didn’t look as strong as perceived. They were dominating games, but not scoring, Andros Townsend slamming a shot in 3 bodies from 40 yards was seen repeatedly. The 1-0’s turned to 0-0’s, there was growing calls to play two upfront to answer their problems (although it was empirically proved later in the season that this was not the answer). However the Liverpool and City games were eye openers, AVB didn’t learn from his mistakes, continually playing a high line but with no penetration even against the strongest teams. This ultimately cost him his Job, with interim Tim Sherwood taking over

Tim Sherwood

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur - FA Cup Third Round

Tim Sherwood – Boyhood Arsenal fan

Surprisingly appointed and handed a 18 month contract after 2 fallacious wins, it must have felt like a stab in the back for AVB. Tim Sherwood is a typical down to earth, Englishman, in his interviews he try’s to move against the towed line and come up with his own honest rhetoric. He was brought up as an Arsenal fan something that they made very clear at the emirates and he showed a lot of respect for Wenger and his Arsenal team at the game, so there was question marks over his appointment. Seen as someone who can get the best out of his players, he may be not the best tactician in the world, but was viewed as perhaps as what Spurs need.  It was claimed he can get this team back, back on right course, in terms of actual wins and style it seemed as though it was 1 step forward 5 steps back and another step forward.  He’s pushed their back line back, brought Adebayor back in, put some players in positions they weren’t used to (including the bench) and also brought about a bit more energy into the team that had lost 6-0 at the Etihad. Oh and also put two upfront, which the media was so so desperate for.

The gameplan?

Tim Sherwood’s plan runs parallels with his own personality, old-fashioned and very English. He typically play’s with a 4-4-2, but has “experimented” (although it seems not that distant from his original game plan) with 4-3-3 and 4-4-1-1. He wants his wide players to get to byline and cross and doesn’t really give his centre mid a specific role, this doesn’t have the desired effect of “freedom”on the pitch but more of ‘looking lost’ effect. The epicentre of his gameplan revolves around Adebayor. For Adebayor it’s worked wonders, for other players it almost nullify’s them. This has meant the team has gone more direct, especially with the fullbacks who now see it essential to look for the togolese forward across the distance on the pitch, whether it be 20 yards or 80. He’s shifted Eriksen out wide for most of the season as well, which is a method of trying to make up for a missing left winger, despite him spending most of the game in the middle of the pitch and having never actually played there. His back four have been chopped and changed all season with Vertonghen being the only lone survivor, they are one of the only parts of the pitch that seem’s moderately organised although there are moments of complete uncertainty. I think left back is also a position of real concern, take the first goal for Benfica in the Europa league for example, poor Kyle Naughton hadn’t a clue whether he was with his man or playing the offside trap. Although this is something Tim Sherwood can’t really do anything about, these are all part of a larger experiment of his best team, in which he hasn’t actually experimented that much.

There’s nothing actually ‘wrong’ with his methods and reverting to old-fashioned tatics, the problem is I don’t think he is full sure of what these are and I don’t think his players do. I fully admit it’s working for Adebayor, Lennon, Bentaleb and others, but in Adebayors case the ball is just given to him and he can do what he wants with it. Lennon’s game is not to complex and likes just beating last player and putting a cross in. For the rest of the team it seems like they are put on the pitch and told to win the game. For them to challenge where they’re expected and considering how much they’ve spent too, I don’t think they can carry on without cohesion or at least with what they have now.

Moving forward

For the immediate future, Spurs have a fairly easy run of games, it will seem as Sherwood is doing his part, but I focus more on the quality of the players rather than his managerial credentials. I personally believe that to get to where they expect to be, they need both an innovative and competent manager. Somebody who has their own way of playing and knows exactly how to get the best out of their players, not somebody who puts players on the pitch and expects them to win games. The team doesn’t need an overhaul, just a few modifications; a new left back is a must,  plus a winger who’s not only exciting but also had a strong footballing brain and can put in a good cross and perhaps another centre back as well because lets face it players like Michael Dawson have really had their day. Also Townsend needs  to be stopped being played because of ‘youth merit’, I think the young kids shouldn’t be shuffled along for re-sell value and shouldn’t be thrown in the deep end if they’re wholly not good enough. I’m not sure either how long Adebayor has left of his current form and doesn’t really seem a useful option for the future.

The rest of the team then follows this change, I think Eriksen has a lot more to come,so does Paulinho and Sandro plus I do believe they can get to the quality expected from them, in the right environment. Chriches and Vertonghen can grow and with Lloris they have a world class keeper and there’s no reason the rest of the squad can’t get close to his standard. Furthermore interesting developments will be if Soldado can ever get back to 25+ a season and if Lamela, the forgotten superstar can pick up some form and show the potential of his price tag. Whether they get them to work together or at least to get them individually to meet their price tags, then something special can come from them too.

What Spurs really need is a plan, they have  the player’s and they have the potential to  hit top 4 and with a couple of changes maybe even higher and lets not forgot they also have a brand new stadium to look forward to.

night-aeriel-view

Tottenham’s new stadium design

This squad is no worse and quite likely superior to the old Harry Redknapp one that made the Champions League (minus Gareth Bale) and the adventure they had past the previous giants of the Milano clubs. Spurs need a Revolution of coach, but evolution of team, they can’t continue the way they’re going at the moment, losing to anyone who even has the slightest more confidence and more applicability than they do, because their ability doesn’t match that. So while it’s not as good as it seems for Tottenham at the moment, the future is still bright and maybe with a different manager Spurs could get the sort of success that is well within their reach.

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