There may be a new manager, a new formation and a new set-up at Tottenham Hotspur this season, but some things it appears, are very much the same at White Hart Lane. But far from representing a comforting motif from happier times, it is Spurs’ startling culture of complacency against perceived lesser opposition that continues to eat away at the men from N17.
The summer of change and upheaval at Spurs have left many feeling highly emotive as Andre Villas-Boas’ side have struggled to get their season out of first gear so far. Fingers have been pointed fervently at the manager who already appears to be treated as a scapegoat in some quarters for the way things have worked out for Tottenham this term.
Villas-Boas hasn’t been exactly faultless so far this season and a couple of suspect substitutions in his first two home games seemed to suggest just how anxious the Portuguese is to get off the mark. But it’s not as if he hasn’t had to endure an entire amalgamation of issues at the club already. The club has lost their spiritual figurehead and best footballer in Ledley King and Luka Modric. The fans’ player of the year, Scott Parker, has been ruled out for a month and the chairman’s transfer policy dictated that Villas-Boas had to manage the first three games of the season without a completed squad.
But he has also inherited a bulk of players that have previous when it comes to churning out the sort of result that we’ve seen during the weekend. Fans will point to the fact that at times, the team looked dreadfully uninspired and devoid of inspiration during Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Norwich; something which you could rarely ever associate with Harry Redknapp’s side of the last four years.
But perhaps the most overwhelmingly negative hallmark that Redknapp’s side always bestowed was their consistent inability to beat the lesser teams; the games the were expected to win, especially at home.
It’s not something that’s been sung from the rooftops in recent days, such is the malaise that is seeming surrounding Villas-Boas at the moment, but let’s not forget Spurs actually lost at home to Norwich last term. Their home form was impeccable for the first half of the season, but the same problem continued to feature crop up as the season went out. Games against notoriously woeful travellers Stoke and Wolves both produced draws when they really should have won. April’s fixture to Queens Park Rangers was away from home, but the story was much the same as they went down 1-0.
And if we go back to back to the 2010-11 season, the roots of the problem are still evident to see. Games against Wigan, West Brom, Blackpool and West Ham at White Hart Lane produced a paltry three points. Corresponding fixtures against the Tangerines and the Hammers away from home – two sides that both went on to get relegated – saw Tottenham travel home with no points from either.
To finally emphasize the issue; even in Spurs’ breakthrough fourth placed finish of the 2009-10 season, the problem was still rearing its ugly head. Games against Hull City, Wolves and Stoke at home saw Spurs clock up just the one point. These were again, all fixtures of which Tottenham were expected to come out with three points from. Two losses and a draw, regardless of circumstance, wasn’t
It’s easy to sit here and put every single game from the last two years under the microscope and try to bend it to your own conclusions. And if you do analyze the last three years, you also see that Spurs have played some brilliant football and finished fourth, fifth and then fourth again last term – which of course is in no small part to the worries that many have at the moment. But Spurs have consistently, it seems, struggled to win matches at home against the sort of opposition they’ve been expected to.
How do you define unfancied opposition? All the teams mentioned in the above passages have been teams that have either been poor travellers, relegation threatened sides or teams in a desperately bad run of form. With the greatest respect to all mentioned, when they came to White Hart Lane, Spurs should have had more than enough to pick up the three points. It was mightily disappointing to see Spurs perform the way they did against Norwich, especially when you consider the damage that Fulham inflicted on them in their 5-0 defeat.
But the point is, despite the manner of the defeat, this sort of result was hardly an alien concept during the team’s time under Redknapp’s stewardship – let alone an entirely new management team trying to develop a new ethos for the club. No one is denying that drawing your first two home games is disappointing, but it doesn’t constitute the end of the world.
In fact, it was after the very same fixture last season that saw many finally loose patience with Redknapp’s perceived tactical fallibility as Spurs spiraled away during the second half of the season. They were calling for someone who had the nous to develop the side into a more tactically cultured beast, capable of making a long-term push onto the next level. It appears that now they’ve got someone trying to do something different, not all seem prepared to give him a chance.
Because Spurs can push on and they really can develop this season, One of the aims of this restructuring process hopefully entails that Spurs will no longer cave under the expectation of beating the teams they’re expected to do at White Hart Lane. The performance against Norwich was poor at best, but what happened in the first two games could have happened to most teams in this league- including Harry Redknapp’s from last season.
Spurs played decent football against Newcastle and West Brom that wasn’t bad considering how incomplete the squad was. To boo the team off after a point against what looks to be an extremely resilient Baggies side was as impatient as it was unbelievably short sighted.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and it certainly wasn’t built without the right tools to do so. Villas-Boas has only just acquired the full set on Friday evening. Spurs have appointed someone for the long term, with the aim of not just matching what Redknapp achieved, but surpassing it. Part of that includes improving on that record against the lesser teams at home and that isn’t an easy fix.
Tottenham must improve and from here on in and the manager must start to get his team winning matches. But supporters must regain perspective and they must get behind Villas-Boas; or beating the lesser teams at home will become the least of their problems.
How do you feel about Spurs complacency against the ‘lesser’ teams? Is this a burning issue and if so, if Villas-Boas capable of rectifying it? Let me know what you think on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus and get the Spurs chat going.