Jingle bells, jingle bells…

Well look at this! Here I am, blogging, so soon after my last post – the joy of the Christmas break! First, an apology for my previous slack levels of blog productivity; a new job and new house have changed things for me slightly over this last year. I intend to maintain a healthier work/life balance in 2016 and so will be back on my blogging game. Shout at me if that doesn’t happen.

Onto the good stuff. Isn’t Christmas going well? A thoroughly professional deconstruction of an adequate Norwich City team filled me with festive joy, but not half as much as Son Heung-min’s last minute winner against Watford. It was cheeky (insert emoji here), offside, and came moments after Lloris had *just* kept Ben Watson’s corner from going over the line. I made a noise in my front room that linguists are yet to classify!

It wasn’t a particularly good performance against Watford; we got dragged into a battle of attrition whereby their strikers attempted to bully our defence over the ninety. But we showed resilience and a bit of quality at the end (albeit via a poor decision from the Assistant Referee) won it for us.

Mauricio Pochettino’s switch to a back three was fascinating for two reasons; firstly because I can’t remember us seeing anything like that in his tenure so far and, secondly, because it showed absolute respect to Quique Sánchez Flores (and Troy Deeney/Odion Ighalo). On the whole it worked; the numerical advantage at the back helped us deal with the toughest physical threat our centre-backs will come up against all season.

Pre-match I was a little concerned about Jan Vertonghen’s one-on-one defending and so Eric Dier dropping in made sense. But it was Dier who struggled with Ighalo for Watford’s goal – although the striker got a somewhat lucky bounce, and Dier had a lack of assistance from Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, when there was ample time for one of them to cover round.

Where the formation worked from a defensive viewpoint, it gave us one less passing option in midfield, and this had an impact on our creativity. Our pass completion rate as a team was down on the season average (78% vs 80%) and it was notable that Danny Rose had his poorest match of the campaign so far, with nobody ahead of him to link up with.

Danny Rose vs Watford

Danny Rose vs Watford

Danny Rose vs West Ham

Danny Rose vs West Ham

Conversely, Keiran Trippier had arguably his best Spurs showing on the opposite flank, setting up the winner with a fantastic ‘straight back in’ cross despite being under pressure. He did finish the match with the lowest pass completion of all starting outfield players, though (65.8%), and only 2 of his 9 crosses (which are counted separately to passes) found a man.

Trippier's passing vs Watford

Trippier’s passing vs Watford

The difference between the two was that Trippier got free on his side more regularly and provided a better delivery. Essentially, though, I don’t think the back three experiment is something we will continue with, although it’s nice to have it in our locker.

The Norwich City match was just pure fun. It was a real ‘tails up’ attacking performance, with Dele Alli, Erik Lamela and Harry Kane clicking, and Alderweireld immaculate at the back too. Kane’s ‘shift and shoot’ finish was wonderfully precise, and the first-time passing move of Davies-Son-Davies followed by Carroll’s drive from range was a fitting end, as we played some beautifully fluid football throughout.

Next up we go to Everton, who have just one win in their last six Premier League matches, and only two wins in their last six at home. They are struggling defensively and have conceded more goals at home than any other team (19 – next highest 16, West Bromwich Albion). Having said that, only Manchester City have scored more home goals (Everton 22, City 29). On paper we should expect goals, and with the amount that Everton ‘faff about’ at the back, I would expect our high pressing to cause them huge problems – how many times have we seen us pounce on an error and punish it this season? Prime examples of this came in the recent wins against Southampton and Watford.

It will be interesting to see whether Pochettino dabbles in more rotation given the number of games over the Christmas period. Son could start and Eriksen may well come back in too. With Mousa Dembélé likely to be missing, Alli and Dier could fill the deep midfield roles, or indeed Tom Carroll could keep his place. With Nacer Chadli, Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb also now fit there are options, and that’s really encouraging. Bentaleb didn’t even make the bench against Watford!

Before I sign-off, I started by talking my productivity so I thought I’d end with Spurs’ – so below are some productivity stats that I tweeted earlier.

See my Twitter timeline for some of my thoughts on these.

Happy New Year to all – thanks for the comments here on my blog, for engaging on Twitter, and for all the questions for and feedback on my weekly Fighting Cock podcast segment. Much love. COYS.

I love Pochettino’s Tottenham

I love Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham. I’m putting that out there, unapologetically.

I love his ‘straight down the line’ take with the media. No sound-bytes, no misleading quotes,  no digging out players. He’s honest, but he keeps his cards close to his chest. Politically switched on, but appearing straightforward. He toes the party line but comes across as a pleasant guy, who backs his players.

I love that he’s created a coherent unit. I can’t remember a Spurs team ever being so tactically ‘as one’ in my lifetime. We’ve had good teams through having great individuals. We’ve played some great football through those great individuals. But most of our players are – roughly – around the same level (with a couple of exceptions) but it is the team playing as a unit that is so, so vital. We are greater than the sum of our parts, and when else could we have said that in recent memory?

I love that he has improved individuals beyond recognition. Last season Danny Rose went from one of my least favourite Spurs players to one of my very favourites. I had previously always liked his attitude but did not think he had the ability or intelligence to be a regular; yet he was in our top three performers. In the summer I wanted Mousa Dembélé gone. Now, he’s utterly pivotal. He has clearly always had ability, so I won’t pretend that Pochettino has dramatically improved him technically. But he has identified his key weakness and made him a more complete player. And that weakness? A lack of aggression. There was never a cutting edge with Dembélé. Now, he’s bossing games, taking responsibility, and we miss him when he’s not there.

I love his judgement and the way he backs himself. Daniel Levy said of him: “He said to me [in the summer]: ‘I don’t want a defensive midfielder. I am very comfortable that I can make Eric Dier into a top defensive midfielder.’ “I think if we asked most people [before the season started], they would have said he was wrong. We have to give credit to Mauricio for his skill, and you have to trust his judgement.” (via the official site). That is remarkable. Dier is a talented boy – I think we all saw that last season. I actually predicted that he’d be an England player this season. But as a midfielder? Absolutely remarkable! I would never have thought that he would have the mobility (he’s quick, but he never seemed that nimble) or the speed of thought. Yet he has slotted in like an absolute natural.

I love his ‘management’. Andros Townsend messed up. He was silly, he made a mistake. Pochettino called him out on it:

“Discipline for me is very important. I can understand the player – we have a young squad and a player can make a mistake – but when you cross the limit it is important to stop that. As a manager I am very fair but the discipline is very important. The staff need to show respect to the player and the player needs to show respect to the staff.” (via The Guardian).

Now, Townsend’s volunteering to play Under-21 football to keep his fitness up, putting in a proper shift at that level, and becoming a role model for our young players. He will probably leave in January, but the handling of the whole event was perfect.

Last season was imperfect, and there were a few gentle concerns. But now it’s clear that it was about building foundations, planning for the future. Cutting loose the deadwood and building a team of like-minded players who will fight for the shirt and their leader.

I can’t wait for 2016’s Tottenham Hotspur. Happy New Year and COYS.



Spurs Statistical Round-Up

Some Friday stats!

Spurs have made the most fouls per game (14) and have had the most yellow cards (26) in the Premier League but are yet to have a player sent off.

We have had the third most shots per game (15.9) in the Premier League. NB: Arsenal are top with 19.2, Manchester City have 18.9, Leicester City 14.8.

7 of our shots per game have come from outside the box (the second highest figure in the Premier League, after Manchester City). We have also had the third most shots on target per game (6.5).

We have had the fifth most possession (53.3%) and the eighth highest pass completion (80.8%) in the Premier League.

We have made the most tackles per game (24.1) and the fifth most interceptions per game (18.9) in the Premier League.

Danny Rose has made the fourth most tackles per game of all Premier League players (4.8). Mousa Dembélé is fourteenth (3.6) and Eric Dier twenty-fifth (3.4).

Christian Eriksen has made the joint fourth most key passes, i.e.’The final pass leading to a shot at goal from a teammate’, (3.1) in the Premier League (Özil 4.7, Payet 4.0, Cazorla 3.2, Tadic 3.1). Erik Lamela is tenth (2.4).

Edit: upon request Christian Eriksen has made the fifth most key passes per 90 minutes (3.6) and Erik Lamela has made the seventh most (3.4). NB: this is excluding players who have played less than 100 minutes.

Harry Kane has had the seventh most shots per hame (3.6) in the Premier League.

And finally, earlier on today I tweeted these…

All stats taken from WhoScored.com.

05/09/15 Tottenham Hotspur U18s 0-3 Fulham U18s, Hotspur Way

Tom McDermott (17)
Charlie Hayford (17) George Marsh (16) Jon Dinzeyi (15) Nick Tsaroulla (16)
Dylan Duncan (16) Zenon Stylianides (17)
Armani Daly (17) Sam Shashoua (16) Keanan Bennetts (16)
Ryan Loft (17)

Nya Kirby (15) for Dylan Duncan
Tashan Oakley-Boothe (15) for Armani Daly
Aremide Oteh (15) for Keanan Bennetts

Sub not used:
Brandon Austin (16)

Due to various players being away on international duty (Sterling, Edwards, Whiteman, Roles and presumably Paul and Owens) or injured (Tanganga), Spurs were able to give opportunities to younger players and fringe players in this match.

Stylianides and Loft provided the most experience in an otherwise youthful team, and Charlie Hayford – who started life as a right winger but was converted to central midfield – played at right-back. Under-16 player Jon Dinzeyi partnered George Marsh (usually a midfielder) at centre-back in the absence of Joy Mukena (also injured?).

Spurs had the first shot at goal, when Hayford’s free-kick was curled wide with less than five minutes gone.

Loft then broke forward and was half-tackled with the ball falling to Bennetts, but the keeper rushed out to block him.

Bennetts turned Fulhams’ Marlon Fossey very easily and was hauled down – the referee giving the benefit of the doubt and not showing a yellow card.

Fulham had a great chance when a cross from their right nearly fell kindly, but Hayford and Marsh managed to shepherd the ball away between them.

Bennetts skipped past his man and was fouled, the ball falling to Daly who had a shot saved by the fingertips of Taye Ashby-Hammond. Shashoua’s corner didn’t beat the first man.

Loft had a vicious strike from distance which went over the bar, before Fulham took the lead. Duncan lost the ball in midfield, and Dennis Adeniran played the ball through to Joshua Walker who showed terrific pace to get beyond Dinzeyi, and he chipped McDermott beautifully.

Dylan Duncan showed nice, quick feet to drive across the edge of the box, but was fouled in the process. The ball broke for Sam Shashoua who took a bad touch, it came to Bennetts but he skewed a shot wide with his left foot.

George Marsh won the ball, Spurs broke through Stylianides who cut in and drove wide of the near post with his right foot.

Fulham’s Adebayo put an opportunity over from a set piece with Tom McDermott prone on the ground – Humphreys had headed Thorsteinsson’s free-kick back across goal and McDermott took a whack when competing for the second ball.

Loft headed Hayford’s cross wide and then Ravi Shamsi’s corner was headed away by Loft as the first half came to a close.

Shashoua was booked for dissent a few minutes into the second half, before Keanan Bennetts had another good chance at the far post from Daly’s cross. With Loft just unable to climb high enough to reach the ball, it fell to Bennetts, but he hit the side netting.

Walker burst through our defence soon after but McDermott was out quickly to repel his shot.

Hayford’s ball from deep was attacked by Bennetts but it just went over.

Fulham won a penalty when Bennetts fouled Dennis Adeniran right on the edge of the box, but Walker’s spot kick hit the outside of the post with McDermott diving the wrong way.

Dinzeyi fouled Thorsteinsson out on the left touchline and got a talking to from the referee, before Hayford drove over the bar with his weaker left foot at the other end.

Thorsteinsson crossed for Humphreys but he smashed his shot wide at the near post.

Nya Kirby came on for his first appearance at Under-18 level, replacing Duncan and slotting into the middle of midfield.

His first involvement saw him play the ball to Hayford and then nearly get on the end of Hayford’s near-post cross. Hayford’s corner was lofted up and easily claimed by the goalkeeper.

Hayford and Humphreys had a bit of a falling out on the right when Hayford complained to the referee after a particularly strong sliding tackle from the enormous Humphreys, which led to the Fulham man giving him a rather sinister ‘watch out for the next one’ warning in full-on Northern (they hugged it out after the match).

It was 2-0 when Spurs lost possession and Ryan Sessegnon used his pace to get past Hayford and crossed for Thorsteinsson to head home. McDermott seemed to get two hands to the ball but didn’t keep it out.

Bennetts and Daly were replaced by Oakley-Boothe and Oteh but the game was out of reach when Humphreys made it 3-0; he had space to turn in the box and drove a shot right through McDermott after Spurs lacked numbers at the back post from a cross.

Humphreys then hit the outside of the post from a Thorsteinsson free-kick.

Oakley-Boothe went on a surging run forward and played the ball to Oteh on the edge of the box. He held it up and returned the favour to Kirby, who got a shot away, but Ashby-Hammond blocked it with his legs.

Tom McDermott saved a one-on-one before Humphreys put a free-kick wide.

Kirby had our final chance when he hit a fierce drive at goal after an excellent Shashoua turn, but it was easily held by Ashby-Hammond.

Spurs found a physically imposing Fulham side difficult to deal with, and couldn’t get past a very solid centre-back pairing who also had a lot of protection from midfield. We struggled to control possession with two central midfielders who seem to be more confident driving forward with the ball – Owens would have probably helped in that regard.

Our team was younger, smaller, and a lot more naive than Fulham’s, but they will have learned lessons from this match. Jon Dinzeyi at centre-back was our outstanding player & Marsh did well filling in at the back as well. 3-0 seemed harsh on the pair of them, as they largely did a good job at repelling Fulham – our issues were mainly in midfield.

My ratings look a little low this time out, but my caveat is that I’m prepared to use the full 1-10 range! So a 5 is really just a little under-par (5.5 being in the middle).

McDermott 4 – this was not a good game for the young goalkeeper, but he will rarely have come up against a team as physically strong as this.
Hayford 6 – had a tough match against some talented Fulham players. He kept working hard for the team, though, and showed some ability. At one point he cushioned a firmly hit McDermott pass beautifully over a defender on the volley, but it wasn’t read by Daly – this was the story of his day.
Tsaroulla 6 – had to be constantly on his toes against the talented Thorsteinsson, and perhaps didn’t get as much support as he needed.
Marsh 7 – read the game well and tried to compete physically despite clearly being at a disadvantage in this regrd.
Dinzeyi 8 – a player that has only come onto my radar recently, but I am told that he has been at Spurs for at least six years, starting as central midfielder and then moving to the wing. Last season he was predominantly a centre-back and this is the poition he has settled on. Tall, athletic, good on the ball. I like him a lot.
Stylianides 5 – captained the side but couldn’t get the team playing fluently. There was a lot of pressure on him as one of the eldest players in the team, and perhaps that got to him a little.
Duncan 5 – had some good touches, but had a tough time against an ultra-physical team.
Daly 5 – was often on the periphery of the action and struggled to get the better of the excellent Sessegnon.
Shashoua 6 – quick feet and a quick brain. Really looking forward to seeing more of him – an obvious talent who suffered a little against strong opposition.
Bennetts 5 – will have been disappointed not to get on the score sheet as he had a few chances, but it wasn’t really his day.
Loft 5 – I thought that his more robust, old-fashioned style might have been useful against two enormous centre-backs, but they largely negated his threat.

Kirby – a lively cameo which will show the coaches that he’s ready for early promotion to this level.
Oakley-Boothe – another massive talent. I cannot wait to see more of him over the next few years.
Oteh – difficult to judge him on this showing, but he showed good strength on the edge of the box on a couple of occasions.

As a slight aside, ex-QPR and Watford centre-back ‘One Size’ Fitz Hall was also there watching the match with a young child – perhaps his kid is in the Spurs Academy, or maybe he has ties to Fulham?

25-man Squad Update – September 2015

Now that the transfer window has closed, we are required to notify the Premier League of our 25-man squad.

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 – for example, 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 our squad list; for the 2015/16 campaign, players considered ‘under 21’ will have been born on or after 1st January 1994.

Since the beginning of last season we have lost two ‘home grown’ players (Kyle Naughton and Aaron Lennon) from our squad list. We have also sold Grant Hall and Ryan Fredericks, who were on loan last season. We have added Kieran Trippier, who is home grown, but also four non-home grown players in Toby Alderweireld, Kevin Wimmer, Clinton Njie and Heung-min Son. Dele Alli falls into the under-21 category.

Also, since last season, Harry Kane has passed the age threshold and will need to be named in the squad, whereas last year he was simply included in our list of under-21 players.

Our ‘named’ 25-man squad should consist of the following (* = home grown player):

Hugo Lloris
Michel Vorm

Kyle Walker*
Danny Rose*
Kieran Trippier*
Ben Davies*

Jan Vertonghen
Toby Alderweireld
Kevin Wimmer
Federico Fazio

Ryan Mason*
Mousa Dembélé
Tom Carroll*

Christian Eriksen
Nacer Chadli
Erik Lamela
Andros Townsend*
Alex Pritchard *
Heung-min Son

Harry Kane*
Clinton Njie
Emmanuel Adebayor

NB: DeAndre Yedlin is on loan at Sunderland for the season.

We are then able to select any players who were born on or after January 1994 without needing to register them. This means that any of the following (plus the other first and second year academy scholars) would be available for selection. NB: I have presented them in age order.

Eric Dier
Shaq Coulthirst (on loan at Wigan Athletic)
Kenny McEvoy
Nabil Bentaleb
Grant Ward (on loan at Rotherham United)
Dominic Ball (on loan at Rangers)
Luke McGee
Milos Veljkovic
Harry Winks
Connor Ogilvie (on loan at Stevenage)
Nathan Oduwa (on loan at Rangers)
Emmanuel Sonupe
Dele Alli
William Miller
Joe Pritchard
Harry Voss
Anton Walkes
Luke Amos
Anthony Georgiou
Cy Goddard
Kyle Walker-Peters
Joshua Onomah
Shayon Harrison
Cameron Carter-Vickers

We have only 22 players that would need to be included in our squad list, nine of whom are home grown players.

Our squad was in a very healthy situation leading up to the end of the transfer window – we could have made a further three signings without worrying about having to ‘make space’ for them. We also ended up keeping Adebayor and Fazio when it seems as though we wanted to sell both.