In preparation for the 2014-15 season, The Republik of Mancunia has spoken to fans of all the clubs in the Premier League about last season, next season, their own clubs and their thoughts on United.
Scott: How did you rate 2013-14 for Spurs?
Spooky: It was painful for so many reasons but thankfully being a Tottenham supporter means you’re ready for the heartbreak and embrassement. We imploded like we always do. It’s a culture of self-doubt and uncertainty that eats away at the very soul of the club. Sounds a bit overly dramatic but almost every time the problems at play are ones we’ve gone out of our way to create. Not intentionally, but it feels like it. Andre Villas-Boas is someone I liked and rationalised initially suggesting that he had a plan and that the team would eventually shift on from the possession play to far more dynamic and inter-changing attacking movement. It never came. It never came because, well, I’m not sure he’s quite understood that a little expression can help with momentum. His stubbornness killed his own tactics. Add to it the degradation of relationships with players and coaching staff and the chairman and it all collapsed in on itself.
I actually think he lost his way in a massive way and I question the support within the clubs structure and wonder if AVB’s isolation was his own doing or if the way we set up the whole football-business model is to blame. Did Levy and Baldini sign players AVB wanted? I’m not sure. Bale left and the players that arrived all came from abroad and it was a recipe for disaster. How do you acclimatise so may ‘first team’ players? You don’t. None of them seemed to fit in.
Last season was a harsh lesson learnt. I hope everyone in the club took note.
Scott: Are you happy with your new manager then?
Spooky: Yes. I like Pochettino. However, I’m grounded. I don’t allow all the philosophical soundbites to get me all dreamy and giddy. AVB famously said he’s continue Redknapp’s football but with more aggressive counter-attacks and look what we ended up with. I think Pochettino is a good man manager and has decent form with developing and nurturing youth progression into first team football. He has a better quality of players at Spurs so perhaps the mistakes made at Soton won’t be repeated too often. I’m backing him, it feels like the best we could have done. Not sure van Gaal was ever going to happen simply because United sacked Moyes. And there is something about de Boer I dislike. Just a gut feeling.
Scott: Who was your best performing player?
Spooky: Hugo Lloris. The one constant performer and undoubtedly world class. Did most of the defending at times and I felt for him to have four players ahead of him constantly being changed and swapped around. Hope for the sake of him and the team that we seek some cohesiveness at the back this term.
Scott: Which player are you expecting to be most important for you in 2014-15?
Spooky: I’d discount Lloris because his performance level will always be focused and high. So in terms of the player that will hopefully be key – it’s Christian Eriksen. We’ve never truly recovered from the loss of little Luka Modric. He sat in deep positions but everything started with him. The assist of the assist was common, as he set up players that set up goal scorers. He also allowed the teams tempo to run at a decent pace, kept the ball going. We’re set up a little different these days and with midfield marshals I expect that our attacks will be crafted higher up the pitch with Eriksen the one to ignite the spark.
He’s wonderfully talent, had a baptism of fire last season and he’ll need to really work at his consistency. Needs to influence more games. I think that will come as last season, too often, the midfield was congested and space non-existent for him to move into and create.
He’s nothing like Modric. Different players, but he’ll provide the intelligence and vision for the players wide and ahead of him (although there’s a chance he’ll start from a wide position and roam inwards). Not too dissimilar positionally than how Luka started his journey.
Scott: What do you think Spurs will achieve this season?
Spooky: Every season top 4 is perceived as beyond our reach. We then spend the season either competing for it or flirting with it before its out of our reach and yet we look back with regret knowing we could have done it. Got a feeling it’s going to be far more difficult this season. Not just because of the business other clubs are doing but also because we are in another transitional period. I’d be content if we’re up there but 5th is most likely or 6th if you want to be pessimistic. 7th would be a bit gutting. A cup is what should be important. I feel like we’ve disrespected the cups in recent years for the ‘glory’ of 4th spot. We can focus on the bread and butter of the league us much as we like but a cup final is where we truly regain some of that ye old swagger and identity.
Scott: Are you happy with your club’s performance in the transfer window this summer?
Spooky: It’s functional. It might be because we have to sell to buy but on the face of it, Poch is signing players we need even if there are not guaranteed first teamers. So you could argue that we’ve done nothing to improve on key positions. Some young players have come in, cover for Hugo. But not major signings. But then we did spend £100m or whatever it was last summer.
Scott: What the fuck was Levy thinking about?!
Spooky: Kid in candy store. Go back a summer and every much touted player AVB wanted was never signed. Sometimes, allegedly, because we wouldn’t pay that little bit extra. I think Levy and Franco Baldini signed good players but there was too much spent for the sake of spending to replace Bale when ideally it would have been far more reserved. Had they all been signed and Levy sat down with AVB and said ‘take your time, I don’t expect anything this year and understand it might take another season to get the flow right’ then great. It played out like Rocky chasing chickens.
It’s so frustrating that for a club with less revenue than those above us we retain a sense of competitiveness yet we’re the ones solely to blame when we fail to achieve what we’ve promised all season long. I was excited last season, blinded by the magnificent seven signings. I guess that’s why Levy and co did what they did. To make us forget about Bale. This summer is underwhelming in comparison and that might end up helping us. We could still do with another couple of players so the only person who’ll be happy with all of this is Jim White.
Scott: Still, was it nice to see Bale thrive on the world stage?
Spooky: Yes. Don’t get all this ‘don’t care about him any more’ rubbish that some Spurs fans screamed. Look, football is a harsh landscape and a player of his quality meant he was always going to go there. It’s the way of the modern superstar footballer. Even if we won the league last season he’d have gone to Madrid. Why? Because it’s Real Madrid. We all love to hate the but from his perspective its the pinnacle, the biggest club in the world. He’ll earn the max amount of money from marketing and sponsorships. It’s a no brainer for the career footballer.
I championed the fact he was on course to being world class and I’m happy for him. He smashed up La Liga even though his own fans out there questioned him after his initial shaky start. He’s one of the few that has joined his boyhood club. He supported them as a kid, so bravo. Obviously, was a privilege to see him play for Spurs and sure its a bit cringe how he tries to copy his idol Ronaldo but fair play to him. Maybe we’ll re-sign him when he’s 31.
Scott: And maybe we can get Ronaldo back when he’s 31! If you could have one United player, who would it be?
Spooky: Possibly Mata. Real quality player. Or Rooney. I know, obvious choices but I think both would strengthen us. Couple of injuries upfront and we’re doomed.
Scott: Can you believe United were as bad as they were last season?
Spooky: Great question. Mainly because one of my initial reactions was to ‘give Moyes a chance’. A lot was made of the fact that United only did as well as they did prior to Moyes because of the Ferguson influence and that the team were already on the slide. Moyes needed time to rebuild right? But then it dawned on me that this is Manchester United and even though it was not a strong squad compared to previous years, that didn’t mean the next man in could not muster up the same tenacity as Ferguson (obviously not on the same level). Moyes was the wrong decision because people believed this was the dawn of another 20 odd years of empire building. The reality is, there will be no new Ferguson. Van Gaal is a big enough personality and a hugely successful and experienced coach to be able to rejuvenate a club without the need for lofty long term ambitions. So yes, I can believe you were that bad last season. Moyes looked like a man far too concious of the fact he was following on from Ferguson. Felt like a competition winner rather than a shrewd appointment.
Scott: Now Moyes has gone, how do you expect United to perform this season?
Spooky: In amongst it. Although would be nice for you lot to also have a little bit of a transitional season. Doubt it. Again thanks to appointing Van Gaal. You’ll play better football and to be honest, its better that more teams are competing for the top 5 or 6 places. Makes it all that more interesting, teams taking points off each other.
Scott: Who do you think will win the league?
Spooky: City again although Chelsea might bore the league into submission. Can’t see beyond either two but ask me again in 15 games time and I might have an addition to the prediction.