Scott: How did Spurs do in 2014-15?
Spooky: Pochettino inherited a mess. It’s the usual template for managerial change at Spurs but this mess was spectacular thanks to the Bale money spending spree. So how do you critique a new coach working with a squad that has a mish mash of identities but no true collective force? You can’t. Not really. The year was a test for the players in the squad and Poch had to find out which ones would fit into his team going forward. As we’ve seen this summer, he’s clearing out the dross and it’s borderline Greek tragedy that a fair few of the players that came in as part of the Magnificent Seven have now departed. Yes, we didn’t really see that much of a new identity. Pockets of pressure and pressing here and there. Some wonderful one-off games (like the Chelsea and Arsenal home wins) and a cup final to enjoy up until we went 2 down. We did okay considering how erratic and poor are home form was. We remain the kings of the transitional period. So to answer you’re question, we did a Tottenham.
Scott: How do you expect them to do in 2015-16?
Spooky: I saw a quote this past week where Poch seemed to suggest we might need more time to get things right. Considering we are days away from United away and still have no supporting striker for Harry Kane, a genuine defensive midfielder to offer the likes of Nabil Bentaleb more expressive freedom and no other creative outlet to aid or replace Christian Eriksen (if form or injury sidelines him), I’d say I’m shitting it even though I’m positively excited for the new season. Wouldn’t be Spurs if you weren’t experiencing both ends of the emotional spectrum at the same time.
I like that we’ve stripped back from the marquee madness that usually dominates our transfer windows. Paul Mitchell is there to supposedly scout new talent, youth and analyse current squad depth to meet expectations based on what Poch and his philosophy require. There’s science there but I’m beginning to wonder if we need some flair…off the pitch to provide some on it. I guess the question is, in modern times, is it possible to pluck a Modric or Berbatov from the continent? Daniel Levy suggested we might have to wait until the last day(s) of the window, which translated means: we need to sell to be able to bring in new blood. It might be that Mitchell is perfect for Spurs if Spurs plan to build on the (relatively speaking) cheap.
The fact this reeks of another transition, might suggest we find ourselves in a similar place this season. Just outside the main contenders, but still capable of throwing the odd knock out punch. Which syncs in with what Poch thinks.
Scott: Who do you think will be your best player?
Spooky: I’m hoping Kane. If it’s Kane then it means there is no second season syndrome and he’s continuing to knock ’em in. However, I think we have a few contenders. Bentaleb continues to mature. Hugo Lloris is a beast. The defence (on paper) looks solid and might bring back the leadership qualities of Jan Vertonghen (who is best when he’s confident of those around him). Eriksen is also pivotal for that astute pass in the final third. I actually like the fact that there is some mighty potential for Spurs to forge that much needed rejuvenated identity from a strong heart rather than an individual beat. Spurs have lacked leadership too often but I can see the sparks within many of our key players. We just need to ignite a fire rather than just a single flame.
Scott: How highly do you rate Pochettino?
Spooky: He’s a coach. Yet another one in a long list that mostly all have the tag of failure stamped on their heads as they walk away from the job. Poch has to start showing us something that is tangible in terms of club ethos and seasonal expectations. We’ve had the aggressive swaggering style drained out of us in recent seasons and although a Redknapp type of team would not be as effective in today’s possession obsessed game, we still need to display some of the olde Tottenham traits, especially at home. We have to be far more adventurous and ruthless. That will feed into the crowd which will generate great noise. I get that results are the bread and butter, but we need that identifiable connection with the players and the football. Poch talks the talk, be it in repeated soundbites and as much as I do like his promise, we need to start seeing his famed philosophy translated into the football the team produces; consistently.
Scott: Are you happy with your team’s business in the transfer window?
Spooky: Underwhelmed. It’s been functional. The players that have left had to be shifted on. We can’t seem to get rid of other ones that appear to have no future at the club but more worrying is that key areas remain light in depth. We’ve sorted the defence but the midfield and attack is paramount to us having any hope in competing with spine in the main competitions. Juggling Premier League with Europa is a massive headache and I can only see migraine inducing pain if we don’t fix up before the deadline. Same old story really. The players in, I’m happy with. But there is no stand out first teamer that has arrived. Obviously, I get that the understated approach is soothing in comparison to the maddening carnival that was the Magnificent Seven, but I think we can all admit we got drunk on the hype that it generated. It just doesn’t do us any favours if we take more than three windows to get the squad that Poch needs to be able to settle and progress. It delays and it just creates more problems and pressures.
Scott: Where do you think United will finish this season?
Spooky: On paper, United look very strong. The quality signed this summer means they’re likely to have plenty of success in the future. I think you lot are more likely to gel as a team (compared to the seven we signed in that infamous window). I guess it’s all dependent on how quickly you hit the ground running. I’ll go with third place. City and Chelsea will once more lead the way. Obviously, due to your dominance is my life time, it would be nice if you struggled a little more. Gives me hope we can catch up (stop laughing). It does seem that even the top teams in England remain in flux from one season to the next, not quite perfect but always too good for the rest. That state of flux might be illusionary and explain why we got close to gatecrashing the party a few times. It might also mean the nature of squad refinement causes lulls that others can continue to take advantage of.
Scott: Well, Spurs have started beating United in the league. What the fuck is going on?
Spooky: It’s testament to our gradual (if deeply flawed) progress and your slight fall from grace. It’s nice though to go to Old Trafford and win. I remember when Spurs vs United was THE glamour game of yesteryear. Many many years ago. It’s a far better contest when you can’t predict the result. For so long it was all about when Spurs would capitulate. I’m not so sure of a win come this Saturday as – at time of writing – we are far less ready than you. Actually, that probably gives the game the touch of the unpredictable. It would be fun if we did come away with the result. Would terrify the Spurs depressives massively as they scramble for an excuse to hate on Poch/Levy/ENIC/etc.
Scott: If you could have one United player in your team, who would it be?
Spooky: Schneiderlin would have been good for us. Depay has that Spursy thing about him, he’s an exciting player. But I guess I’d have to go for Rooney. Kane and Rooney up top. See how isolated Harry is when back in reality you have to say ‘Kane and Soldado/Adebayor’ up front?
Scott: Who do you think will win the league?
Spooky: Boring boring Chelsea. City might surprise everyone by getting their shit together. But I’m not sure I care that much about it. Hate to bang the ‘soulless’ drum but regardless of Jose stating that midtable Premier League clubs are buying players good enough to play for his team, I don’t believe that he believes there isn’t a gulf. Fact is, so many players that Spurs could easily have attracted five or more years ago are now joining the likes of Chelsea to then be loaned out. Maybe that’s why there are no Modrics or Berbatovs left for us to pluck. I wouldn’t mind United even if it contradicts my hope that you suffer a little more. As for Arsenal, the most plastic of football clubs? Well it’s looking like it’s going to be their season again. They’ve already won three summer honours and are currently the ‘Pre-season Champions of England’. I think technically speaking they’ve already won the league.
Scott: Finally, prediction for tomorrow’s game?
Spooky: I’ll have to embrace positivity and believe we can do something at OT, so I’m going to say score draw. United finding their groove, us digging in and producing a moment of quality or two. I’ll opt for 2-2. You can then laugh at my hippie ways when we get spanked 4-0.