When they deservedly destroyed Chelsea 5-3 on January 1, Tottenham Hotspur’s garden looked pretty rosy. They were on a roll. It appeared 2015 might be a blooming good year for them.
Four and a half months on, how’s their plot looking? From where I’m sat it’s full of wilting flowers and unwanted weeds. Not anywhere near as healthy as anticipated.
Mauricio Pochettino has a degree of talent at his disposal. We saw that against the champions, and in a great win over Arsenal too, but with just 58 points, 12 defeats from 36 matches, and more goals conceded than Hull City and Sunderland, it’s clear something isn’t right.
If I were in the Argentine’s shoes I’d be asking myself this important question: how much heart and character do I have within my dressing room?
Based on what I’ve seen in recent weeks, I’d suggest not anywhere near enough.
The players’ attitude last weekend at Stoke City stank the place out. As a team they allowed an inept performance full of slack individual errors to drift along, and aside from the ever-industrious Harry Kane, no one seemed to care.
Every team has off days. However, when there’s no sign of spunk or a desire to turn it around (just clock watching, until the final whistle put them out of their misery) then you have big problems. This is what I saw from Spurs at the Britannia Stadium.
May we have said this more often had Kane or Christian Eriksen not bailed them out with so many vital goals? I suspect we might.
When I was part of ‘winning’ dressing rooms as a player there was never any hiding place. Weak links weren’t tolerated, and unless you showed consistent hunger to win, you wouldn’t get a game. There was accountability, and a willingness to push harder.
To succeed, no matter how good you are, you need a strong appetite for it. Do we see that week in, week out from Spurs? I don’t think we do.
In the unsuccessful teams I was part of as a player; losing became an acceptable habit.
At Southend United for example, we carried too many people who hated missing a night out more than they did losing, and that’s why we were relegated. In hindsight I should have realised this the moment the manager sold the club to me in 1997, on the premise they had ‘a cracking set of drinkers!’ You live and learn.
It’s not that bad at White Hart Lane of course. Not anywhere near. Yet aside from the likes of Kane, Eriksen, Danny Rose, Hugo Lloris, Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason, how many Tottenham players can their South American boss guarantee full effort from?
The club spent £200million on assembling their current squad, but the painful truth is they don’t have a team that’s capable of playing the fast, high-tempo pressing game their manager demands each week. Too many seem to want an easy life.
Daniel Levy will be reluctant, but taking a hit on Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Mousa Dembele, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches, Federico Fazio, Younes Kaboul and Emmanuel Adebayor, has to happen this summer. It has to.
Until Pochettino is allowed to sift out the weeds and shovel them into a wheelie bin, his team won’t be able to grow.
Paul Mitchell, the club’s new head of recruitment, will be a busy man.
Finding characters with the right mentality (and enough talent) takes time and effort, but if Spurs are to avoid another year of dispiriting stagnation, it’s a job he has to do properly.
Tottenham’s talented young manager isn’t the problem. He needs the right type of players for his philosophy to work, and right now, he’s not even close.
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