Nacer Chadli did not sanction the signing of £110m worth of players in the summer. And neither did Nabil Bentaleb. Yet these very same players are finding themselves consistently blamed for Tottenham Hotspur‘s failings.
Yes, they are the ones who are on the pitch; but they are not the ones who decided who should be on the pitch.
Neil Ashton was one such commentator who found the players at fault in his post-match column following Tottenham’s loss to Arsenal. These blow-ins are in need of a history lesson we’re told. And Tim Sherwood was very vocal in his criticism of his own players following their defeat to Chelsea, bemoaning a lack of ‘guts’ and ‘pride’.
The theme is that it’s the player’s fault for not playing like a team. This seems like a grossly unfair accusation to make.
Footballers are responsible for their individual performances. It’s the management who are responsible for the overall performance of their team.
Nacer Chadli is a 24-year-old winger who has only been at Tottenham since August. Nabil Bentaleb was only promoted from the youth team after Andre Villas-Boas’ departure. And Andros Townsend is 22 and has been loaned to nine different clubs over the past five years.
How these individuals are supposed to be responsible for the failings of this team is baffling. The seeds of Tottenham’s problems were sown last summer and have only been exacerbated by the clubs management since.
Spurs don’t play like a coherent team because they’re not one. It’s very difficult to build a coherent side when you sign a lot of players in one window. It’s even harder when you sack your manager shortly afterwards.
Franco Baldini is responsible for coherency at the club. That’s the role of the technical director. It was Baldini who thought it wise to replace one player with seven. But it was Villas-Boas who would fall on his sword.
Villas-Boas is certainly not a man without fault, but if you’re going to change your team so much in one window it makes sense to at least keep your manager constant.
Which leaves Tim Sherwood with the unenviable job of trying to achieve some coherency while changing things at the same time. And while this is undoubtedly a difficult job, it is Sherwood’s job. And yet the Tottenham manager seems to think it’s everybody’s responsibility but his.
Sherwood has done well to market himself as the persecuted Englishman left with the impossible task of cleaning up a monumental mess left to him by a bunch of foreigners. He may be right to highlight the foreign bias that seems to exist in the Premier League, but wrong to believe this is the sole reason why he has found himself criticised for his decisions.
It wasn’t because he was English that he was criticised for playing Bentaleb and Dembélé against Arsenal’s midfield three in Spurs 2-0 FA Cup defeat at the Emirates. He was criticised because it was suicidal.
Seemingly unwilling to accept responsibility for his tactical mistakes, Sherwood has sought to outsource the building of team spirit to the players themselves.
In reaction to defeat to Chelsea, the Spurs manager felt his players were “too nice to each other.” Sherwood said of his players: “[they] need to show a bit more guts and not want to be someone’s mate all the time. They need to drag it out of each other.”
If neither tactics, nor team spirit come under the manager’s remit, it begs the question what does Sherwood see himself responsible for? The answer apparently depends on the success of the thing in question.
Following Spurs’ defeat to Arsenal, Sherwood praised his players’ effort, claiming they gave “everything for the team.” The obvious insinuation here was that he was responsible for this improvement in work rate and their performance was a vindication of his controversial decision to openly criticise his players.
If he is willing to take credit for his achievements, he must also take responsibility for his mistakes. While the biggest mistakes at the club were made in the summer, Sherwood must accept responsibility for the club in the short-term at least.
What is perhaps the most worrying thing for his long-term prospects is how happy he seemed to be in defeat. If Sherwood is content to be a plucky loser it would seem he’s not the man to oversee the overhaul that is needed at Tottenham.
It’s hard to see how the players are at fault given how deep the problems run at White Hart Lane. While individual errors on the pitch may have been responsible for their recent defeat to Chelsea; it’s mistakes much higher up that are accountable for Tottenham’s fast declining fortunes.