holding pattern

Holding Pattern - Wrong Side of the Pond

In 24 matches across all competitions so far, it’s fair to say Tottenham Hotspur are having a fairly inconsistent start to their 2014/15 campaign. Need proof? Here’s what the season has looked like so far:


Yeah, that’s pretty erratic.

However if you were to read the headlines, browse fan forums or soak in the Twittersphere, you might be inclined to think this season has been an utter disaster for Spurs.

But has it been? Admittedly, things haven’t exactly been sterling. Rather, things have been much like they have for the past few seasons: a cycle of ups and downs that can’t seem to be broken.

Many of Spurs’ displays this year could be characterized as “flat”, “uninspired” or, more bluntly, “crap”. Aside from Chadli and Eriksen, the general consensus is the seven players brought in last summer with the windfall of Spanish dollars from the Bale sale are developing into flops.

The biggest issues have been in attack. Soldado has remained mostly impotent in front of goal. Erik Lamela hasn’t been able to reproduce the form that helped him to set Serie A alight with Roma two seasons ago. Adebayor has been largely MIA, both literally and figuratively. Lennon has sputtered here and there. We should all pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster for Kane’s continued emergence.

Their defense has, at times, looked disoriented when compared against the water tight barricade André Villas-Boas had them playing last season. Vertonghen is disinterested, possibly because a move to European giant didn’t pan out in the summer. New signings Fazio and Davies haven’t fully settled yet. Kaboul is starting to show his age. The wing backs have been both injury plagued and largely incompetent. Thank god for the spectacle that is Hugo Lloris, or things could be approximately nine-hundred times worse.

Speaking of inconsistency, the midfield has been a revolving door. Capoue has failed to live up to expectations and Dembélé seems a shadow of his former self. Bentaleb has only recently returned from injury, and the jury is still out on Stambouli. I think Spurs bought the wrong Paulinho, because this can’t be the same guy who dominated at the 2013 Confederations Cup. Though we can and should all be encouraged by the already mentioned Eriksen and Ryan Mason coming to the fore.

So with all that in mind, I get why some are upset and are lamenting days past. Two years removed from selling one of the world’s best players and fielding one of the most exciting attacks in European football, Tottenham have clearly taken a step or two backwards. Pochettino doesn’t yet seem to know what his best side is yet. And the Lillywhites have languished in the purgatory that is mid-table all season.

But I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom — and not just because I said I wasn’t going to put much weight on results this season.

It would be naive to overlook the fact that most of the aforementioned struggling players have shown flashes of their potential. Lamela has mostly underwhelmed — mainly due to playing slow and sloppy — but his spectacular rabona goal in the Europa League shows what he’s capable of. Soldado’s troubles are well documented, but he’s netted a few times recently and has been fantastic in possession. Fazio and Davies have both shown to be much more solid in the last few matches. Bentaleb has looked solid upon his return, and Kyle Walker has finally returned to bring his pace and work ethic to the right side of defense.

That’s on top of Eriksen continuing to shine. That’s on top of Harry Kane coming into his own. And that’s on top of Ryan Mason growing into the first team too.

And what about that erratic record Spurs have posted up so far? Let’s get back to that for a minute.

When you look at their performance thus far, a 52% win rate is by no means horrid. In fact, compared to the last few seasons — 58% in 13/14, 52% in 12/13, and 53% in 11/12 — it’s actually just under the norm. Ironically, this year’s Tottenham are still quite a ways above the pace of their lowest win percentage season in recent years: the much glorified Champions League run season of 2010/11 where they posted a 42%. And I don’t recall anyone crying about that then.

For once, it doesn’t look like the club’s leadership are ready to pull the rug out from under the manager after a rocky start either. Mauricio Pochettino’s men currently sit on 24 points in the table. Remember, AVB was a point ahead (27) of his record-setting points tally from the year before when he was fired at this point last season. Yet there a relatively few calling for Pochettino’s head.

Instead, it even looks like he’s being given time to rebuild. The club’s decision to bring in Southampton’s Paul Mitchell, who Mauricio worked with during his time with the Saints, as the new head of recruitment and analysis seems to reinforce that idea. Though that thought needs to be taken with a grain of salt considering Sporting Director Franco Baldini is still at the club, not to mention Daniel Levy’s tendency to influence transfer dealings. A couple of key acquisitions — perhaps the addition of a more clinical striker and further depth in the attacking department on the wings — clearing out some of the deadwood and giving Pochettino’s plans more time to soak into the squad could really bolster things. And even then, I’m not silly enough to think they’ll be challenging for the title this year. It could very well take the rest of the season before a finalized product finally steps on the field.

All that said, it’s not as if Tottenham are totally out of the running this year either. Traditional powers like Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United are all flawed sides this season too. Spurs are currently seventh in the table, just four points adrift of fourth place West Ham. This season’s story is far from written.

Regardless, even though season may feel like just an extension of the frustrations from the post-Champions League era, it should still just be viewed as a part of a larger holding pattern. It should serve a chance for the club to find its bearings again; an opportunity to get its feet under it again.

And with patience seemingly now being found again at White Hart Lane, the sky may be the limit once again… even if we have to wait a bit longer to reach it.

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