It seems that I’ve written many Tottenham Hotspur progress report pieces since the last one came out on September 19th without actually calling it a “progress report”. They’ve more been referendums on the slog at White Hart Lane. But since this one is an official progress report, I’ll attempt to transcribe what my soapbox rants have sounded like since the October international break.
When I wrote in September that, “There’s a tactical system now!”, I guess I was wrong. Well, sort of. There is a tactical system, but it hasn’t been fully implemented yet. Whether this is because the players haven’t bought into the pressing style of Mauricio Pochettino, the personnel is not right for that system, or that the players simply aren’t good enough, I don’t know yet. I doubt even the manager knows at this point. This is also partially why he has no clue what his best XI is, and neither do the supporters nor his players. He’s rotated as much as possible in order to find out, but it has only caused more confusion within the squad, despite the mainly promising cup performances. Players that had been performing well like Younes Kaboul and Etienne Capoue have fallen off considerably and teams have recognized (as they have with Arsenal and Calum Chambers) that attacking a center-back playing out of position at right-back is a great tactical idea. Hugo Lloris has had to put out a lot of fires this season, as he did last season.
Lloris; Rose, Vertonghen, Chiriches, Walker; Capoue, Bentaleb, Eriksen; Chadli, Lamela; Adebayor.
As of now, Tottenham’s best player is either Nacer Chadli or Harry Kane, excluding Lloris. Both have been scoring goals for fun, although both certainly have their weaknesses. Chadli doesn’t offer the complete package aside from his goalscoring, namely that it doesn’t look like he offers everything that Pochettino’s “left-wing forward” role requires, and Kane looks to be operating better as a second striker, not a target man. Chadli has scored goals in the league, while Kane has scored in the Cups, but both are at least scoring goals, which is not something that can be said about many of Spurs’ other attacking options. You could argue Kane has been the most improved as well.
What needs to be addressed in the transfer window:
This upcoming transfer window is one of great importance. The squad obviously needs some seismic shifting both incoming and outgoing, and it remains to be seen whether that is coming now or in the summer. A center-back would be nice, and the name out there is Mexican international Hector Moreno, who has played with Pochettino before and looks on his way out of Espanyol. Spurs have also been linked with many a striker, such as Teo Gutierrez of River Plate, and of course Jay Rodriguez, who would be the best option to solve Spurs’ myriad of issues up front. There will be plenty of paper talk about Spurs as their scouting department undergoes a massive overhaul (while Franco Baldini somehow keeps his job) with regards to both incomings and outgoings, and all of it will be justifiable.
I can’t blame Pochettino for the struggles he’s dealt with, mainly because he’s had to deal with an incapable squad and left-over mindset issues from past failed management teams. While he certainly hasn’t fixed the problems at Spurs, he isn’t the cause of them either. He is a good enough manager that when he has a squad he fancies Spurs should find their feet again, but when he finds that squad is anyone’s guess. Until then, Spurs will have the same issues of old: caught out too easily at the back while lacking a true finisher up front. Second verse same as the first.
Rating (out of 5 stars): 1.5
Tottenham can and should be better at this point of the season. Their only saving grace is the Premier League’s real lack of good teams aside from Chelsea, so any run could propel Spurs back into Champions League consideration.
But with the way things have been going, that’s a one tall task.
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