Rivals Review - Spurs
I`m fully expecting the site to be bombarded with a string of hate messages from Spurs fans following this article so I`d first like to point out that while my views may not be popular with those from the white side of London I`ve tried to be as honest and neutral as I can be. The end of the season will tell if I`ve allowed my Arsenal bias to filter thru.
So Spurs 2014/15 - where to start?
Yet again Spurs start the season in a state of flux. Pochettino is the 3rd Spurs manager in the last 12 months and he joins a club that needs some serious reorganising. First off the squad size needs to be addressed. As it stands Spurs have 32 players on their books with only 25 being allowed to be registered. Taking youth team players out it still means that five or more players can expect to be either sold will simply not play at all this season. While some would say that you can never have too many players (and the Europa League is a huge drain on a squad) I think you need to draw the line at 6 centre-backs and 3 each at left and right back. Even having 3 keepers seems a luxury when the squad was already bulging.
Numbers wise Spurs are well stocked between the sticks. Lloris is a top keeper, his form dropped off baldy last season and at times he was quite erratic but I think this was more to do with his lack of confidence in the defence playing in front of him. He has a tendency to be very quick off his line and was almost caught out a few times last season but the World Cup showed that when he has a good defence in front of him just how good he can be. With Lloris recently signing a new contract it was strange that Spurs chose to sign Vorm from Swansea (a fine keeper in his own right) and also extend Friedel`s contract. No team really needs 3 keepers so I would wonder if Lloris has been promised a transfer (PSG) and by signing Vorm and extending the experienced Friedel`s stay at the club are Spurs planning ahead? While moving to Spurs is certainly a step up for Vorm and no doubt Spurs will likely play 50-60 games this season it seems odd that the ex-Swansea man would move to another Premier League team purely to sit on the bench? Either way 3 keepers is one too many.
You move into the backline and things get even more crowded. Pochettino is in an awkward position in that he cannot really mould the team the way he likes by bringing in players without first getting rid of a lot. To add further confusion to the mix despite having some many centre backs (Vertongen, Dawson, Kaboul, Chiriches, and Khumalo) they`ve already added the highly rated Deir and are linked to Villeral`s Musacchio. Even then it looks like Yedlin will move from the MSL to join Walker, Naughton and Ward to fight for a single right back position. On the other side of the defence it`s no less crowded with Rose (likely first choice), BAE, Fryers and Ward.
The backline as a unit last season was far from secure and it`s vital that Spurs manage to convince Vertonghen that the white side of North London is the place for him. Personally I think he`s over-rated as a player but there is little doubt that the Spurs backline would be greatly improved if he managed to regain his focus that was clearly not there last season. Dawson is the opposite of his partner in that he`s all effort and limited ability. He`s a good backup player and will do a job against most of the bottom teams in the league but his severe lack of pace means he`s brutally exposed against the top teams. Kaboul, who is a talented player would be first choice but is always injured and Chriches didn`t really look like a centre-back (think David Luis without the £40m price tag). Dier is highly rated but young and inexperienced and not the answer. An improvement is needed here pretty quickly. So does that mean that they have to buy? I feel that they do or they will struggle badly.
Walker is a solid right back, can get a bit lost position wise at times but if he gets a season injury free will greatly improve. Naughton is an able back up and played a lot of last season out of position on the far side.
Left back is weak with none of Rose, Fyrers or Davis looking convincing. Oddly, questionable attitude aside, I think that BAE was their best option last season, however the club felt differently and sent him on loan. It`s hard to see him coming back into the first 11.
Generally Pochettino favours a 4-2-3-1 formation with 2 holding or defensive midfielders sitting in front of the back four. For the sitting pair take any two from Sandro, Capoue, Benetab, Paulinho or maybe Dembele even if the last two naturally play further forward. Sandro (forget the simply ridiculous "Beast" tag) is a very good player who had a bad season last year marred by a lot of injuries. If he can stay fit (and like Vertonghen stay focused) he`s a key player for them. Capoue is a solid player but again had a very disrupted season last time around. He`s big and strong but not overly mobile and of the two would naturally sit deeper allowing Sandro to get that bit more forward. Pochettino is heavily linked with bringing Schnederlin into the team, he`d be very expensive but would be a big upgrade on what they already have but it would mean that at least one would have to go. Benetab has the makings of a good player but was overly hyped (Townsend anyone) last season after one or two good games. A season in the back-round learning from more experienced players and getting some cup games would do him the world of good. He`s not yet ready to start.
Ahead of them for me Erikson should be nailed on to start as the central player of the team, their Ozil if you like. He`s a talent but was wasted last season on the wing where his lack of pace was exposed. He`s not a tricky player who`ll beat his man with pace or skill but he has excellent vision and is a great passer. He`s the luxury player that you allow yourself to have. He`s physically small but tough for his size and has the potential to become a great player, should the team be built around him. If Erikson is unavailable then you can throw the underrated and underused Holtby, the limited and frustrating Dembele or the downright lazy Paulinho into the fray. All good options to have on the bench but none quite good enough to start.
Pushing forward playing either side or in support of the central striker is where I feel Spurs really struggle. Of Chaldi (really more suited to playing central), Lennon, Townsend and Lamela only Lamela is really good enough for a team with top 6 ambitions and even then it`s mainly potential based on his one outstanding season in Italy. As a 20 year old he scored 15 goals in Italy`s top division, that doesn`t happen by accident so without doubt there`s a potentially exceptional player in him but his first season at Spurs was a total disaster and the question is has his confidence been damaged beyond repair? Time will tell on this one but I`m expecting a massive season from him if the manager shows that he believes in him.
Lennon will continue to do what Lennon does which is run around a bit without producing anything much regarding goals or assists which, is really the bread and butter for a winger or outside striker. He`s 27 now but his 250 odd league games for Spurs have yielded a paltry goal every ten games, a return that is quite simply unacceptable at this level. Townsend is simply useless and I`ve
never seen such hype over a player based on one good game. He`s 23 now and he badly needs to produce it this season, I simply don`t think he has the ability. Chaldi, who can look quite good enough centrally is lost on the wing. He`s not good enough to displace Erikson so has been forced into playing a position that he`s not quite comfortable with. Shame really as there is a player in there somewhere. Spurs have been linked with Rodriquez and he`d certainly solve their left wing problem and provide a goal scoring option but again injuries, price, Southampton`s unwillingness to sell and the sheer size of the Spurs squad may put an end to this.
Up front Keane (a player with some potential) will fight it out with Soldalgo (a player who has proven to be as a bad as an investment Spurs have ever made) and Ade. Despite being quite light up front and the whole risk of relying on Ade not to go off on one of his huffs I wouldn`t be at all surprised to see Soldalgo return to Spain with his tail between his legs (for less than half Spurs paid for him last year). He`s a finisher but Spurs simply don`t create enough chances for him to flourish. Ade is what Ade has always been; periods of being simply unplayable followed by long periods of simply doing nothing. When he came back into the fold last season after AVB`s departure his goals were vital to Spurs in securing European football, when the rest of the team were a bit all over the place he produced. Can you rely on him to do it again this season? No, you cannot. And despite retiring from international football several times already I wouldn`t rule out his disappearing off to the ANC in Jan for a few weeks. They need a striker that they can rely upon to play well in their system and quite simply they don`t have one. Investment is needed.
Pochettino has a simply huge task ahead of him this season. Not only has he to totally revamp the squad he faces the prospect of several new faces trying to adapt to his new tactics, the nightmare of the Europa league and on top of all that working in a pretty unstable environment where the expectation levels of Spurs fans are simply too high. To dare is to do and all that but it cannot happen overnight. How well Spurs do this season will show us just how good a manager Pochettino is. It`s critical for him that he starts well as a few bad results and the Spurs faithful will be baying for blood. Is he up to the task? Probably yes but he needs to be given time and the club need to accept that success won`t come overnight. The top four is a total pipedream this season and I think 5th to 7th is more likely. They are miles behind Chelsea, City and while they won`t like hearing this, Arsenal. Realistically they are part of that second tier competing with a Suarez less Liverpool and a United team who won`t have the distraction of Europe. Martinez`s Everton will also figure that they have a say in things if they can continue on from where they left off last season. It`s a very competitive and congested league this season and I can see Spurs struggling as they need several things to go in their favour for their targets to be realized.
Can Sandro stay fit all season? Will Vertonghen regain his focus? Does Lloris have confidence in the backline or is he moving on? Can Erikson build on last season? Will Lamela show us all the player that Spurs fans hope for and can Ade have another full season like the second half of the last one? A lot of variables there and while if they are all answered "yes" then top 5 or even top 4 is possible I don`t see it happening. A long, hard season ahead for Spurs with a 6th place finish at the end.
Feedback is, as always, welcome. Just keep it clean and constructive please!