If I had to pick one word to describe Tottenham Hotspur’s 2013-2014 campaign thus far, that word would undoubtedly be frustrating.
While it’s true that, historically, most of Spurs’ seasons could be described with that same word — when fourth place and its lucrative Champions League reward slipping just out of Tottenham’s grasp — this season seems to embody the ideal of frustration far better than any other.
The drawn-out Gareth Bale saga that permeated the summer months set the tone for the season early, bleeding into the beginning of the campaign and unsettling the squad. Then came the avalanche of new acquisitions in the wake of the Welshman’s departure, left with little time to adapt to a new club and league. Each new face that arrived — all without Premier League experience — added to the confusion, seven men unsure of their roles and how they would eventually fit into the club’s master plan. Then came the goal scoring problems, a few embarrassing losses, rumors of unrest in the dressing room, and ultimately Villas-Boas’ inevitable sacking. A typically inactive January transfer window followed, with zero reinforcements brought in and at least one puzzling departure. Instead, Chairman Daniel Levy opted to name an inexperienced, lame duck
interim manager to patch over the cracks. That’s gone about as well as you would expect, and Spurs look none the wiser for any of it.
Supporters, myself included, have become exasperated in the process.
Earlier this season, perhaps prematurely, the White Hart Lane faithful expressed their frustration by raining a chorus of boos on the players. And while a rightful scolding from AVB followed — what would those boos really do for the players? — the frustration is still there and it’s probably building. Ever since, the support have remained relatively quiet with the hope that doing so won’t undermine any potential revival in fortunes.
One of the reasons for the persistence of that frustration? Despite all of these failings, the players and staff haven’t appeared to share the same frustrations that we have. Well, AVB and Sherwood have at times, and understandably so with their jobs on the line. But the players… many of them just haven’t looked like they give a shit.
The absence of favored English values like grit, determination and character might be a cliché way of describing the situation, but it’s certainly an accurate way of describing Spurs’ season. Early concessions are more often met with expressions of “meh” than they are with outrage. There’s no fight in the team in those situations. The guys all seem to respond by folding under the increased pressure, rolling over and taking they and we apparently deserve. With no spectacular Gareth Bale here to lean upon and resurrect their chances this year, it’s easier to just give up.
So when Sandro let us all know prior to the Benfica match that the players stuck around the White Hart Lane locker room after the 4-0 thrashing by Chelsea to have it out with one another, it felt like a sign of promise:
“We spent more than two hours in a meeting amongst the players and we said what we had to say. Everyone was shouting. Every player had their fair share to say, let’s put it this way.
In the past, we probably didn’t say anything because we didn’t want anyone to take it the wrong way. From now on we will pull our sleeves up and tell whoever is not doing their job.
It is not only the new players. It is everyone. No-one said things before. But now everyone knows. I think everyone can go for it now. This is going to help us.”
After reading quotes like that, my spirits buoyed: maybe these guys do give a shit. After months of the fans being asked to reign in our anger despite an obvious lack of motivation and desire in the team, it seemed that someone in the dressing room was finally fed up enough to say something, too. And now that the guys in the squad have cleared the air, Sandro seemed to imply that they are all now empowered to speak up when they’re feeling frustrated by their teammates. Perhaps that would be just the type of motivation Spurs needed to inspire — or better yet, demand — the adequate effort from one another needed to get the results this team is capable of.
And then Benfica happened.
Despite all of the yelling, shouting and infighting… the result remained the same. And while the effort does looked to have been bumped up a notch or two, the performance and tactics that came along with it weren’t up to snuff. And the fan anger — no longer content to be muzzled now that the players weren’t either — billowed from the stands at White Hart Lane once again.
So if our boos aren’t enough, their own shouting isn’t either, and neither are the stinging words of a disappointed (if naive) manager… who can deliver the hairdryer necessary to get the most out of this Spurs team?
I’m beginning to fear the answer to that question is “nobody”. And that might be the most frustrating aspect of it all.