Monday, 6 October 2008

It’s squeaky bum time

During the summer everyone – the tabloids, the broadsheets, the Gillette Soccer Saturday crew, football magazines and various wannabe pundits had Spurs down as their firm favs for 5th spot. The reason all of them are laughing at us now is because Only Spurs™ could fail so spectacularly.
Not only have we started badly, but we’ve timed it so well that the press can now make Titanic sinking jokes based on this being our worst start in 96 years. Is this the most diabolical team we’ve had? Or the worst management team? No. And it’s only 7 games in. Yes, Derby were in a better position this time last season, but nobody, not even those zany journalists are mentioning the ‘R’ word with true self-belief. Even rival fans are telling me that Spurs will drag their way out of the bottom three. This is simply only a little bit worse than last season start to the season.

But if they fail to win at Stoke, expect this to change. Because if confidence is bad now, it will be non-existent if we still have two points after our visit to the Victoria Ground (edit: By Victoria Ground, I obviously mean Britannia Stadium).

What makes things even more depressing is that this current group of players are the ones that have until January to turn things around, and if they don’t then that’s that. Nobody is going to want to come here in the new year if we are still languishing in the bottom three. The profile of the club will change completely with regards to transfers. We’ll have West Ham pinching our players. New ground? Why would we need 50,000 in the Championship? Hutton and Bale will be looking for a tap on their shoulders from Fergie and Jenas will still be telling everyone that we can make the Champions League.

Digging deep is what we’ve been expecting (based on what the coach and the players have been spouting) after every defeat, only to be presented with yet another defeat.

But sacking Ramos is not an option just yet. Not because it would cost the club a reported £15M, but because Levy cannot, in pure footballing terms, afford it. Martin Jol’s tenure was undermined and destroyed. We never did find out if he could take us to the next level or not (i.e. beating Arsenal). Ramos was the man that Comolli felt he could work with. Yet the shambolic transfer window activities have done nothing to improve the squad. Jol recently spoke about how there was a clear vision during his time there with regards to English players, and that team has been gutted and replaced with a mish-mash that has no true balance.

Pav is looking more and more like a panic buy, and you almost feel as sorry for him as you do for Modric who is clearly far too good a player for this current Spurs team as he spends most of his time laying off passes that his team-mates simply don’t have the virtue of accepting.

No leadership. Another painfully obvious problem.

So Levy, having gone out of his way, to get Ramos – has to allow Ramos that extra bit of time that is usually not given in such circumstances. If nothing happens in the next 3-4 games, then sadly the team is in such a state that the players are simply not responding to the manager and Ramos time may well be up. Though the blame will fall back into the lap of L&C.

Elsewhere, Defoe scored again. Robbie Keane played a part in a 3-2 comeback win for Liverpool. Dean Marney looked busy and purposeful (even hit the post) for Hull who, well, you know what they did. And Martin Jol's Hamburg won away, and remain top in Germany. And every player we deemed not good enough for us (Steed, Chimbonda) and the targets we scoffed at (Heskey, Crouch, Anton Ferdinand and a shedload of others) all continue to assist their teams while our ‘superstars’ struggle to raise their game to a respectful level.

Are we cursed? Has this been on the cards for years? With our generally poor away record over the past decade or so, when you suddenly stop winning home games, that ‘R’ word becomes a true threat.

Three points. At Stoke. It’s that simple, yet why does it look like it’s going to be so hard?


danny likes blanchflower said...

How many times must we hear that little by little/harder we work all will be well. Poyet in post match interviews appears to be very diplomatic, unable to tells us what he thinks which is probably something like: We are fucking shit. You can tell he isn't impressed with the transfers which means Ramos isn't impressed either but are things that bad in the dressing room/training pitch that we can't even overcome Wigan? Are the players so incapable of believing in a win?

Any other season or manager or club and Ramos would be sacked.

Kings Dodgy Knee said...

Not sure its been leading up to this, we've had some decent progress over the past few years but we've lost far too many key players and never replaced them.

Our squad this season was weakened the moment we let go the trio to Sunderland.

What does Bentley do exactly? We need fighters in the team. I'm sure he'll be fine in a side that's doing well and has a strong centre-mid pairing. He brings nothing to a side that is struggling.

Other players, like Woody, are being hit by the fact we are playing so poorly. He looks quite average at the minute.

Oracle said...

Domino effect. That Boro game, had it we snatched a result...but ifs and buts aside, its amazing to think we were playing Berbatov in the side considering his head and heart were already half way to OT.

If we were that desperate and had to play him because we had no choice its says a million things about how fucked up Comolli and Levy are with the running of the club and on-field affairs.

spooky said...

Not sure it would have made much of a difference winning at Boro. Other than 'worst start ever' etc, I dont think it would have been quite the confidence booster. We would have come unstuck in the other tames regardless.

Bob B said...

Ramos looks shambolic at the moment. He hasn't made a single change that's made sense to me. king's dodgy knee is right he'd be sacked at any other club, but I still don't think it's the right thing to do. He's trying to be pragmatic, to get the team into a siege mentality where they grind out results 1-0. It's not working yet, but give it time and maybe it will. It's the only option we have until January.

When the transfer window does come around, I'd like to see someone (anyone) other than Comolli in charge of recruitment. It's not going to be easy to find players willing to join a club so spectacularly underperforming, but one thing you can be sure of is that anyone Comolli fancies is sure to turn out to be a donkey, and anyone he shuns is probably the next Pele.

While Levy has made countless mistakes, I really don't think getting on his back is the answer. If Enic abandon us, what's next? Leeds set a pretty disturbing precedent, and while they're beginning to look like their rebuilding efforts are going to pay off, they're still a long way from the top flight. I don't want to see that happen to Spurs, and I think it's the most likely scenario if Levy and Enic are seriously thinking of walking away. Whoever bought us wouldn't be able to invest much in the squad, since Levy would certainly negotiate a typically good deal. Plus with due diligence and all, we'd probably miss the transfer window completely.

It's a hard one to swallow, but bear in mind Levy was at least partly responsible for all the positives over the last few years, and although I think the man's a footballing numpty, he's invested a lot in the club and got us to a point where a relegation battle is a shocking situation, rather than a bit of spice to the mundanity of mid-table mediocrity.

Our biggest problem is that our squad is completely imbalanced - no world class goal scorer, no battling and commanding defensive midfielder, no solid centre back pair, and very few tacklers. That's not really Levy's fault - he just signs cheques. Nor is Ramos' job to sign players.

We need shot of Comolli ASAP, and to either employ a new director of football who actually looks for players who fit our squad rather than just half-decent investment gambles, or else to let Gus and Ramos pick their own signings in January - give them £40m or so and let them do their best. Then judge Ramos at the end of the season.

Paxton Yid said...

Can you blame Comolli but its Levy who swears by this DoF and its Levy who sign Comolli as FA's replacement.

I agree with everything else. Shocking how decimated we look from pre-season to first game up in the Prem. Does any other Prem side lack these type of players?

No. They just have varying types of quality - from crap to world class. But we don't even have a level below crap with the DM position.

I find the whole situation to be borderline criminal.

bob b said...

I agree Levy's support of Comolli only demonstrates his lack of football knowledge, and his preference for employing yes men over people with talent. But we all know Levy knows nothing about football. That's the point - he employs a DoF to be the board member who actually does understand the game. He started out with Pleat, who's obviously far too old school (and not all that bright), so replaced him with Arnesen, who was so good Chelski decided to poach him. Now we have an Arsenal reject who has consistently signed either talented players who don't suit the squad's needs, or else mediocre players who should only really be backups to the first choice names we lack.

Levy doesn't understand, but he does care (I think). Which is why we need to make him understand that his chum Damien is doing a shoddy job. That's clearly what Ramos is trying to do (relegating most of Comolli's young crop to Reserves, and making veiled statements about the club's transfer policy), and I think we should all be applying pressure to get him out before January.

I don't think Comolli is total rubbish - he must've done some good somewhere, even if it escapes me now - but I do think that, for the money he's had at his disposal, he's failed to significantly improve the squad. Therefore he's the one whose blood we should be after, not Levy or Ramos.

Ethnic Metric said...

Was Comolli not chief European scout for Arsenal for 7 years? Although not sure what specific players he 'discovered' or 'reported' on.

Diaz said...

Berbatov, Bale, Woodgate, Hutton, Corluka, Modric.

All signed since Comolli has been at the club. All top quality players.

The problem with the DoF position is that is impossible to say which players he has personally picked.
If his job description is to trawl the web to find out who Man U, Arsenal and Chelsea are interested in signing, then he does a superb job. (see most of the above)

as for the DM position the fact we signed O'Hara, Zokora and Huddlestone on contracts this summer does worry me. Ramos must have ok'd these, obviously believing we do not need a DM.

The failure to sign 3 quality strikers remains the biggest failure of the summer and one which ultimately could cost us our Premier League status.
The sale of Berbatov and Keane was good for the Plc but not the FC. Defoe had to go, he wouldn't sign a contract so the Plc (and the FC) had no choice.

Championship football at the Lane will be a reality unless we score goals. A simple equation. How we will score those goals between now and Xmas is anything but. A Man U kid and a 16m sub hold the fate of THFC in their hands.

Scared? You should be.

pedantic said...

For me, the main issue is the fact that Jenas and Modric cannot form an adequate, balanced midfield partnership. Modric has never been a defensive midfielder, and cannot become one due to his size. Jenas cannot balance his defensive duties with being a consistent attacking threat (it's like the two responsibilities cancel each other out, resulting in him being invisible in most games). Because of this, we have to take off a striker and put Zokora in front of the centre halves. Two problems arise from this predicament. First, Zokora is incompetent, and where most defensive midfielders are supposed to inspire calm when defusing the opposition's attacks, he's an absolute liability to give up free kicks with his reckless tackling and is often caught out of position. Basically he's not disciplined enough, nor talented enough to be our defensive midfielder. The other issue is that we don't have a striker who is capable of playing by himself up top. We've heard from Poyet that Pavlyuchenko and Bent are too similar. Bent is clearly a one-trick pony, he can run really fast and is good on the break. Unfortunately he has no skill with the ball at his feet and thus cannot hold up play at all, while others get forward. Basically he's the anti-Berbatov. Fraizer Campbell is too small to play by himself at the top; he has no presence in the box whatsoever. Same with Giovani, who doesn't really look as though he has any place on this team right now.
Solutions? If we manage to scrap our way out of this hell hole and still have some credibility left over to be able to attract good players in January, we'll need to buy either (1) a proper box-to-box midfielder and a foil to Bent or Pavlyuchenko or (2) a pure defensive midfielder and a Klaas-Jan Huntelaar-type striker (someone who is strong enough to play alone at the top, but also has some technical ability).

I hate to look back, but I'd love to know how close we were to actually signing either Miguel Veloso or Lassana Diarra.

pedantic said...

i didn't expect that to be so long, apologies.

hazard said...

Spurs have a few requirements.

Get out of the bottom 3 with the current set of players.

If they do this, Ramos might finally find his way to consistent Prem results.

Buy the players needed come Jan - as mentioned above, DM/Forward/etc.

Continue to push on.

One wont happen without the other.

bob b said...

pedantic - I can't understand why we didn't sign Diarra, or Veloso in particular. The reports that we were looking closely at him cheered me up immensely at the time, because it was obvious we needed (need) someone who calls DM his first position, can tackle and play a decent pass, and I've always thought Veloso is a great prospect and would do brilliantly in the Prem. Sadly, I suspect we weren't willing to meet Sporting's valuation of him.

From the reports of who we were scouting/making bids for, you get the impression Ramos had identified the weaknesses in the squad and suggested some players for Comolli and his scouting team to look at, but for one reason or another we didn't sign a DM, or a Striker, or indeed a left midfielder.

As for diaz's (short) list of Comolli's better signings - Berba and Bale were clearly just a case of gazzumping United for kudos, while the rest were signed after Ramos took the helm, and I get the feeling he'd identified the positions he wanted (and possibly named Woody) and then had a big say in whether or not the players DC scouted got signed. Sadly, it looks like Levy et al wanted to do good business, rather than sign the best players they could. Hence no Arshavin or any of the other strikers we looked at, and no Veloso or Diarra.

Sorry to ramble on. I'm just terrified that if Levy gets scared and sells up our situation will get much much worse... and as Diaz points out, a spell in the fizzy pop league could quickly become a reality.

Stokie said...

Spook- we don't play at the Victoria Ground. Haven't for a while.

spooky said...

Yeah, Google through-up Victoria. Lazy on my part.