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Reasons Why Tottenham Hotspur Won’t Make The Top 4

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The appointment of Mauricio Pochettino as Tottenham Hotspur manager brought a sudden feeling of optimism to the club. While Tim Sherwood had stepped in and performed admirably, Pochettino’s success at Southampton convinced chairman Daniel Levy that he was the man to carry Tottenham forward. The Argentinean was set to implement a new style of play and take Spurs back into the Champions League fray.

Pochettino came in with his own unique style of play that worked so well for him during his time at Southampton. Adopting a 4-2-3-1 formation his side were experts in high and intensive pressing tactics. Dejan Lovren marshalled the defense with aplomb, while the likes of Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin ran the midfield expertly. Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert were prolific in attack and were helped enormously by captain and chief creator Adam Lallana. The soccer was fluid and effective – a delight for the neutral.

So when the Argentinean tactician made the switch for White Hart Lane, naturally expectations were high, but rather than flourish the Spurs have made a stuttering start. With many players bought in the previous summer during a spending spree, it’s becoming abundantly clear that some players are simply not good enough. Even despite the fact that the Spurs’ rivals for a top four position have all had average starts, they just don’t look capable of asserting themselves in the lucrative positions come May.

Their remains an air of negativity around the club and Levy is under fire for not keeping faith with managers and imploring Andre Villas-Boas to initiate a spending spree. All of this had led many to believe that the squad is imbalanced, namely with too many central midfielders.

One of the main problems originates from their signings made last summer. Etienne Capoue and Paulinho were added to the already long list of central midfielders. Add Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentaleb, Moussa Dembele and summer signing Benjamind Stambouli and you’ve got an overflow of men that can play in the middle of the park. The worrying thing is that none of these players have made a position their very own yet. All have proven qualities, but a lack of attacking impetus is curtailing each and every player’s impact. Villas-Boas wanted to bring in Joao Moutinho from FC Port last summer, who would have been an expensive addition. However, he probably would have cost around the same as both Capoue and Paulinho combined. In retrospect the Portuguese coach probably should have broken the bank. Playing from a deeper position, Moutinho controls the tempo of the game but is also excellent at choosing his moment to push forward and aid the attack.

The high-profile signing of Erik Lamela looks to a shrewd piece of business, with the former Roma star now beginning to prove his worth. Belgian Nacer Chadli was maligned for his previous season, but like Lamela he has had a positive influence this term. However, the issue with the attacking players is that it seems only Christian Eriksen – arguably the Spurs’ best signing in recent times – is capable of playing in a variety of attacking positions and Chadli is the only one capable of operating from the left wing.

At Chelsea, this is not a problem, due to the versatility of the attacking midfielders. The likes of Willian, Andre Schurrle, Eden Hazard, and Mohamed Salah are all comfortable playing either on the left or the right. Hazard and Willian can also fit seamlessly into the center. Unfortunately for Spurs, their players do not carry this versatility. Andros Townsend’s main weapon is cutting inside and shooting, which is unsuccessful from the left. Lennon has also been deployed out left, but failed to convince. Playing as a customary right winger after coming on as a substitute against Hull City, he played well, using his pace, trickery, and directness to create problems. Lennon may not have reached his potential, but under Villas-Boas he started to become a consistent performer, and the signing of Lamela did not help this. At the time Spurs beat Arsenal at White Hart Lane in 2013 to cement their position in the top four, Lennon was playing extremely well, as was Gareth Bale. Ever since Villas-Boas left, Lennon’s form has been on a drastic decline.

This stacking-up of positions occurs at other positions too. For example, Spurs have Younes Kaboul, Jan Vertonghen, Federico Fazio, Vlad Chiriches and Eric Dier, as true center-backs, yet apart from Vertonghen, none are consistent enough.

In short, Spurs ultimately suffer from quantity over quality. It is better to have fewer quality players than a number of decent players. Once again, making the comparison to league leaders Chelsea, John Terry and Gary Cahill have been ever-present at center-back. The likes of Branislav Ivanovic and Kurt Zouma can fill in, but Terry and Cahill are guaranteed starters for each “big game”. For Spurs, the problem is that a true consistent lineup is yet to be found, with continual rotations.

In attack there are distinct issues also. A few seasons ago, Spurs chose from Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Roman Pavlyuchenko as their main strikers. While they weren’t top class strikers, they worked very hard and both Defoe and Crouch played key roles for the team. The signing of Rafael Van der Vaart in 2011 from Real Madrid saw a formation switch to a 4-4-1-1, in which Van der Vaart played in support to a single striker. At this time, Spurs choose from an arsenal containing Emmanuel Adebayor, Roberto Soldado, and Harry Kane. Adebayor always raises eyebrows. When he was on loan at Spurs, he scored 17 goals and led Spurs to fourth place. After earning a contract, the goals and performances dried up. Upon the arrival of Tim Sherwood, Adebayor began scoring again, justifying his place in the team. Now, he is yet again playing poorly. At his best, Adebayor can bully defenders, but at his worst he is lazy, slow, and fails to link up play effectively. Soldado was signed to spearhead the attack, but he has proven to not work effectively. His brilliant scoring record at Valencia coincided with him being the “main man”, captaining the side. More importantly, Valencia played a rather diagonal game during Soldado’s time, with many of his goals being superb volleyed finishes. A loss of form and confidence has seen Soldado miss easy chances and with Spurs often used to a striker who can hold up the ball, Soldado is hardly effective. Kane’s scoring record has been good this season, yet positively influenced by the Europa League. While it is impossible to deny his ability in front of goal, he would not make the starting lineup of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Everton.

Truthfully, Spurs have gone on a negative decline from the 2010-2011 season. A high point of the Harry Redknapp era was the 1-0 victory at the San Siro against AC Milan in the Champions League Round of 16 that season. A low point was the 5-0 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the quarter-finals. Spurs had focused a lot on the Champions League, and paid the price for playing their best teams in Europe’s top competition. They suffered in the Premier League as a result, and have since searched for a way back into the competition. As it is, their current starting lineup seems weaker than that side. While Hugo Lloris undoubtedly is a better goalkeeper than Heurelho Gomes, other positions have been weakened. Spurs’ midfield used to contain Gareth Bale and Luka Modric. Now, the likes of Bentaleb and Mason occupy these positions. Up front, Spurs have Kane instead of Defoe. In defense, Vertonghen and Kaboul have taken over from Michael Dawson and Ledley King. Kyle Walker is better than Alan Hutton, but his injury problems have meant Dier has had to cover at right-back. While Dier’s first two games were successful, as he scored in both, he has been poor ever since. Poor positionally and showing his inexperience, he has made a number of mistakes resulting in goals. An example of this is Ayoze Perez’s goal for Newcastle right at the start of the second half, in which Dier let Perez in behind.

At this moment in time, Spurs have the opportunity to make the top four and make it back into the Champions League – their goal across the past few seasons. With limited investment in the side, spending a rather low net fund across the past few seasons, Spurs have done rather well. Yet, for their ambitions they haven’t done so well. Poor performances, including unconvincing comeback victories against Aston Villa and Hull City have inflated their league position. Poor defending, due to a lack of pace at center-back, poor positioning at full-back, combined with a decent strike force, and a lack of character in midfield affect the team. Pochettino has come in with great ideas to take the team forward. Sadly, at this moment in time, Pochettino does not have the players necessary to carry out his methods and to carry Spurs into the Champions League.

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. trickybrkn

    December 20, 2014 at 11:26 am

    If you google, Champions League, you’re having a laugh… that pretty much says it all

  2. Jimbo

    December 19, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    It will just take Poch time to implement his ideas. A number of your comments are shortsighted. Kane is a superb and versatile player that would break into a lot of top sides now. The other academy lads are doing very well too. Bentaleb is outstanding and Mason has a lot of potential. Other players are also starting to settle in like Eriksen, Chadli and Davies. Soldado and Lamela may even live up to the price tag in the next year or two, as they are improving. Poch knows what he is doing and will get rid of poor buys like Paulinho, Capoue and even Dembele.

  3. Bo

    December 19, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Reasons Why Liverpool Won’t Make the Top 4.
    Reasons Why Everton Won’t Make the Top 4.
    Reasons Why Arsenal Won’t Make the Top 4.
    Reasons Why Southampton Won’t Make the Top 4.

    Besides Man City and Chelsea you can copy and paste any team name.

  4. Keith Wikle

    December 19, 2014 at 11:25 am

    I love the website, the podcast, and the analysis. You guys seem like a good bunch of characters. That said. There seems to be a definitive anti spurs contingent in the editorial bent of the commentary. And maybe anti-spurs is too strong, because I don’t know the affiliation of every editorial member of the website, but there does seem to be a large amount of pundit glee from you, and the BBC in pointing out the weaknesses in spurs players, managers, and ownership failures. Spurs could have had a thumping victory such as the 4-0 in the capital one cup against newcastle. And then the next day, we see an article like this, just to make sure no one gets too crazy about our chances about champions league places. This analysis, isn’t entirely accurate.

    As some have pointed out, some of the players mentioned aren’t even starting anymore. And in the case of adebayor, he was on leave and injured for more than three games so it’s hard to say if he had played what would have happened. In the back the weaknesses have been rotated out, kaboul and dier haven’t been making the starting XI? While vertonghen and davies have started to make some pretty crucial defensive moves.

    It’s funny how world soccer talk and the british press will talk about another spurs miserable failure for 20-30 minutes, and analyse the points of failure. But when the team is winning, it gets roughly 20 words, or 3 minutes of mention, and then we are back to talking about how liverpool can’t get out of their hole, or how awesome chelsea, and man city are. But if spurs youth such as kane, mason, and bentaleb, or god forbid, lamela do something right for match or too, it’s worth about 3 seconds of everyone’s time.

    It shouldn’t be a miracle to understand how these teams are doing well. If spurs had chelsea’s or MC’s funding, we would be challenging for the top four too. But that is part of the joy of spurs. They can’t outright buy our way into the top four with the best names in world football. We will have to put together an underrated team with perhaps few good players, and then see if we can have great matches, where maybe just maybe we can squeak in.

    • Hickorywind

      December 19, 2014 at 11:32 am

      I don’t think there is an anti-Spurs bias. Every supporter probably feels there is a bias against their club, no matter who they support. However, the fact this article was very poorly constructed, out of date, and focused on players we lost seasons ago remains true.

      • Keith Wikle

        December 19, 2014 at 11:38 am

        Hickory wind
        Like I said, anti-spurs might be strong. But I think there is a bit of that pedestrian glee of failure, and a lack of appropriate delight in success. But yes, it’s easy to feel this way, and the number of minutes spent discussing man u playing poorly will continue to outweigh any time speaking of spurs progress.

  5. Tim

    December 19, 2014 at 11:24 am

    I don’t think this writer actually watches Spurs…. ever. Lamela has been inconsistent and maybe… maybe… shone flashes of what he can do but certainly cannot be labeled a “shrewd piece of business.” Moutinho has not demonstrated his class at Monaco and certainly can’t be argued he would have made a huge difference. The center back pairing isn’t being rotated nearly as much in the last month, with the first choice pair being obvious so that entire paragraph about Terry and Cahill is BS. This site has such an Arsenal bias it’s hard to read sometimes.

  6. Andrew Puopolo

    December 19, 2014 at 5:57 am

    This article loses a lot of credibility given the timeline for a lot of the events mentioned in it are incorrect, showing that the author does not really watch or understand the Tottenham Hotspur side

    • Christopher Harris

      December 19, 2014 at 8:09 am

      The article was submitted a couple of weeks ago, but got lost in the shuffle and was published now. Apologies to the writer and reader, but the copyeditor should have caught it and updated it before publication.

  7. Jimmy Sidewinder

    December 19, 2014 at 4:23 am

    i reason why you wont make it in top anything…cos ure fkin boring.

  8. Julian Springer

    December 19, 2014 at 2:22 am

    This ‘analysis’ focusses on the fact that we don’t have ‘big name’ players in our squad so it means we’re not going to make it. Before we made the ‘7 deadly signings’, all the players had this excited hype around them. They did not adapt. Now our team is composed of home grown players and its working. Not well, not well enough to make the top 4, but better than it was.

    No one will deny that at the time, signing new blood with the Bale money seemed like a good idea. We were all excited, but we overlooked a critical point in that they were all coming from very different systems to what they were expected to play in.

    The reason Sherwood got results with the youngsters is that they are easier to train into a new style of play, which is what MoPo is doing, and it’s working.

    Tottenham will finish 6th or thereabouts, and we should be happy with that. We will offload the likes of Paulinho, Capoue, maybe even Dembele and Lamela next summer if they have still not performed by that stage. The only reason I would consider keeping Lamela is that he’s still young and has time to learn.

    In 3 years when we inevitably sell Harry Kane to Real Madrid for 60 million, I will come back here and remind you of what was said here today.

  9. Hickorywind

    December 18, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    This is news? The main focus is on the previous two managers, for some reason, as well as players that haven’t been here for a while. And we’re not as good as Chelsea? Good to know, as I wouldn’t have guessed that until I read this article.

    Did you actually write this a couple months ago, and hold it until now? In your “positional analysis”, you listed players who don’t even start any longer (Dembele, Kaboul)

    And who actually thinks Spurs are going to make the top 4? Of course we’re not, as we’re clearly not ready. 7th place is just about right. That’s not “news”.

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