August 2, 2014

25-man squad

The 25-man squad rule has become an important aspect in ‘transfer planning’, and Spurs seem to be pretty adept at it.

To summarise the rule again, we are able to name a 25-man squad if eight of the players are “home grown”. We could name fewer than eight home grown players, but would need to also name fewer than 25 players in our squad – e.g. if we only have seven home grown players, we can name a 24-man squad, 6/23, 5/22, etc. A home grown player is defined as follows:

… one who, irrespective of his nationality or age, has been registered with any club affiliated to the Football Association or the Welsh Football Association for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the season during which he turns 21).

We do not need to name players who are under 21 on the squad list; for the 2014/15 campaign, players considered ‘under 21′ will have been born on or after 1st January 1993.

As it stands, our ‘named’ 25-man squad would probably consist of (* = home grown player):

Hugo Lloris
Michel Vorm
Brad Friedel

Kyle Walker*
Danny Rose*
Kyle Naughton*

Younes Kaboul
Jan Vertonghen
Michael Dawson*
Vlad Chiriches
Zeki Fryers*

Sandro
Paulinho
Mousa Dembélé
Lewis Holtby
Étienne Capoue
Christian Eriksen
Ryan Mason*
Tom Carroll*

Aaron Lennon*
Erik Lamela
Andros Townsend*
Nacer Chadli

Emmanuel Adebayor
Roberto Soldado

That would mean that the following miss out:

Benoît Assou-Ekotto
Bongani Khumalo
Jonathan Obika*
Ryan Fredericks*
Cristian Ceballos

We are then able to select any players who were born after January 1993 without needing to register them. This means that any of the following (plus the 1st and 2nd year Academy scholars) would be available for selection:

Alex Pritchard (on loan at Brentford)
Jordan Archer
Ben Davies
Harry Kane
Eric Dier
Shaq Coulthirst
Kenny McEvoy (on loan at Peterborough)
Nabil Bentaleb
Grant Ward (on loan at Chicago Fire)
Rueben Lameiras
Soli Coulibaly
Tomislav Gomelt
Alex McQueen
Aaron McEneff
Dominic Ball
Luke McGee
Milos Veljkovic
Daniel Akindayini
Harry Winks
Connor Ogilvie
Nathan Oduwa
Emmanuel Sonupe
Filip Lesniak
William Miller

It’s worth nothing that Morgan Schneiderlin – our apparent number one target – counts as “homegrown” (according to the Premier League), as he joined Southampton just in the nick of time to meet the requirements.

Having nine homegrown players already in the squad gives us an element of flexibility. Also, I’ve included Carroll in the squad, when a loan seems likely for him.

We also have the bonus of the likes of Bentaleb, Veljkovic, Archer, Davies, Kane and Dier, who do not need to be named in the squad in order to be used.

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July 27, 2014

Chicago Fire match – some thoughts

If you didn’t get to see the match live, there are streaming links here. As with the Toronto FC match, I’ve written some brief notes.

First half:

- Mason seems to have taken to Pochettino’s tactics like a duck to water. He positioned himself intelligently again and seemed to enjoy playing alongside the defensive-minded Capoue. One example of his understanding was that if the centre backs were in possession with no pressure on the ball, he dropped into the left back area to provide an option with Rose pushing high up:

Mason dropping into left back

He did this frequently and it allowed us to patiently progress up the pitch, rather than the centre-backs having to hit long diagonals or go back to the goalkeeper. For more information about Ryan Mason, check out this article I wrote just over a year ago.

- The opening goal came out of nowhere:

Goal 1

We forced Chicago Fire back to their goalkeeper – Kane closed him down and Townsend/Lamela blocked off two of the simple ‘out balls’, leaving just one option.

Goal 2

Holtby quickly realised the pressing opportunity.

Goal 3

There was a slightly heavy touch from Larentowicz, and with the defender not realising anyone was near him, Holtby was on him like a flash – he nicked the ball and squared it to Kane to finish.

- Holtby was a bit of an enigma again. Whilst he has an impressive one goal and two assists in three matches on this tour, and his pressing has been fantastic, his passing has been quite poor and he’s committed a high number of fouls. He put the team in trouble a couple of times with sloppy passes – it’s early days, but if he’s to play as one of the midfield three, he will need to be a lot more assured in possession.
- Lamela was largely on the periphery of the action but had a couple of moments of real quality where he beat a man and then took on a shot; it felt like had we got the ball to him more, there would have been more of these moments.

Second half:

- Soldado showed an impressive level of motivation and responsibility by tracking back to the right back area and making a good tackle.
- It was no surprise to me that Dawson looked far, far more assured alongside Veljkovic. A quick note on Veljkovic – for an 18-year old who has mostly played in midfield for the last eighteen months, he has performed remarkably well at centre-back, and offers us another ball-playing defender, particularly useful in games where we would expect to dominate possession.
- When Holtby went off Lennon switched to the right (and tucked in as part of a midfield three in the defensive phase) – although he seemed less willing to press high than Holtby had.
- Veljkovic lost possession with a risky pass to Falque (who was pretty weak), but made up for it with a fantastic block.
- Eriksen looked pretty out of sorts again. He’s such a talented player that we will clearly find a role for him, but it does raise the question – where does he fit in? I’m not totally convinced that he has the intensity or fitness to play the role that Holtby started in and Lennon finished in, where he’s required to tuck in and make up the midfield three.
- When Fredericks came on for Veljkovic, our back four was Fredericks, Dawson, Davies, Naughton – it’s worth noting that Davies has played centre-back before.
- The second goal was well taken by Lennon, who linked up with Soldado and latched onto a somewhat hopeful ball over the top. The defending was really poor but he capitalised well.
- Eriksen had a similar chance minutes later but lacked composure as the goalkeeper came to meet him.
- The second half in particular felt very low-key, and there was no tempo to the match - tired legs at the end meant that we were creating chances with straightforward long balls over the top.

General thoughts:

- Last season a major complaint of mine was that we moved the ball too slowly and too predictably in midfield (which was one reason I liked Bentaleb, who moves the ball well). In Mason, Carroll and Capoue we’ve had players on this tour who’ve looked to move the ball quickly and often progressively with as few touches as possible. I’m sure Pochettino will have noted this.
- Capoue has looked really good on this tour and his fitness has visibly improved by the game.
- Ryan Fredericks made a positive cameo at right-back, beating his man and getting to the by-line twice. In a team where full-backs are asked to play high, perhaps he will be kept around after all (I’d assumed he would be loaned out or sold).
- Luke McGee made his first appearance in the first team and was confident enough to keep possession with short passing deep in the penalty area.
- Spurs loanee Grant Ward played a very tidy 55 minutes for Chicago Fire.

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July 24, 2014

Toronto FC match – some thoughts

I don’t want to go into too much detail, because Luke Balls-Burgess has done that here, and I don’t think there’s a lot else that can be said about the second pre-season friendly of the summer, but having just caught up on the Toronto game, I’ve written some brief notes. I’ve no desire to judge players or make bold statements this early on in pre-season, so these observations should be taken in context.

First half:

-Greater coherence than Saturday, especially in the first half. Unsure if that’s due to more practice or different personnel.
-Loved the way Capoue covered the left back area on a couple of occasions – something a modern defensive midfielder must do. He was a strong presence in midfield too.
-In fact, the central midfield was nicely balanced with the dynamic Mason alongside Capoue, and Eriksen adding craft ahead of them.
-If you’ve followed me on Twitter for a while, you might know that I think a lot of Mason – I genuinely think that, were it not for injury, he’d be in the England squad by now. Mason as well as Veljkovic looked perfectly entitled to be out there in the first half.
-Lamela’s intensity was highly impressive.
-Davies used the ball well from advanced areas – Naughton less so.
-Lennon was very involved, albeit not always choosing the right option.
-Lamela’s goal saw us make 11 passes from back to front – the first made by Lamela (a chest down after Kaboul’s clearance). The only players to take more than two touches in the move were Naughton, Eriksen and Soldado; Mason’s first time pass to Eriksen in particular was sublime. It was an excellent team goal.
-Soldado was rarely involved in build-up play, yet claimed two assists.
-There was a lot of fluidity behind Soldado, with Lennon, Lamela and Eriksen roaming.
-Pochettino was keen to pass instructions onto Lennon – on the face of it he seemed fairly unimpressed.
-Lamela’s second goal was a glorious finish – even if he didn’t fancy it, he had Lennon and Eriksen free in the box square of him.

Second half:

-We instantly looked less assured, and it was because of the midfield. With just Carroll holding, we looked unbalanced – it was like two separate teams of five – one in our half, and one in the opposition half.
-Holtby played a lot higher than Mason had in the first half, and this didn’t change all half so he was presumably instructed to do so.
-Rose made the cross of the match – Kane should have buried it but was caught a little on his heels.
-For the first Toronto goal, Ceballos gave the ball away when Holtby was ahead of ball – Carroll tried to jockey back to bide time, when he should probably have put some pressure on the ball. Fryers didn’t track his man – instead hesitating and trying to play offside (bad decision with no pressure on the ball!).
-Townsend has been written off by many, but he looks so different to our other players – very direct and willing to commit players. That alone makes him a useful asset. With a bit of coaching I still think he can be very good for us.
-Walker was understandably reserved in his first match back.
-Fryers’ man got the second goal too, but I think Friedel could perhaps have saved it.
-Carroll had a near impossible job of linking play, as there was a huge gap between him and the next nearest player. This reflected badly on him, but in truth when he received the ball and turned, he rarely had an option.
-What a hit from Townsend to win the game!

General thoughts:

-We’re going to complete a lot of passes in the forthcoming season, and players who are sloppy or ponderous will not be welcome.
-We’re going to need players in the final third who are productive, as I can’t see too many goals coming from central midfield.
-Dawson has received a lot of criticism for his performance, but I feel like he was hamstrung by playing alongside Fryers.

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June 12, 2014

The Fighting Cock Fanzine

I’m proud to say that I was asked to write again for Tottenham’s only printed fanzine, The Fighting Cock, and that it is now available for pre-order.

Free 1882 & The Fighting Cock stickers with the first few orders – Limited stock​

My article – Football Is Family – is a sentimental effort, something quite new for me, but hopefully it’ll strike a chord with some. A sample of some of the terrific artwork is below.

FiF

I hope you’ll buy it and, if you do, I hope you enjoy my article.

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April 22, 2014

Ode to Tottenham Hotspur’s 2013/14 Season

The summer didn’t go quite to plan,
Or certainly not to the boss’,
We took the wonga – lost a key man,
Daniel Levy protected his losses.

Goodbye and thankyouverymuch, Elvis Presley,
“Ahoy there!” to The Beatles,
Alas David Villa – wanted by AVB -
Couldn’t agree on the finer details.

Another Spaniard arrived instead,
And a prospect from Argentina,
Plus crop of players who, it was said,
Would make our midfield meaner.

The football began in earnest,
On the pre-season trip to the East,
Sunderland were a stern test,
Cabral (who?!) looked like a beast.

Palace first up in the Prem,
A solid 1-0 kept us sweet,
Bobby off the mark with a pen,
And Paulinho seemed to find his feet.

Onwards we marched – Swansea, Norwich,
And in Europe we were winning as well,
We ignored the little Arsenal glitch,
‘Cos the new boys needed to gel.

When West Ham caught us asleep,
We worried there was something awry,
But Townsend was earning his keep,
And we beat Hull in a cup tie.

Then Newcastle came to the Lane,
Escaped with a cheeky one-nil,
Their goalkeeper – Krul – was to blame,
But AVB took the flack still.

It seemed to go downhill from there,
Manchester City made sure of that,
Poor Andre and his lovely facial hair,
Seemed to be struggling to adapt.

He won some, he drew some, he lost some,
Until the Liverpool game,
Where we were outfought, out-thought, “outdesired”,
And the dreaded axe prematurely came.

The new man – Tim Sherwood – was promoted,
From the Academy set-up, from within,
And before too long fans were cawing:
“InterTim”, “Dim Tim”, “4-4-Tim”, anyone but him…

“Back to basics”, he shouted – and it was,
4-4-2, two wingers, goals,
But defensive midfielders were doubted,
And our midfield clearly had holes.

Adebayor came back in from the cold,
And Eriksen came to the fore,
But when we came up against Norwich,
We seemed even worse than before!

More thrashings against big clubs did follow,
First Chelsea and then Liverpool,
Whilst the European campaign ended in sorrow,
With a draw over in Portugal.

So here we are out of the top four,
With just a few matches to go,
Some players seem disenfranchised,
Vertonghen, Capoue and Sandro.

The big summer signing, Lamela,
Is still injured and nowhere to be seen,
Maybe it’s the English weather,
Or maybe he wants a new team.

As for Soldado – he from sunny Spain,
He’s been goal-shy and short on mojo,
Now he finds himself behind Harry Kane,
As Tim tries to give youth a go.

It’s not been the greatest of seasons,
For the players, managers, and fans alike,
But there are a couple of reasons,
Why the star men shouldn’t get on their bikes.

The squad is strong, and will be stronger,
We’ve good players, good facilities, great fans,
So listen up Lloris and Vertonghen,
And Eriksen with your ‘secret plan’.

This is Tottenham Hotspur FC,
A club that 16… 15… 14 (?) Premier League clubs fear,
And just ‘cos you’ve not won a trophy,
As us fans say, there’s always next year.

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