Rivals Review – Spurs
Last Season Numbers:
League – 5th, Won 19, Drew 7, Lost 12.
Goals For: 58 (1.52 per game)
Goals Against: 53 (1.39 per game)
FA Cup – 4th Round
League Cup – Final Lost
Europa League – Last 32
2014-15 wasn`t a great year for Spurs by any means, but it was a very typical one for them. The odd bright display mixed in with a lot of inconsistent ones, some European flirting done both in a push for the CL spots and a run at the Europa League but neither of them with any real sense of belief before the season slowly ebbs away and you are left with a feeling of all a bit meh. Spurs are stuck in a bit of a Groundhog Day scenario, doing enough to fight off their challengers and achieve European football but not enough to step up to the next level. Without something drastic happening (like work on the long talked about stadium actually starting!) then it`s hard to see how any change in the status quo will occur.
They started off last summer with a squad bloated with first team players who were good enough for where they were in the league but not good enough to get them any higher. Poch, taken from Southampton, came with a strong reputation but was limited in what he could do during the summer having to first evaluate the squad he had and also move on a lot of the deadwood before he could seriously look at bringing his own players in and putting his own stamp or style on the team. The fact that this was too big a task to manage in a single summer was evident the way that Spurs played: a bit disjointed with seemingly little in the way of a game plan at times. However, as the season progressed (despite some very un-Spurs like football!) you could see them at least trying to adapt a plan.
The problem was, that on many occasions, the plan simply didn`t work and Poch seemed unable or unwilling to change. Now maybe that was because he was stubborn and insisted that the team play a certain way or maybe it was because he didn`t have the players he wanted in order to implement his style. I suppose this season, with a full summer of trading behind him and having had a full season to evaluate his squad, we will find out if Poch is as good as some suspected at Southampton or if he just got lucky?
Lloris, baring a last minute move to United (should a they lose De Gea to a last minute move to Madrid) will continue in goals. A great shot stopper without a doubt but he has worryingly over the past few seasons gotten into the habit of conceding goals, a lot of goals. And while you cannot attribute all the goals to his fault I think it`s reasonable to question how effective a keeper he actually is? Over the last 2 season he`s conceded an average of 1.33 goals per PL game which is pretty poor. Now I know a lot of this can be due to a poor defence playing in front of him but since he`s came to the club Spurs defence is also conceding more league goals overall. 41 the season before he joined to 46 his first season, 51 his second season and 53 last season. Shay Given was always a keeper who was rated far higher than his statistics would suggest and if I was a Spurs fan I`d have to look at Lloris the same way. I used to be a huge fan but now I`m not so sure. Based on pure stats no single aspect of his game is strong and it`s a big worry for them.
Despite starting last season with an army of centre backs Spurs seem to have adopted a “sell-one buy-one” policy and again start the season with probably one too many. Vertonghen will likely be partnered with new signing Alderweireld but that leaves the even slower Fazio, the very raw Dier and another new signing Wimmer all as backup. The main worry with any real combination is that bar Dier (and possibly Wimmer) they lack pace. I`m not sure that 5 into 4 goes and unless Poch is planning a totally different team for European games than you will likely have unhappy (not to mention rusty) players.
On either flank it`s likely that Rose will continue on the left and terrible hair aside he`s not a bad player. He is far from a great one and if Spurs want to make that breakthrough into the top 4 than an upgrade is needed here but there are areas in far more urgent need of attention. On the opposite side Kyle Walker will compete with new summer signing Trippier for the RB role. Walker didn`t have as impressive a season last year after a long layoff with injury and despite being a full international hasn`t really progressed from where he was 2-3 seasons back. He seems to have lost a yard or two of pace which isn`t unusual after such an injury but pace is key for his position. Dier has also been used at right back but he isn`t suited to it. It`s a weak spot in this Spurs team that I`ll assume the manager feels Trippier will fix.
Midfield the impressive Bentaleb (just as impressive a breakthrough season as Kane) will patrol in front of the back four alongside Mason to try to control the middle of the park. Both players are good but both are very inexperienced and either would benefit from playing alongside someone with a bit more experience. Some games last season they we excellent but others seemed to pass them by which is what you would expect of players of their age. Spurs badly need a commanding presence in the middle of the park to help guide these two but I don`t hear of anyone coming in.
Another who could probably benefit with some experience playing behind him is the talented Eriksen. A lovely ball player but one who offers precious little when not on the ball. His lack of pace will limit how good he can become but I do wonder if the team was a bit more stable at the back could you afford to give the Dane a free role, license to roam and play where he sees fit?
Either side of him the talented but disappointing Lamella, the overrated Townsend and underrated Chadli will fight it out for the wingers role. Wingers that Poch is pretty insistent continue to cut inside into an already crowded in-field limiting their own ability and impacting negatively on Eriksen`s.
Harry Kane will lead the line and will be hoping to put a disappointing U21 tournament behind him and continue on last season`s exceptional goal scoring return. For a young player it will be a big ask and the pressure on him will be immense.
Problems with this Spurs side are that the defence is far better on paper than it is in practice and it leaks goals at a rate of 1.4 per league game. They managed to keep a clean sheet in only 24% of their league games last season which was the joint worst with Stoke for teams in the top 9. This puts a huge pressure on the team to score to counterbalance the leaky defence but at the other end they failed to score in 26% of the games, again only Stoke were worse than them in this metric (for context Arsenal kept clean sheets in 34% of their games and failed to score in just 13%).
Up front Kane had a remarkable season and finished the season with a hugely impressive 21 league goals to his name (only 3 of which were penalties) but the next highest scorer in the league was Chadli on 11 and then Eriksen on 10. After these two it`s Rose with 3. While admittedly they had little game time the options to Kane, Ade and Soldaldo, got 3 PL goals between them and both could be out of the club come the start of the season. This makes for very worrying reading for Spurs fans should Kane pick up an injury. Their lack of goals from open play is also an issue as they are overly reliant on dead ball situations to provide the breakthrough.
First off Spurs badly need to sort out their defence. Vertonghen`s performances have been declining each season and he needs to rediscover his form urgently and then to form an effective partnership with Alderweireld. Lloris needs to show the stats against him (not just goals conceded or clean sheets but also shot to saves ratio, minutes per goal conceded, expected to actual saves made etc) are just statistical abnormalities and that he is in fact a top keeper. The right back position also needs to be sorted, is Trippier the man to make it his own or will Walker deliver and build on the player we first saw a few seasons back? A lot of Ifs need to be answered in the positive for defence to make the improvements required. The lack of pace in the middle is a concern.
Eriksen needs to step up his game and stop his annoying habit of going missing for large parts of the 90 minutes. He has the ability but bar dead ball situations precious little was seen from him as a creative force last season. He is 23/24 now and needs to start to demand the ball more. Eriksen has the ability to control this team, the talent to be its` fulcrum but so far his personality seems to opt for stepping back and hoping others will step forward. Maybe it`s a belief thing but whatever it is he needs to sort it and fast.
An experience midfielder might just drag that element into his game and in midfield they badly need someone to tie it all together. Someone who has the experience and the ability to lead the team thru what is going to be a quite difficult season. I haven`t seen any names out there linked Spurs but if I was manager this is where I`d be putting a lot of my budget. Hoping that Bentaleb and Mason can lead this team to where it needs to get to is folly and will only result in failure.
On the wings they have 3 good options but no great ones. Lamela continues to be a shadow of the player he was in Italy. Talented? Most certainly, but while to his credit he rarely hides and always looks for the ball so far the hectic pace of the Premier League looks just a bit too much for him. If he doesn`t improve this season a move back to Europe is surely his next stop? Townsend should only ever be a backup player at a team with CL expectations. He still simply doesn`t offer enough goals (either scoring or creating) for him to be a starter. And while Chadli is a good player he`s not really a winger so even if he will still get into the box and get you goals he tends to do little else while on the wing bar drifting into an already crowded centre of the park.
It will be interesting to see how Kane will perform this season. He looked tired towards the end of last season and the U21 tournament with England won`t have done the player or the club any favours. With little in the way of options he will be on his knees come January unless Spurs can get someone else in. The Premier League history books are full of players who had one great season and then struggled to repeat that season for the rest of their career. Positives for Kane are that he is young, big and strong but the opposition defenders know his game now so he may have to adapt. Does he have that in him? While quick he`s not blessed with lightening pace and with defenders now a lot more away of his game he`ll need to play even better than last season. Perhaps he can but I`ve a feeling last year`s amazing run of goals will be beyond him this season.
Money is tight at Spurs with the new stadium tying up resources so options on improving the squad thru buying are somewhat limited. Their defence is a cause of concern as is their inexperienced midfield and reliance on Kane up front. The team spirit in the squad seems strong and they did come from behind to win on more than one occasion that I can remember and did score some late goals but when you factor in the horrible slog that is the Europa League and the draining impact it has on young players in particular it`s difficult to see them lasting the pace without 2-3 key additions. They need a central midfielder and a striker as a matter of urgency. A winger who actually can play on the wing would also be of benefit.
Champions League qualification is currently a pipe-dream for this Spurs team which is a shadow of the side a few years ago that boasted the talent of Modric, Bale and VDV. Honestly, as it stands, this is about the worst Spurs squad in a decade. They finished 11 points behind us last season, this year the gap will be even greater.
It could go seriously wrong for them but I`ll give them the benefit and say they will just about hang onto 6th place by the end of the season.
Rivals – Spurs
Rivals Review – Spurs