March 29, 2013

Is 5th failure?

Despite the recent negativity displayed by many in the media, the Spurs blogging world, and the Twittersphere, I personally think this can be deemed a successful first season for André Villas-Boas even if we *don’t* finish in 4th place. Am I crazy? Maybe…

Rebuilding

Of course a top four finish was always our aim after the dismissal of Redknapp, who achieved two fourth place finishes in three years. However, at the start of the season – having lost King to retirement, Modric to a bigger fish, and van der Vaart to… well, having lost van der Vaart – this seemed an entirely unachievable target.

I wrote back in August that we should aim to finish in the top six with the squad that we had (albeit that was before we signed Mousa Dembele). I saw this as a realistic aim given the rebuilding job required – rebuilding of the spine of the team, rebuilding of the squad and rebuilding of the remaining squad’s fragile confidence.

Rebuilding of the spine, because losing three players as vital as King, Modric, and van der Vaart was inevitably going to have an effect – little did we know that Kaboul would soon get injured too.

Rebuilding of the squad because a number of our squad players became disenfranchised under Redknapp; capable players, the likes of Corluka, Kranjcar, Pienaar and Pavlyuchenko, just didn’t get enough games to make it worthwhile sticking around. Finding similar quality to deputise was always going to be an issue.

And rebuilding of the remaining squad’s confidence because we ended last season on a low – not only because we had a run which saw us win just five of our last fifteen games, but because we lost out on a Champions League place due to Chelsea’s win over Bayern Munich.

Change of approach

Many fans felt that should we finish lower than 4th this season, we might as well have kept Redknapp. Of course, that is entirely missing the point that AVB was a long-term appointment, with new priorities very much on the agenda: the development of youth, full and proper use of the new training facilities, and a club pulling in the same direction from top to bottom.

The slimming down of an admittedly bloated squad – much of which was initially done by sending players on loan – seemed to signify a greater confidence in homegrown youth players – the likes of Caulker, Livermore, Townsend and Carroll. Whilst this hasn’t necessarily been the case so far, AVB has shown trust in Caulker certainly, and increasingly so in Carroll too – hopefully a sign of things to come.

Bedding in

When a new manager joins a club, there is generally an initial upturn in form – be it players wanting to impress, fresh ideas giving everyone a lift, or something else. There then tends to be a dip, as a manager begins to instil his methodologies and ideas. I would suggest that most managers don’t get their ideas across until a good halfway through a season – with that bedding in period in mind, managers should, under most circumstances, be given time and leeway by everyone concerned with the club – be it executives or supporters.

Villas-Boas had the advantage of a strong start to the season – to be in the top four in January was a terrific achievement – but we should not forget that this is his first season, that he is still getting to know his players’ strengths and weaknesses, and that key players have been missing for long periods of the season – not least Kaboul, who I voted as our Player of the Year last year, and now Sandro, arguably our most consistent performer of the first half of the season.

Cups

A distraction? A chance of glory? Both? AVB has a reputation for taking cups seriously. Whilst a League Cup run never materialised and an FA Cup run ended disappointingly, our Europa League run continues. The knock-on effect that this has on league form is obvious, but it is a difficult balancing act, and decisions will never please everyone. Some fans would rather sacrifice further progress in the European competition to prioritise a stronger league finish, whereas others want the glory and historical memento that a trophy brings.

Conclusion

The modern-day football fan demands success and demands it now – I can understand the frustration; we are “closer to success” than we have been in many fans’ lifetimes – certainly mine, in terms of being one of the four or five best clubs in the country. This is why so many fans went ballistic when Levy and co failed to land a big-name striker in January, in the summer, in the January before that, etc etc. But, without a sugar daddy investor, the key is sustainability – and that means building towards “success” over a period of time. This is why Villas-Boas is a perfect fit for our club – a club with resources, but limited resources compared to some. His focus on getting the best out of what he has, on integrating youth, on utilising psychology, on using modern methods generally, will take time to embed, but, in my opinion, have a greater chance of delivering regular Champions League football, as well as delivering trophies. Maybe not this season, but we have to look beyond the now and realise that he has laid foundations this year that will stand us in good stead.

COYS

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  • SimonJ68 says:

    At the start of the season I would have taken 5th and at least one Cup Final as a good year.
    As it stands today 5th would be a failure IMO. It is all in the teams hands to keep the position – and another UEFA Cup would be cracking 🙂

    • WindyCOYS says:

      This is true, but I can better understand reasons behind any mental/physical burn-out this year – firstly key injuries, but also manager not having signed all of his back-ups. Redknapp signed his back-up players and then never used them…

    • Chris says:

      As is often the case, change the order of results and you can completely change the outlook. If we were currently 6th/7th, but midway through a 15 game unbeaten run, I’m sure we’d be more optimistic about the direction the club is going in (and maybe thinking of 4th place this year).

      But off the back of the recent defeats (and after earlier successes), we think we should be getting 4th and it will be a failure if we don’t.

      We should take a look back, check our goal difference, and note that we really are higher in the table than our performances deserve. We’ve scraped through a lot of games.

      We’ve also narrowly missed out on a lot of points too, and IMHO that’s the difference between a club with lots of good players and a club with some great players.

      As transition seasons go, this is a pretty good one.

  • southcoastyid says:

    a refreshing and welcome view,of course top four would be fantastic but as your blog states this is a transition season and in my humble opinion, andre has been a total revelation, the discomfort for the last ten minutes of games is almost gone,the squad seem focused and the lack of car window opinion is very welcome. i for one would revel in 5th and the europa league cup, but i know i’m in the minority. coys.

    • WindyCOYS says:

      TOTALLY agree with your comments. Fingers crossed that focus will take us over the line. I’d love to win the EL too, I’d take that over 4th.

  • ParkLane67 says:

    Reasonable views, but why the negative vibes? There’s no reason that we can’t return to the great form we had before the Liverpool cock-ups and if we do, there’s a good chance that we’ll end up 3rd or even 2nd. I for one am keeping the faith. COYS!

  • spurspanyol says:

    Although I understand your points I think anything less than 4th would be a failure this year.

    AVB has been a huge improvement on Harry and we can see that by how our players now know their respective jobs on the field and the weekly ‘team-talk’ of “Do what you you’re best at” which was perfected by Harry has fallen by the wayside. AVB has given us tactics (FINALLY) and when the clock is ticking towards the 90th that fact we still BELIEVE we can win/draw is another impressive aspect to the ‘AVB effect’.

    However, we are also going against probably the weakest Arsenal team of recent years and a Chelsea team that hasn’t had a week without turmoil. We’ve had a minor drop in form recently but the loss to Liverpool was down to individual mistakes as the team, although much-changed due to injury, was controlling the game with ease at 1-2. Fulham and Inter were games lost due to tactical errors, in my opinion, by AVB. We weren’t solid enough away to Inter and ironically we were far too defensive in the next game against Fulham – only with the introduction of Carroll did we really start to take a hold of the game.

    We’re 4th on merit. If not for some bad luck or terrible individual errors it wouldn’t be inconceivable for us to be – comfortably – 3rd. AVB is the reason that we are there but to to say finishing 5th shouldn’t be considered a failure is a bit far fetched in my opinion.

    Modric, VdV, King and Kaboul haven’t contributed to where we are now. The players, the squad, the coaching team and the manager have. The team of now is more than capable of finishing in the top 4 and anything short of that would be a big negative. If anything, I keep wondering where we would of been if we actually had a striker who netted 30 goals a season.

    • WindyCOYS says:

      I think Arsenal’s weakness has been over-egged a little – they are actually in pretty good shape going into the run-in.

      Agree with your points on Inter/Fulham games – my explanation of Fulham is the exhaustion stopping them playing with any zip (can’t excuse Bale though!).

      • SP says:

        I agree with you in general. I did say at the start of the season that I thought we would finish in the top four, but I didn’t think it was necessary. If , for instance, we started slowly, due to the transition, but this year finished the season extremely strongly (as opposed to last season, for instance), I would take that as a sign of progress. Having got into this position, however, missing out would be a tad disappionting. But 5th woldn’t be too bad, depending on what we do in the Europa.

        I disagree, however, that Ars*nal are in pretty good shape. Even a very disjointed Swansea were first to most balls and dominated possession against them, and they were very lucky to get a result. They have Vileshere out, they now have Diaby joining him, and, according to some reports, Walcott. Their form is little better than ours, really.
        They may be favourites, but not by any great degree.

      • spurspanyol says:

        I think Arsenal have been very poor. They are also lacking a real centre forward that is capable of getting 25-30 goals a season. They are “in good shape” going into the last few fixtures because instead of taking the 3 points at Liverpool (from a dominant position) and getting at least a draw at home to Fulham we’ve allowed them to come back into it. Nothing due to their merit but due to us failing in the games a 3rd/4th team should be winning.

        I thought against Fulham the team was awfully defensive against a team that is not renown for it’s attacking prowess. 5 defenders with Parker and Dembele ahead of them was way, way too negative. Ade/Defoe with Bale, Holtby and Sig just behind would of been enough. Even Carroll instead of Parker. Berbatov cut a lonely figure upfront for 85 minutes of the game – we didn’t need so much ‘protection’.

  • Cheshuntboy says:

    I see the AVB apologists are getting their excuses ready for the almost certain collapse of yet another season. When it suits their case, the loss of King, Modric and VDV is wheeled-out, forgetting the arrival of Lloris, Dembele and Vertonghen, and Redknapp’s instant transformation of Spurs from bottom in 2008 to two fourths and a fifth in his only three full seasons is virtually ignored, while ‘give AVB time’ is bleated. NOBODY gets time now – Wenger and Mourinho were winning titles from the off at Arsenal and Chelsea, and if AVB can’t hang on to fourth this year, he’s not likely to do any better even if Levy (the real villain of the piece) gives him till the new stadium’s built – whenever that is!

    • WindyCOYS says:

      If you think Dembele is anywhere near the class of Modric, then I’m afraid you’re kidding yourself, but I do take your point!

      Redknapp did a terrific job (at least on the pitch) initially, but had taken us as far as he could (especially having lost his own focus).

      Mourinho spent an absolute fortune so that argument is not sufficient IMO. Wenger was (*was*) something special, but then he did have Bergkamp early on…

    • southcoastyid says:

      king was born and raised spurs, modric had been with us for a couple of seasons and the “arry took us from the bottom to champions league” tripe is a total non starter, martin jol had us within a sniff and the bottom of the league was only down to ramos not the team/squad, harry performed no miracles he just spoke english. as for your wenger and mourinio statement, their was no mega money city and the standard of the rest of the premier league was nothing like it is today.the gooners squad of that era was head and shoulders above the majority of the league, us included and as stated above jose spent a fortune and inherited a very good squad. your point is way off i’m afraid.

  • Bjorn Jensen says:

    I think you’re absolutely right that before the season it would be acceptable with a top 6 finish, but looking at the teams around us as they have performed I think we should deem a 5th or 6th a failure. It’s been all for the taking so far this season, and I think it’s going to take a really hard toll on our collective nervous systems before the last ball have been kicked because of our own inconsistency. Just one question what is your take on the Euro League? your opinion did not shine through. Mine personally would be the same as Mourinho had when he first took charge of Chelsea and gave his all to win the Carling Cup so the players could get used to succes. I think that’s what we want in Spurs as well we have the players do compete but have to install a winning mentality and I really want to go to Amsterdam to see Dawson lift a trophy 🙂

  • jim says:

    no way is finishing 5th failure. The only failure is for our fanbase whos expectations have got too high and who arent being realistic. Our par is 5th or 6th, the teams above us all pay vast wages, more than we can ever offer, so we cant get the players we need to get top 4. 5th is our best hope and 5th is what we will get. Without modric and VDV we have done really well. Such a pity our delluded support cant see it.

  • Stirling says:

    I think we have punched above our weight all season,when you consider we have two forwards who have contributed very little all season.the fact we are still in 4th tells you how well avb and his management team have done! If we fail to get 4th there will be only one man to blame Daniel levy not to bring in a striker for 2 years is a disgrace!

  • Stinking Pears says:

    You’d better do a loan watch soon windy or I’ll come after you. You wouldn’t like me as an enemy – I stink.

  • Stinking Pears says:

    The problem is there’s windows for breaking into the top 4.

    Champions league begets money, status and success. Clubs that are in it should not be dropping out of it – the historical trend is that they consolidate into an impenetrable ‘TOP 4’ that cannot be breached.

    Liverpool got sloppy and Man City were ruthless enough to take their place.

    Now years of underinvestment are threatening to come to roost at Arsenal. At some point the damn will break and the money that we all know they have will let them consolidate again.

    But we’re not ruthless enough. We fanny about in the Europa League and try to eek out a few quid by signing Louis Saha and Ryan Nelsen. When presented with an open goal we’ll still fluff it, and then our fans will write long navel-gazing posts like this reflecting on our reassuring progress and ‘what kind of club we want be’

    Meh

  • D Doc says:

    No matter what happens from now on in, It’s been a good season for us & villas boas has earned the right to b backed with a sufficient budget in summer. There’s obvious flaws in squad lb, cover for sandro, playmaker, wing cover, 2 strikers, at moment It’s square holes in round pegs & Andre has done well in rotating players.
    I don’t stand by fatigue as an excuse, parker BAE had first half of season off so should b reaching peak of fitness now ADE & siggy too, Holtby is fresh along with Carroll livermore huddlestone. Dawson caulker verts gallas have all had rests at various points of season dembele bale defoe likewise only walker & lennon have been overworked

  • Justin Martin says:

    Finishing in 5 would be classed as successful? Normally I would agree with your argument but, we are on the cusp of being a top PL side, a point you have referred to. Our problem is that without CL we risk losing Bale. Where does that leave us as a team? What sort of message does that send? I’ll tell you! It sends the same message that has been sent for years. That is that we are not, and never will be considered a top side. Why? Because for one reason or another we sell our best players.
    That is a serious problem for any club wishing to break the monopoly that has been the top of the PL for years. They buy or produce players. They begin to look like a decent side with a chance of challenging. Then the inevitable occurs: top clubs come in for them, they go, and the potential challengers are back to square one.

  • Nice article, before the season i would have deemed top 8 a success as we have seen so many changes. Not just in personnel, but also complete change in playing style – possession, pressing, players rotating positions. This is also reflected in how our youth teams are playing so that they can be more easily integrated as they graduate towards the first team. We don’t have oil money backing the club so building a solid foundation for continued success is the way forward and we may have to wait until next season to make top 4, but we’ll stay there rather than just occasionally visting.

  • Me says:

    YES. AVB was told to get 4th.
    5th means we can’t attract or buy the players we want, which means our development is slowed again and our stars are more likely to leave.

    If we finish lower than last year we have gone backwards, that is failure, unless you want to make excuses of course.

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