Reasons to be cheerful

by James Harris

One loss is all it took for conspiracies of major breakdowns behind-the-scenes and for Davinson Sanchez’s career to be cancelled. One loss to lose faith in the magic man at the helm.

So much for #BackPoch, eh? The year is 2019 and despite a decade without silverware, despite wide-ranging experience in falling short, a large section of us still struggle to handle a setback without fearing the apocalypse. It seems that backing Poch is the sole responsibility of Daniel Levy, rather than the thousands who should trust him the most.

Things are all of a sudden looking bleak in N17. An embarrassing home loss to Newcastle – Steve Bruce’s Newcastle – is worthy of drawing ire. The manner of the defeat is more urgently worrying. Pochettino’s growing tendency to twist the knife himself in press conferences does not help either. Yet, the extent of collective panic is still surprising.

One loss is all it took for conspiracies of major breakdowns behind-the-scenes and for Davinson Sanchez’s career to be cancelled. One loss to lose faith in the magic man at the helm. All is clearly not well, but to feel the sky is caving in on Pochettino’s tenure after one particularly hideous performance is to selectively ignore the evidence that suggests otherwise.

In fact, the club has been on an upward swing since the disappointment of… er… *checks notes* our first ever Champions League final. Yeah, we are really having this talk two months after that happened. Since Pochettino worked that miracle with some help from Lucas Moura, Tottenham did something even more unthinkable by acquiring the club’s first choice signing in Tanguy Ndombele. The Frenchman did not only fill by far the biggest hole in the squad, but was a statement of intent; it finally seemed we were prepared to add some world class talent to shake up a group that had become static and stale.

That optimism exploded in our first pre-season friendly, with Ndombele instantly showing how absurd it is that Tottenham Hotspur secured his signature. Then Harry Kane reminded everyone that he is still Harry Kane, starved of golden boots and uninterrupted campaigns, hungrier than ever.

The flippant nature of the football fan, exacerbated by social media, revealed itself within weeks of the giddy high of the new season preparations. Rage and hashtags and disgust and protest was quickly stifled again by more big spending and Hotspur Related’s coronation as King of the World for a day. Despite the two-day Twitter tantrum, this was progress. Large sums spent on strengthening the first XI, plus a sprinkle of more young talent and a cathartic clearing of (some of) the deadwood.

A squad in desperate need of change has been refreshed to take on the dual challenges of post-Champions League finalist Tottenham and new stadium Tottenham. This is new-era Tottenham, which does not mean it will be straight-forward, as Joelinton so kindly demonstrated, but is no less exciting.

And it’s not just the new faces and new places that afford anticipation. Those who have been difference-makers in the Pochettino age are primed to once more show their best work to quieten the lingering doubts.

What’s that?

Christian Eriksen still wants to leave and can’t be arsed anym-

NO.

Heung-min Son is going to be completely fresh and uninhibited by international commitments this season.

Jan Vertonghen is the latest victim of Poch’s yearly commitment to ostracising one key playe-

SHUT UP.

Dele Alli is going to have the freedom to play in his best position now that there is cover in midfield.

Our right-back issue remains unresolved and if anything is worse than last season – in fact, it is a very real possibility that Moussa Sissoko is going to be starting there against Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the North London der-

I’M NOT LISTENING LA LA LA LA LA.

Harry Kane has had his first full pre-season in a while, looks in better shape than ever and has a haircut that says he means business this season. So there.

The stats showing our run of form from last season into this have shaken belief in Tottenham’s trajectory, but fails to acknowledge how the challenge of Tottenham 2019/20 is very different from that of 2018/19. Analysing form across seasons is troublesome in any circumstance, but is particularly impractical in Spurs’ case.

The latter half of last season suffered from a squad too settled by a lack of transfer activity, but also fatigued by international exploits and consequently hampered by an absurd amount of injuries. Add to the mix a continued uncertainty over the future of Wembley and White Hart Lane, as well as the increased focus on European competition and the reasons for the limp finish begin to stack up.

Contrast this with the sense of the new this season, in setting and personnel, as well as the aforementioned rejuvenation of our biggest weapons and you realise this season does not align with the last and one appalling performance does not signify a long-term crisis. This summer provided a firm break between one season and another and a new process for Pochettino.

Simply, we are in a far stronger position than we were twelve months ago. As overreactions go, we have outdone ourselves in the post-Bruce massacre. But we are not in the unthinkable positions of Bury or Bolton, we are not even in the uncertain space that Chelsea and Manchester United occupy.

We stand in front of an empty canvas, with fresh colours on our palette. That is something to be excited about, even if Christian Eriksen is sat in the corner snapping paintbrushes.

Calm down and watch Vincent van Poch go to work.

Author

James Harris

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