The morning after the night before. Where does the blame start and end? Because in football, someone is always at fault.
There’s always a danger of writing something in the aftermath of a bad result, but then again the same can be said after we’ve won a game.
The words spill from you either cloaked in a rusty barbed wire jacket, or they dance out on a bed of silk sheets with the scent of spring on them.
Today, well take a guess where I am?
This morning trudging to work through the rain my mind swept back to last night. What did we do wrong? Where did we fail? And of course who do we blame? Football is the blame game after all.
There is a standout moment in amongst the 95 minutes of football, an easy place on to which we can nail the blame. The ball is swept across the goal by Serge Aurier, it arrives at the back post and there arriving is our £15m striker. He extends a leg and guides the ball goal wards, but unfortunately 5 meters to high. Shall we start here? Is this where the blame ends?
His name is Fernando Llorente. It is another Spanish striker missing a sitter in a Tottenham jersey that gets me hot and bothered.
Llorente is stylish, Llorente is classy, Llorente has a WC winners medal and countless other domestic titles to his name. Fernando Llorente. Is our problem, but then Fernando isn’t our problem. He is everything, yet he is nothing.
I struggle to blame him as the issue isn’t so much the man, as so much the idea.
What did we do wrong? Where did we fail? And of course who do we blame? Football is the blame game after all
The day before the Tottenham riots broke out in 2011, Llorente in a pre-season friendly at White Hart Lane took Harry Redknapp’s men on a merry dance. He was a striker at the peak of his powers, we should’ve signed him then, but fate took him to back to Bilbao then Juve etc. He arrived at our door 6 years later than hoped, but that didn’t matter after all:
“He’s back up.”
“He’s a squad player.”
“He’s an option.”
I myself joined this merry chorus. He has the 18. He has the beard. I was blind. I was refusing to accept the fact that he is mediocrity. He’s a signing that doesn’t ripple the pool of tranquility.
In the pursuance of greatness with our team, who can be great on occasion, we’ve accepted that we don’t need a player because we already have a player.
We are lucky to boast players such as Kane, Eriksen and Dele, but the moment they can’t do a job, the players we’ve signed to do a job are painfully inadequate.
When Morata thought about joining Spurs, he spoke to Mauricio and asked:
“Why do you need me because you have Harry Kane?”
Mauricio should’ve answered: “Because you can never have enough Kanes.”
By protecting our first XI we have created a shell of squad. When Kane and Pochettino took over the dressing room after the loss to Stoke at home, they ousted the old regime, and removed from power the old cartel of previously untouchable players, and replaced them with something new, but now three years on something very familiar.
We can no longer seek to improve because it will upset the status quo. You accept your fate and get on with it like Heung Min Son, or you’re out and plying your trade at Crystal Palace. Life at Spurs now means you’re part of the Poch Cartel.
You’re with us or you’re against us.
I love Pochettino. I love Spurs, but the something in our recruitment has gone amiss, especially in the final third of our team. We’ve not attempted to better ourselves, we’ve rested comfortably with the front 4/5 players that have done well for two years and not challenged them.
In the pursuance of greatness with our team, who can be great on occasion, we’ve accepted that we don’t need a player because we already have a player
Part of Kane’s meteoric rise was his determination to oust the senior players, today he has no one pushing him. If we had a second striker worthy to challenge Kane, would that drive him on even more?
Of course I’m not questioning Kane as a professional. Through our poor run, he’s continued to push as hard as he can despite being unfit, but the question remains as does the issue of complacency elsewhere in our front 4.
Who is challenging Dele? Who is making his place in the team questionable? When was the last time a fit Dele sat on the bench for a league game?
Who is stepping up to Eriksen post WC qualifying hattrick and asking him the question about his presence in the team? Who does Eriksen look towards the bench and fear?
Pochettino? Moussa Sissoko? Sonny?
You can name our starting XI. Every single opposition manager knows it. Every single tactical advisor knows it. For two years we’ve played the same way, beautiful when it works, but its working less and less.
The teams we’ve beaten this year have been too ignorant or think they’re better than us, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Dortmund or too stupid Newcastle, Huddersfield, West Ham or unlucky Palace and Bournemouth.
From needing two hearts and two lungs to survive at Spurs we’ve now created a blanket of comfort. You’ll play each week don’t worry. This attitude has spread into our cup performances.
The Europa League was the stage in which Kane showcased his class and grew into what he is now, today there is no drive for the bit-part players to show their worth in the cup competitions because:
1. The manager doesn’t care about the cups
2. The undroppables are undroppable.
In other areas our recruitment has been strong, and we’ve even shown a willingness to spend money and improve. Davinson Sanchez, Toby Alderweireld, Victor Wanyama, even the brief cameos of Aurier have brought hope that we have some idea about how to move forward and usurp the existing players, but the unwillingness to challenge our forwards is a worry. The moment our defence struggles, our attack are no longer unable to bail us out.
Of course had we taken more than one of our golden chances last night this blog would’ve been different. I would’ve praised our mental strength and resilience. But football swings in moments and in those moments we cracked. Our reliance on the same individuals, performing the same tricks every game is unsustainable, and our unwillingness to change, challenge or rotate these positions is proving to be extremely short sighted.
The one positive to take from the whole experience was Erik Lamela. With Eriksen pulled off, the Argentine who hasn’t kicked a ball in 13 months stepped up and showed that he is a genuine contender for starting place. Hopefully he inspires the others to kick themselves out of this funk.
Pochettino has his first proper test since that day vs Stoke. This is his squad now, these are his players and his decisions. The Poch Cartel will decide his fate. Let’s hope the players he has chosen to put his faith in back him up, otherwise it will be a hell of a Christmas.