Getting WBA off my chest

Our expectations are – or should be – lower this season. But not significantly low as to shrug off a 1-0 home defeat to one of the league’s poorer sides, a side that had not beaten us at White Hart Lane since 1984, the year of my birth. And especially when the performance was also so disappointing.

It is, of course, far too early to pass judgement on Mauricio Pochettino. He is eight matches (and just five in the league) into what will hopefully be a long reign. The style of play that he’s attempting to implement is sufficiently complex to require significant work on the training ground, and he simply has not had enough time yet for it to be fair to expect a lot more than what we have: a set of players not yet fulfilling his instructions. I can absolutely forgive that at this stage.

But what I cannot forgive is a lack of effort. The players should always be sufficiently motivated to go out and try as hard as they can and, certainly for some on the pitch yesterday, it did not feel that they were. And that does concern me – and it will, no doubt, concern Pochettino. His response to this will be fascinating, and his team selections against Nottingham Forest and Arsenal will be telling.

I could spend hours reeling off reasons for yesterday’s poor showing, but I do not have the time or inclination and I’m sure, dear reader, you don’t either. So I’ll stick to three that I consider key.

Europa League

We made ten changes for the midweek game, and so the players should have been suitably fit for Sunday’s match, right? That argument totally misses the point of the Europa League ‘distraction’ argument. The key for me is not the number of games – we have a deep enough squad to cope with them – but the consequence of preparing for two matches in a week rather than one.

From Monday, West Bromwich Albion will have been working hard on their approach for this game. How to stop us, how to hurt us; analysing our strengths and weaknesses. From Monday, we had to prepare for Partizan Belgrade on Thursday. A number of players then had to spend half a day travelling to Serbia, and another half travelling home. Do we assume, then, that we spent Friday and Saturday preparing for West Brom? That’s two days. And how much can a coach achieve in two days?

I love Spurs participating in European competitions, and I would love us to win the Europa League. Even those coming from the ‘sack it off and focus on top four’ angle now have a slightly different outlook since winning the Europa League is rewarded with a Champions League place. It is no coincidence, though, that eight of Spurs’ last thirteen league defeats have come after a Thursday night Europa League match. It is clearly an issue that we need to learn to overcome if we are to be successful in both domestic and European competitions.


I was full of praise for Mousa Dembélé on last week’s Fighting Cock podcast. He was excellent against Sunderland – he won the ball regularly and used it well, the opening goal being a prime example of his quick and simple distribution having won possession. He found our more creative players with regularity between Sunderland’s defence and midfield, and we created numerous chances as a result.

But he was as bad against West Brom as he was good against Sunderland. He was ponderous on the ball – constantly wanting too many touches – and this led to him losing possession three times in dangerous areas. The below illustrates his passes in the 61 minutes he played yesterday, compared to his passes during the 68 minutes he played in a deep midfield position against Sunderland (before he was pushed further forward to accommodate Stambouli).

Mousa Dembele

In neither game did he make a single pass into the box, but against Sunderland he made plenty of short, incisive passes in dangerous areas. The difference is stark – you would be forgiven for confusing his pass map from yesterday with one of Tom Cleverley’s for Manchester United; plenty of sideways passes and no penetration.

In Pochettino’s teams the role Dembélé is playing is a vital one, which was one reason why Pochettino was so keen to sign Schneiderlin, despite the vast price attributed to him. The player in this role is vital for slick transition from defence to attack – he is required to be involved in ball-winning, but also to move the ball quickly to the creative elements of the team to catch the opposition off-guard having won possession.

In May I wrote a piece for FourFourTwo just after Pochettino’s appointment; I speculated that Dembélé might be a player that would struggle. It’s far too early to say that this is the case, but he will need to adapt his game in order to hold down a regular position, particularly with Bentaleb and Stambouli – two players keen to pass the ball quickly – breathing down his neck.


I have been an advocate for Adebayor in a community where many want him cast aside in order to give Soldado a prolonged run. Yesterday’s performance, though, was unacceptable. Ignoring the missed header – because, on seeing a few replays, the ball *was* just ahead of him – he simply didn’t trouble the West Brom defence. He failed to involve himself in the game, having just 25 touches of the ball. His pass completion was 46% – he completed just six passes.

Some of Adebayor’s below-par performance can be put down to a lack of service – Eriksen and especially Lamela were very wasteful, whilst Chadli was a peripheral figure – but he seemed to submit too easily to Lescott’s dominance.

Equally worrying was that Soldado’s cameo was one where nothing really went right for him and, whilst he managed to involve himself quite well, his final pass and shot were lacking. Harry Kane played poorly in Serbia, but would have been a useful option from the bench yesterday with his ability to link play on the edge of the box.

I could write further about Vlad Chiricheș’ nervous display, and Erik Lamela’s appalling marking for James Morrison’s winner, but I will end on a positive – we have two big matches this week, and two big opportunities. Nottingham Forest top the Championship with young striker, Britt Assombalonga, tormenting defences. Arsenal seem to have regained form just at the right time, with Welbeck opening his account at the weekend. Positive performances in these two games would transform the feeling surrounding the team and give us a huge boost. COYS.


It’d be really cool if you could help me out by voting for our podcast, The Fighting Cock, in the ‘Podcast’ category of the Football Blogging Awards. To do so, either tweet using this link or submit this form.

Join the conversation

  1. Wonder how many managers work on opposition tactics at the start of the week. I think Tony Pulis is a rare exception. Most of them do a little work on the day before the game. I imagine this is because players are so thick they struggle to retain information for more than 24 hours. Or more seriously, to retain the let's focus on ourselves and not *too much* the opposition.
    1. This was pointed out to me earlier - seems the norm is to only focus on tactics on game day minus two:
  2. avb had a complex game plan so complex nobody understood it and the players just gave up.We saw exactly the same thing yesterday players hadnt got a clue what their meant to do .For christ sake keep it simple ,no bloody inverted wingers ever again and tippy tappy rubbish in our half while the opposition defence get themselves comfortably set.I bet wpould have beaten them comfortably under tim.
    1. I thought the issue with AVB wasn't that it was complex enough, more that he didn't know what to do when it wasn't working. I hope this isn't replicated under Pochettino.
  3. on sunday I travel with my 2 children from stoke on trent we left at 08.00 am to watch shity match again a team in bottom
    1. Sucks. Hope you had a good journey home at least - the early start means travel home is easier.
  4. Sounds like you are yearning for the return of Sherwood, spurgatso! lol. Though with Sherwood in charge yesterday I've no doubt we would have won comfortably. He would no doubt have played 4-4-2. When Spurs reverted to that yesterday and brought on Lennon as a normal right winger we improved somewhat (though we couldn't have got any worse!). Unfortunately Pochettino is not being pragmatic; if the players can't understand the system why persevere with it? Shades of AVB?
    1. I don't think we improved that much because of the formation - more because we *had* to show more urgency. I don't think not having two strikers is the issue, personally - it was not having creative players on form.
      1. Having Lamela on the right wing creates no service for Adebayor as he cuts inside on his favoured left foot 90% of the time so provides no crosses of any quality. Lennon is still the best option on the right
  5. 2 defensive midfielders at home to West Brom?!? It was obvious how they would play. There was a good case for starting with both Ade and Soldado and 2 conventional wingers
    1. Well Halfmoon, Sherwood was criticised last year for playing 2 box to box midfielders and not a dedicated defensive midfielder. Yet Pochettino was doing the same as AVB playing Capoue and Dembele as defensive midfielders! Yesterday reminded me of the 1st Arsenal game last season when Capoue went off injured and we lost 1-0. Very sterile with 2 DM's WBA haven't got great players. 2 strikers would have stretched their 2 CB's Lescott and Dawson. We should have played Lennon as an orthodox right winger. Dier doesn't have the pace or ability to get forward like Walker so we needed a right winger. Rose does have the pace and ability to get forward down the left. To beat WBA you needed 2 strikers and attack them down the wings since they were very tight and compact in the middle of the park. Yet Lamela and Erikson ignored the full backs when they got forward and tried to find a way through the packed middle. Brainless!!
    2. I don't think there were two defensive midfielders - one, and a 'transition' player, only he let us down.
  6. If yesterdays result had happened with Sherwood in charge he would have been slated on these blog sites. He would have been called a tactically clueless (actually a lot worse!) loud mouthed, no nothing, Arsenal supporter! Pochettino has got off lightly! WBA played 4-4-2 yet they defended well enough! Sherwood had the same philosophy as Redknapp. VdV said Redknapp never bothered with giving in depth tactical team talks. Just said go out and play and "run about a bit"! lol. Levy's got this fixation with Continental coaches. Ramos, AVB, now Pochettino. You'd think he'd learn his lesson.
    1. I do not see a clamour by owners to give Sherwood a Managers job, so his philosophy " shout loud" is not in demand. Under Redknapp we also failed to start many games at a fast tempo. Must be the atmosphere at WHL.
      1. He appears to have been offered jobs, but turned them down. Not to his liking. He's in no rush. After all he must have got a big pay off from Spurs. A years salary at least.
    2. Sherwood was clearly abused far too early into his career for... reasons. But that doesn't mean Pochettino should be. It's far, far too early to get on his back. I don't think having an extra striker on the pitch would necessarily have helped, as we were struggling to create chances - not finish them.
  7. Pochettino will have learned not to trust certain players. TS had the advantage of knowing them from the inside over a long time. Dembele and to a lessor degree Adebayor are players that Pochettino has been landed with. Dembele is always spouting off to the media reminds me of Jermaine Jenas. Essentially he lacks belief, should be a leader but only can use his strength on the ball with no end result, or make sideways or back passes.
    1. Tend to agree that Dembele is a bit of a bottler, much like Jenas. I liked Jenas' technical ability, and I like Dembele's, but neither seems mentally strong enough to succeed.
  8. Our problems right now: * Underestimating opposition. * Too much squad rotation. * No width in midfield. * Always playing 1 up top. On the last point, we pretty much played the same tactics vs WBA as we did against Liverpool.
    1. Definitely underestimated WBA. Not sure too much rotation is an issue. Width comes from the full-backs in this formation and we are definitely missing Walker. I think we have enough players capable of getting into the box, only they showed such a lack of urgency and imagination.
  9. Firstly, i was supprised at the bench on saturday, why no stambouli and fazio, secondly i think naming kaboul as captain has shot himself in the foot as it appears to me that fazio and vertongen are the the best centre backs ,but unlikley to play together in the league.Must start stambouli in the important games so please dont start him against forest if you then wont play against the arsenal.
    1. I presume they both had a 'reaction' after Thursday's games - either knocks (Stambouli went off) or a lack of fitness. I expect both to be involved in at least one game this week.
  10. If Sherwood had produced back to back home performances that poor the world and his dog would have slaughtered him. Give me Sherwood's positive approach and the prospect of scoring goals any day of the week over "botch" or AVB mark two. He even squatted down like him. You sack managers if they do badly or there is someone better. Nothing at Tottenham is better. Who in their right mind leaves out Vertonghen for the two clowns we had at centre back and does not rectify it. "Boch" has already lost as many home league games as Sherwood did. The eleven home games under Sherwood we won 8 and only lost to top teams. We failed to score just once. We managed only one shot on target in 90 minutes yesterday. The only positive was that WBA did not win by the margin they deserved. No heart, no passion, no team pattern, no organisation. If Sherwood was sacked with his record and even AVB who had won 8 and lost 5 before the boot then we will be looking for someone else by the New Year. The fact remains that the best this bloke has ever done in any league is 8th and that sums him up. Sherwood"s Tottenham beat his Southampton twice so no more.
    1. Brilliant post, Cliff. Spot on. Yesterdays performance could be straight out of the AVB era. In fact Pochettino could well be an AVB clone. Only one shot on target against WBA! Abysmal! At least Sherwood tried to get the team to play with some passion.
      1. Very true. We reverted to AVB. He did a lot of damage. It's because when they have an away mid week game they fly out on Tuesday and get back late thursday effectively losing a week on the training field. Poch and the first team should stay home
    2. The mistreatment of Sherwood should not be a benchmark IMO.
  11. Utter dross that I had witnessed against the baggies. They truly deserved their victory and you have to admire the fight and passion they had, something that our lot need in bundles.
    1. Totally agree, they were excellent.
  12. Our Europa league group should be easy, and despite us having a big squad I woudnt mind us playing just youth players like Mason and Veljikovic because the europa league has been our burden. The only time we got in the champions league was when we werent in the europa league. I was wondering for those away matches in eastern europe, does poch have to travel because id rather him stay and concentrate on the prem.
    1. I had hoped Mason and Veljkovic would play last week.
  13. Having sat through the game it has become clear the Bale money was wasted with overpriced averaged players. Only Erickson is the exception. Soldado is never going to be a regular prem scorer. Lamella just dribbles until he loses is and will never be a BALE replacement. Chiriches is behond poor and not good enough. The others signed are very average and no better than the players they have replaced. AVB, Sherwood or Pock the result will be the same. No game changing player signed so around 6th is as far as this squad can go at best. Lower if yesterdays performance is repeated.
    1. I think Lamela and Chiriches could still come good. I also like Capoue. Paulinho and Soldado? I'd have sold both this summer.
  14. I agree with Cliff + most other fans who wrote in.Keep it simple and stop playing complicated tactics.Bin Ade and Kaboul.
    1. Kaboul was OK this week, I thought.
  15. Players aren't good enough. Tactics may be wrong arguably but there isn't anyone in our team that can turn it. Bale used to be that man, Modric used to be that man. They could make things happen. AVB might have been tactically complex but he wanted three players. Hulk, Moutinho and Villa all which we had a very good chance of acquiring. Yesterday it was so obvious these three would have made a difference. Yet we got seven (with the exception of Ericksen maybe) average players. We have no real deep lying playmaker who can pass (Moutinho), no intelligent forward play (Villa) creating that pass and no outlet on the wing for someone with speed and physicality (Hulk) that can play like a winger should play instead of this inverted crap. Begs questions about our transfer policy for the last 3 seasons. We never replaced Modric or Bale. Were these summer signings Poch's first choices? No. Just like AVB he didn't seem to have much of a say in it all. We never got going in the transfer market, ponderous and slow as usual. Not all Spurs fault but we didn't get who we wanted and we didn't offload all those we needed too. There were no significant upgrades on last seasons team so I don't know why we expect a different result. Admittedly, the three positions mentioned aren't the only issue. The defence looks beyond weak and Lloris must be completely done with it by now. We didn't upgrade the left back position, Davies looks out of his depth, Dier is decent, will be one for the future but he won't make massive impacts now and Fazio was a third choice at best option who may or may not prove to be an astute buy but looks like he isn't favoured by Poch. We miss Walker badly. I just don't understand the mentality at Spurs full stop. For several seasons it's been painfully obvious what our issues have been and again this season it is too. We just don't react well in the market and we make poor decisions every time. It's tragic. I feel sorry for Poch, I feel his hands are probably tied, but he really needs to start getting the best out of this bunch and I agree that starts with keeping it simple.
    1. If we'd signed Villa and/or Hulk they'd have played as inverted wingers, no?
  16. People are getting far to carried away. Lets put things into perspective: Liverpool lost against wham. Manu against Liecester...In a way even Chel & City lost points- our loss, whilst not great, could hae been a lot worse. Seems liek we still have the European hangover, but I am sure Poch will fix this with time...
    1. Well said, sir!
  17. I can't say I watched the west brom game (other than highlights) but i did watch partizan and was at sunderland game thus to say Poch must be given time, fans must stay positive we aren't the only team restructuring dropping points to teams we shouldn't as frustrating as it is... In regards to Dembele for me he's playing to deep, personally I would use Capoue, Bentalab or Stanboulie in front of the back 4. In terms of the front 3 without kyle walker offering pacy width we have looked a little slow and narrow in the final 3rd especially playing inverted wingers personally i like playing one inverted winger and one 'traditional' winger what does that look like for us perhaps playing lamela right, townsend left (although he likes playing on the right he is left footed) and erikson in the middle but i don't think the balance is great... could be one for january transfer window. In regards to adey he is the sort of player who will look world class one week and utterly brutal the next. Poch has got to learn when to bring him in and not, soldado for me should start against forest, bring Adey back in against arsenal. I like Harry Kane but he looks also to be struggling a little with confidence and we also need to use him to his strengths a little more if we play with him. The only thing I would suggest maybe is playing a 4-1-4-1 formation something like... Hugo Walker Dier Super Yan Rose Capoue Lamela Erikson Dembele Townsend Soldado anyway what do I know... #COYS
    1. Some excellent points! Agree with much of what you wrote.
  18. What does Poch see in Rose? The boy is too short, has no defensive positional sense, doesn't run down the wing to give us options and can't put in a decent cross to save his life. He is NOT a premiership player. Our build-up in general is always too slow. Far too many unnecessary passes which allow the opposition to re-group. With Walker, Lennon and dare I say it, Townsend, in the team, we have the ability to break out quickly. Oh how we miss Gareth Bale! As for the strikers, how on earth do we expect to get through a season with just three in our ranks. Soldado needs to pay with a strike partner. Give the guy some games for God's sake.
  19. I can't put into adequate words, without resorting to foul language, my loathing of the likes of Spursgatso and the other Sherwood fanboys who are crawling out of the woodwork all of a sudden. Pochettino is giving people chances or enough rope to hang themselves by. Dembele is an apt example of the latter and he wasn't much use in the World Cup, either. We used to think that the problem was a groin injury, but the issue is between his ears. He is too afraid to make a mistake and that's the reason he never shoots. By the way, if we play 442 against Arsenal, it may be carnage as their strength is their very mobile midfield.


Your email address will not be published.