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Friday, 17 May 2013

"Even failure has an echo of glory in it"

So the end is nigh. Another enthralling season seeks to find its end as we once more find ourselves in an all to typical blindly-hoping-on-another-team-to-do-us-a-favour end of season debacle. Although it's not quite a debacle is it? We're on course to hit our record number of points in the Premier League but the inevitability grows that Europa League football will, once more, be our European path.

That's unfortunate, but barely raises an eyebrow. If you had to label one club this could happen to, it would be Spurs. I'm a fan of broken records, so here's another. For a manager that was hung out to dry by the press, pundits, 'experts' and both a minority of our own and masses of rival fans, AVB's had a remarkably commendable season. You'd have snatched sitting on 69 points after the penultimate game of the season. Has the League become easier or have we become more competitive? Probably a portion of both.

We kicked off pre-season in the USA and AVB sought to lay down the basics foundations of how he wanted us to play. He set out a blue-print for the forthcoming season, that I highlighted here, tinkering subtly based upon the opposition that sat in front of us. We slowly grew into a pressing game, each player learnt their role and soon enough a group of players soon became a team. This is why I refuse to knock our early results. We were still waiting to 'tick'. Despite conceding points early on to West Brom & Norwich we persisted with the system. This season, for me, truly emphasised that patience is a true art. Critiscism seemed far easier to give at the time but I stubbornly felt (even admitting almost 'blind faith') that the right building blocks were being implemented under AVB at Spurs.

Those that know me know that I'm one of the more pessimistic Spurs fan you could come across. Although I feel next season should give reason to fuel that ounce of hope with optimism. Without sounding to Scouse, next year could be one that holds a lot of promise. I emphasise the word could. Injuries can dictate the path a season takes. It's football. We knew losing Kaboul in the early stages would be a bitter pill but then struggled immensely without Sandro in January with Parker playing a shadow of his former self. It's hard to comprehend we've made a fair challenge at 4th, alongside a gruelling Europa League run and yet have two forwards that have struggled to deal with the demands of this season.

So where's the promise?

A young cast-off came in and adopted a side that was largely short of the players that were so key last year; so vital in grabbing us 4th place. A young side.
We'll continue to spend within our means and thus grow organicly, remaining competitive without the need to sell our souls. I'm both proud and tentatively confident of that (confidence is a rare feat with me). Wigan, if anything, should shed some light on that it's not only big wallets that guarantee trophies. We've shown enough heart to punch above our own weight, with individual brilliance pushing us that extra step.

We'll build and learn from this. The players have had a year together, our coach has had a relatively controversial free season and we've looked more of a team after every game we play. I hate feeling optimistic about anything, it usually leaves me with hollow disappointment - an empty shell, but I just can't help but feel that maybe we have the springboard stable enough to jump back up to where we feel we're more than capable of finishing.

This isn't writing off our chances Sunday, this is merely explaining that there's no reason to feel any dismay if we were to finish 5th.


Ben - Follow me on Twitter - @InsideN17

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Are we being fooled?

I usually try my best to avoid falling into the ITK tra, but I've admittedly been entangled more often than I care to count. It's borderline inevitability. We snatch at any piece of news that carries with it the chance of hope and excitement yet tell ourselves that we're fools for holding it with such a tight grasp.

The vines on the David Villa story appear to be growing. Slowly wrapping us in and engulfing us. We've seen non-runners appear to have legs on them previously. Sneijder and Hazard both fell through on a grand old scale. In this instance, it's not so much that this deal's too good to happen, but more it's not quite a Levy deal. Villa is 32 this year and represents no sell-on value. Levy seeks a potential return on most purchases he makes, if not all.

Maybe we'll find ourselves in a scenario that sees our Chairman emphasising his faith in AVB with practicalities. Maybe we'll bring in a player for more than financial reasons. Again, I lay my hope carefully and Levy won't be keen to expose his hand just yet. We haven't ended the season yet but maybe talk of a player may somewhat prove a temporary distraction away from the seemingly inevitable scenario of a 5th placed finish.

Maybe we're just all being duped again. Villa would be a good signing. He's the strong, experienced head that's gifted with that winning mentality - that gold dust - that is so hard nurture organically. Injuries have been a big issue for the Spaniard which is why I'd be surprised if the deal was pushed through at over £10m. It's unlike Levy to wrap up a signing so early, it's unlikely our prayers will be answered prematurely.

It's evident I'm a fan of Villa, although I do feel that alongside him we do need a young and hungry forward that is in a similar mould. A forward with intelligence. We've a gifted midfield and having a forward that can play to the same tune as that midfield maybe just the ticket to a host of outcomes next season. A player that can bring others in to the game with the tendency of appearing at the right place and right time would be ideal. We can all dream, can't we?

I dare to hope. The feeling of disappointment isn't an unusual one. The season still has one game left in it, yet so much is riding on it.

Ben - you can follow me on Twitter here

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Our key weakness

Admittedly I felt we looked exhausted. We returned from Switzerland in almost a worst case scenario position. We'd fought our way to extra time only to find ourselves, almost inevitably, crashing out on penalties. If there was such a thing as 'an ideal way to go out of a competition' then our rivals would've picked this way.

The finish line is a distant sight. We've teased and toyed with 3rd, flirted with 4th but the reality could be a rejection from both. I had my heart set on the Europa League, it looked as though we did as well. But it is how it is. I worried for our mentality upon the Europa League exit and we had Manchester City to play. The players found little life running through their veins in first half. Although this time around, footballing being a funny old game actually worked in our favour. I couldn't ever pin us knocking one past Hart, let alone three. Huddlestone's passing was something we've missed in patches, it's a shame he can't be a more complete midfielder. It seems an eternity he's had to develop his game into a complete holding midfielder but still lacks the fine art of tackling. He's stereotypically sluggish ways always weighing him down and soon enough his negatives out muscled his positives.

We approach 4 tough fixtures. 4 fixtures that should be approached with the same forward mentality. We just about have the quality in our first 11, the problem is we seem to have this niggling function born into the Spurs approach system that sees us lose our nerve whenever we have to depend on ourselves. Combine this with a side short of competition in key areas and genuine strength in depth and you find a mountain as tall as Everest to climb.

A starting 11 involving a midfield three of Huddlestone, Dembele and Holtby with Defoe leading up top could be the shape needed to limp over the line. This leaves Sigurdsson and Dempsey on the bench - Two very useful players. Two players that can impact games, our bench should have more. We were flat against Wigan. Neither side wanted it enough. You'd have been forgiven for believing that neither of the sides had anything to play for. We closed another door shut on an opportunity to exploit. With Dembele limping off, it almost compounded me to feel this'll be another season in which so much promise had been shown yet nothing to show from it.

Our first 11 is solid. We're one forward away from having a fantastic, balanced and competitive first 11. Lloris in goal. Walker right, Dawson/Kaboul, Vertonghen, Benny. Dembele, Sandro; Bale, Holtby/Sigurdsson, Lennon and a forward. That team needs little tinkering with it. It's our depth and competitiveness out wide that may leave us just too short of 4th this year. We need investment in quality depth. The trouble is most quality players don't want to be involved in a squad rotation role at a club that isn't challenging at the top of the Premier League every year. Chelsea exploited their ability to rotate quality players and have done so very well to balance their number of fixtures across their playing staff.

The obvious issue here is that we won't go out and spend £60m net in one window. I call it an issue but I'm happy our club is run sensibly. So we have to be clever. We need footballers that can alter our shape, change our direction if needed and those to simply replace like-for-like. Townsend's relative success at QPR will be like a new signing and hopefully his hunger and confidence will continue when he's in a Spurs shirt next year. I hope he uses this year as building blocks and steps up to our first 11. It's clear there is something there.

It's good to see stability at Spurs. Only one player has arguably been sold by the papers so far but, unlike the Modric fiasco, it seems far more underplayed and demoralising at this moment. Clever spending is a fine art form. We've done it successfully in the past and, should we find ourselves edged out of the running for 4th, it'll have to be a summer of shrewd purchases. We don't want to cause unrest, we just need to face the reality that we need the depth to compete in almost 2 seasons worth of games in a single football calender year.

Ben - You can follow me on Twitter here @InsideN17