Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dispatches from the Relegation Zone: SPURS edition

You're traveling through another dimension -- a dimension not only of sight and sound but of scoreless draws. A journey into a wasteland whose boundaries are that of Blackpool and Barnsley. That's a signpost up ahead: your next stop: the Relegation Zone!

It's really pretty simple when you think about it... stew on it... sweat it over... and wretch on the details. You take an average club, sell off its two best players-- the top two strikers and most creative men on the field-- and results are going to suffer. Who wouldn't see this coming? What kind of magical thinker could convince himself that moves like these wouldn't have a negative effect on the balance of his team?

Balance? The idea of it is at best a bitter abstraction at times like these-- sitting in last fuckin' place after more than a month of games. For Spurs, for the 2008-2009 Tottenham team, the time for concepts and theories and tactics is over.

There was a point in last friday's Obama-McCain debate when the candidates got into a brief exchange over the difference between a "strategy" and a "tactic." The twitching mongoloid from Arizona told 50 million viewers that his opponent didn't understand the difference. Obama insisted he did, and that McCain's beloved "surge" was indeed a mere "tactic," and certainly not a design for life.

War-Sport anologies may be trite, but so am I and so for that matter is this debacle of a football season. That said, let's jump right in. Juande Ramos is very clever tactician, with the exception of some curious work at Pompey this weekend, he usually brings on the right players, tactically speaking, at the right time. And to his credit, the moves get made on the hour and earlier, giving the sub time to work his way into the game. Where Ramos, the field general, and the chain of command have failed this season is in defining anything that could be remotely confused with a "strategy" for success.

Results come and go. Few humanoid teams in the past decade (well, maybe Martin Jol's Spurs... ugh) have put together more than a season or two of sustained winning; placing in the top 10; competing deep into cup competitions; nicking at the heels of a Big Four straggler. Lack of funds, the manager merry-go-round, and the general emotional instability of fans, players, and owners are usually to blame. It's hard to develop a team when its very DNA is called into question after a bad afternoon in August. But it is even more difficult, perhaps impossible, to do so when there is no understanding among the "brain trust" that one summer, or three players, or a new diet plan does not ensure continued quality. Results come and go. Quality is sustainable.

Shit. Football.

For Tottenham, beloved by us and ours for oftentimes shambolic displays of attacking and defenseless football, the latest tease began with the thievery of Ramos from Spain. The Sevilla man had a reputation for injecting his style into a side. The roster would surely turn over a bit from Year One to Two, but a "strategy" was now in place. Get "Ramos guys"-- big strikers, attacking fullbacks, a speedy winger-- and the program would take over. (Cue Rick Pitino: "See that door?? Dani Alves is not coming through that door!")

When there is a strategy and the players are purchased in accordance to its themes, the tactics become simple. They are written into the roster. But what has become more evident everytime this year's team steps on to the pitch is that they remain a slave to tactics. Matchups are assessed. Reaction is the rule. There is no best XI at White Hart Lane this season, just a team du jour. And no matter how clever the angles, it has been the same result. Adjust. Tinker. Rarely has this team played its own game, imposed their style (attacking? remember?) on the opponent. And on those few occasions, always the same problem. No one here can score a goal.

Pavlyuchenko scores in London! Presumably these two gave him plenty of time on the ball...

It really is remarkable... life here in the Relegation Zone. Six games played. Zero wins. Four Losses and two draws. In those six matches not A SINGLE legitimate goal. You know, goals! Like when a full back makes a run, drops the ball off to a midfield player who boots an inswinging cross into the box, where a striker awaits to level home on the half-volley. That's how teams score goals, I'm told.

Spurs, bottom of the barrel, have netted four this season, just three directed in by a carcass in a white shirt. There was the own-goal from David Wheater at Middlesbrough, the heinous giveaway by the Chelsea defense that set up Bent at the Bridge, Jenas closing his eyes and sticking his toe out at home to Sunderland, and the deflection off Bent's knee (he was looking off into space) in garbage time against Villa.

Oh, how far off this is...

Could this whole mess turn around with a good result next weekend? Maybe. Maybe Bent starts scoring some. Maybe David Bentley plays like the England player he's stopped ploclaiming himself to be. And maybe McCain staffers lose track of Sarah Palin at a Toys'R'Us and she gets devoured two limbs at a time by a pack of vengeful moose. Maybe...

A more Likely plan-- back to Spurs again-- is to stop and reassess. It may be early, but that's precisely the time when it gets late these days. Autumn is here and fleeting and Winter is sooner than we'd imagine. The days will be short real soon. So now is the time to confront reality. Tottenham is in a releation battle and should treat it as such. It is again, ironically as if it needed saying, the time for "tactics." That means fuck off with the UEFA Cup, and Carling and FA Cups. Move up. Stay alive. Score a goal.

The season starts now.


The Fan's Attic said...

Perhaps Spurs should have spent some of their money on a decent forward and some defense.

Andrew said...

"A more Likely plan"

Cleverly worked like Spurs.

No no, that doesn't work.

@ TFA/Likely: What of Kaboul? He and Sagna were part of that stout Auxerre backline a few years back. Why dis Spurs give up on him? Or was it another way? Do Ligue 1 defenders just not translate well into the Prem?

The Fan's Attic said...

Sagna has turned out great for Arsenal. Kaboul...well not so much.

Perhaps the scouting department needs new blood.