March 11, 2014
I keep thinking of writing something about our current situation but wonder which angle to take; to write an article that is adding something new to the debate or unique in some way is difficult. For insightful and intelligent comment on our plight, I have to recommend the following:
Greg Stobart on The e-Spurs Podcast – Goal.com’s Greg Stobart talks much sense on where we go from here.
Spurs Lose It, Tim Loses It, I’m Next – Alan Fisher points the finger at Levy (as eloquently as ever).
Enic out!? No – just do their job. The state of Spurs we’re in – Adam Powley also talks about ENIC, and does so beautifully.
Though I do not agree with every word written or spoken, I am unable to come close to the detail and sentiment contained in the above so, instead, I have decided to scribble down a summary on some of the key issues in the hope that I feel better afterwards. And – through me – you might also find some relief to your Spurs-related suffering!
There is no denying that we have looked fragmented and disorganised in some of our recent outings, but Sherwood and his coaching team are not as tactically inept as many will have you believe. The first half of the Chelsea match was going very much to plan (albeit with a little bit of luck inside the first five minutes) and, until Jan fell over and had a brain-fart, the second half was going reasonably well too.
With Chris Ramsey – viewed by those in the know as one of the better coaches around – working with our players on the training ground, I think it is unfair to assume our players are just told to ‘run about a bit’. The problem might be that Sherwood’s ethos is too different from AVB’s and – in trying to change too much, too soon – we are falling somewhere between, meaning that we are often open and unbalanced.
Sherwood’s preference seems to be for us to move the ball quickly into wide areas, using Adebayor to create triangles and find the wingers/full-backs. He has chopped and changed from inverted wingers (Lennon on the left) to using one wide player and one player to drift in (Eriksen from the left) to two old-fashioned wingers on their “right” sides. He does not seem to particularly favour any of these strategies, instead making selections based on player availability and the opposition on the day (i.e. Walker on the right of midfield to combat Hazard).
The jokes about Bentaleb being Tim Sherwood’s lovechild or that Sherwood gets a bonus for Bentaleb’s appearances are somewhat insulting. Since he came into the side, Bentaleb has been consistently good – especially for a 19-year old who had previously not played any league football. He has not been anything more than good (except for the Newcastle game, where he showed attacking thrust from central midfield that we have not seen since Luka Modric left) but he has not had any matches where he has stood out as being particularly bad either. The Arsenal and City games are cited as having been shockers for Nabil, where he was “out of his depth”; I mostly disagree. Overrun, perhaps, but that was more down to overall team tactics than his individual performances.
In Bentaleb we have a real talent who I hope and believe will go on to be a first team regular at the club for years to come. We have yet to see him at his attacking best in the first team and, once we do, he will hopefully surprise a few people.
Tim Sherwood’s post-match interview has divided opinion. For me, the home truths needed saying, and his honesty and obvious passion were raw and endearing. It remains to be see whether it will help the team (or himself), but I am hopeful that those players that do care will want to prove a point.
It felt fairly obvious to me that Sherwood was referring to Vertonghen and Paulinho, and possibly Dembele. Vertonghen’s attitude has been poor for a long-time, with the player visibly sulking about having to play at left-back as well as being outspoken of his preference for playing in the centre. Paulinho seems to want to preserve his health for the World Cup in his home country – understandable, perhaps, but his lack of commitment in challenges has not impressed fans. And Dembele was rumoured to have pulled out of the game with little more than a minor knock, which – if true – will no doubt have irked Sherwood.
The buzz-word of the moment is ‘identity'; apparently we lack one. Many seem to have tied this into André Villas-Boas leaving and Sherwood coming in, whilst others suggest that it dates back further.
The identity that AVB installed – whether he meant to or not – was that of a team that kept things tight and hoped to win by the odd goal. Personally, I was happy for the club to give him time to move beyond this, but that’s where his team was when we parted company.
Sherwood’s ideal identity is a team that plays fluent, attacking football. He talks about having players that can pass the ball, about not wanting players who are solely defensive-minded in the middle of his midfield. Clearly he has not achieved anything like a fluent attacking unit just yet, but it is still early days. Identity is a big word, and is not something that can be found overnight.
The new signings
At the start of the season I was wildly praising the work that Franco Baldini had done in bringing in our seven new signings (and getting shot of a fair amount of deadwood). In hindsight we have overspent on players who are either unsuited, no better than what we had, and/or failing to settle.
Christian Eriksen and Vlad Chiriches have been the pick of the signings, but neither has been consistently good. In both, we have seen glimpses that offer encouragement for next year, and we have to remain hopeful on Erik Lamela too (although seeing Adel Taarabt tear up Serie A does make one wonder…). I would suggest that there is a strong possibility that the we will cut our losses on Capoue, Chadli, Paulinho and perhaps even Soldado, none of whom have played well enough to maintain a first team place.
The re-appointment of Ian Broomfield as a scout suggests that Daniel Levy is far from impressed by the players identified by Franco Baldini and his network.
Broomfield followed Harry Redknapp to QPR, but has been tempted back to the club despite strong interest from Arsenal, who he seemed about to join. He was supposedly responsible for identifying Sandro, and instrumental in the captures of Vertonghen, Dembele, and Lloris, as well as recommending Suarez (who Redknapp turned down).
This move could mean that Baldini will be on his way out or, at the very least, that his areas of responsibility will change.
Louis van Gaal
Rumours suggest that Louis van Gaal will be our next manager, with Levy having put in plenty of groundwork, and LvG even touting himself for the job.
Greg Stobart put it brilliant; Van Gaal is the one type of manager that Levy has yet to take a chance on – “the legendary manager, the guy who has won everything, whose done it, who can go into a club and ave the personality and aura to just take over”. But yet there are no guarantees; LvG might not be a silver bullet for our club.
With the World Cup final on 13th July, Van Gaal – should he be appointed – would have approximately a month to assess the squad, recommend players to be sold (in order to trim the wage bill), and identify key positions to strengthen. It is not impossible to do that effectively, but the timeframe is not ideal.
Then there is Van Gaal’s management style – he does not suffer fools, and is not worried about speaking his mind to fans and the media. He is keen on squad rotation – something that Premier League football fans seem uncomfortable with – and has had a number of fallings out with players. He’s an abrasive character that will undoubtedly rub some up the wrong way. But he’s also a born winner who has a track history for improving players when he joins a club. The signs are good, but there are always doubts – there are no guarantees that Levy and LvG will be a match made in heaven.
Complete overhaul, partial overhaul, or continuity? Sherwood and Baldini out and Van Gaal in? Just Baldini out? Just Sherwood out? High player turnover? Or stick for another year?
Part of me is keen to see Sherwood given the opportunity to sign his own players and to see what happens. I have been open to him having an opportunity because we have consistently been too quick to judge managers and make changes in the past. Many of those who wanted AVB to have more time have already turned on Sherwood, failing to see the irony in doing so.
Sherwood may never amount to much as our Head Coach – or as a manager elsewhere – but he holds the position so he deserves our patience, especially having inherited a dysfunctional team mid-season.
On the other hand, a substantial section of the fan-base seems pretty set on him being a failure, and an unwelcome one at that. With that in mind, it might be best for him to either fade into the background – back into a Technical Co-Ordinator/Director role – or to leave the club entirely.
Personally, I struggle to see how Baldini – as nice a man and strong a negotiator as he is meant to be – can be kept on after the absolute failure of his signings.
We have the 6th highest wage bill in the Premier League, and yet we sit in 5th place. We are, at least, punching our weight.
We can still win a trophy and the good news for next season is that we have a *lot* of players with unfulfilled potential.