FOX Soccer Exclusive
Spurs have no time to pout
After the battering they took at Manchester City, this is a week not just for sore heads, but also for cool heads. Pick any number of negative words: Andre Villas-Boas chose “ashamed.” They are right to be embarrassed, hurt, frustrated, even furious. But it is at times like this when it is important to also be steady. Emotional thinking is understandable. But clear thinking is what is needed.
We have never lived in such a reactionary football environment. With one result a manager can be raised onto a pedestal. With another he can be unceremoniously dumped off it. Middle ground tends not to get much of a look in, really. But the last thing Tottenham need now is hysteria.
The cold facts are that they have a coach who was highly regarded enough last summer that high-spending Paris Saint-Germain were among the clubs hoping to entice him out of White Hart Lane. They have a team that had major surgery, with Gareth Bale’s departure to Real Madrid effectively removing the team’s heartbeat. Suddenly transplanting a load of new players to try to get Spurs beating in rhythm again was never going to be an instant fix. Their fans are historically keen on fantasy and excitement, but right now they need to knuckle down and find a plan to help them pick up some solid results.
Most players who arrive in a new country, with a new club, culture of football, language and set of teammates to adjust to will find a few months grace to settle in properly is necessary. A humiliating defeat is hardly going to help that, but it is up to the Tottenham hierarchy to make sure it focuses a few minds.
Only last April, Tottenham gave City a thumping when they beat them 3-1 at White Hart Lane. It was a game that reverberated, particularly as a symbol for the home team of what they hoped was possible for a bright future challenging at the top of the table. Tottenham were exciting and gutsy. The team that day obviously included the instrumental Bale, and Jermain Defoe came off the bench to play a dazzling cameo. But what is interesting is quite how much change has happened since this seemingly significant result, only a few months ago.
The only members of that line-up who also figured in the team that succumbed for Spurs over the weekend were the goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris, and three members of the back four. Every midfielder and attacker was different. That’s a pretty comprehensive alteration.
Perhaps the players most under pressure at Tottenham are two of the most expensive signings; the winger Erik Lamela, who has struggled for game time since he arrived, and striker Roberto Soldado, whose goals ratio, particularly from open play, has dwindled since his days in La Liga. The pair of them cost over £56 million.
Erik Lamela has had a tough transition into the Premier League. (Photo: Jason Cairndiuff/Reuters)
It was painful to make the comparison with City’s new winger and striker. Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo were both dazzling in the 6-0 demolition. They cost a combined $50 million. Both of them have integrated into City life - and City’s game plan - quickly and smoothly.
Right now, of course, it looks like City deserve the credit for choosing higher caliber players. But also, it is worth considering the contrast in the health of the clubs they joined: City’s new players have come in to enhance a largely established team, while Tottenham’s have come in to more or less make a new team. For Negredo to slot in alongside a player as supreme and settled as Kun Aguero, with the likes of Yaya Toure behind him, and benefiting from an on-form Samir Nasri or David Silva supplying the ammunition, makes for a considerably easier adaptation into his new line-up than Soldado’s.
These are not excuses. Nobody would suggest Villas-Boas and his team get a free pass for a calamitous performance that painted them in the worst possible light. There were justifiable questions about how emphatically they caved in, how every department of the team malfunctioned. There is necessary debate: everything from tactical approach and the manager’s team selection to easily defeated body language.
The honeymoon period of new players arriving and trying to impress has worn off. Although they didn’t play with outstanding style, in the first six league games of the season Tottenham garnered a very decent 13 points out of 18. In the second six, they have stumbled to a worrying 7 points out of 18.
With a young manager the board has faith in and a new team trying to find a system and a soul, the improvements have to come from within the camp. Next up, in the Premier League on the weekend, another team from Manchester. The defending Champions are due to visit White Hart Lane. There is certainly no time for Spurs to feel sorry for themselves.