Football is a fickle sport. One day you’re the new Thierry Henry, the next you’re an over-priced Danny Welbeck.
And that spineless opinionating is only further amplified in journalistic circles, if I dare to call my lounging around at home in a dressing gown, hashing articles together for Football FanCast whilst making grilled sandwich after grilled sandwich actual journalism.
For the purposes of this article, let’s say it is. In which case, I’m as bad as the rest of the media hacks out there who seem to change their opinions every week – as if everything they’d previously written is suddenly of no significance whatsoever, leaving them completely unaccountable for it. Shame on you for believing them in the first place.
“Oh, don’t read that old tosh I wrote last weekend. Everything has changed since then! Read this, my latest article, which is jam-packed of completely irrefutable, completely accurate arguments that will ring true for a thousand years. Or, at least, until I write another one.”
So in a dramatic change from journalistic tradition, Football FanCast are breaking in the new year by owning up to what we got wrong in 2015 – starting with the dark horses in this season’s Premier League title race, Tottenham Hotspur.
Without further ado, here’s the four things (and counting) I got wrong about the Lilywhites last year.
When Federico Fazio arrived at White Hart Lane, I was convinced Spurs had pulled off one of the Premier League’s biggest coups of summer 2014. A Europa League-winning Sevilla captain available for a knock-down £8million – what’s not to like?
But there were warning signs I chose to ignore. Why had the 6 foot 5 centre-back picked up just three caps for Argentina since his debut in 2011? Why weren’t any other clubs chasing for him? Why did Spurs leave it until four days before the summer window slammed shut to launch a bid?
Needless to say, Fazio’s Spurs career did not start well, sent off during his Premier League debut against Manchester City and despite a flurry of Premier League outings soon after, failing to convince as Jan Vertonghen’s centre-back partner with a series of individual errors.
Many had compared Fazio to Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker before his north London arrival. He certainly shares the German World Cup winner’s lack of pace and cumbersome nature, but lacks the vast experience to stop attackers taking advantage of it.
Yet, at the turn of 2015 I was still assured of my opinion. La Liga is an entirely different tempo to the Premier League and I felt the 28-year-old simply needed more time to acclimatise. Even Mertesacker looked distinctly average during his first 18 months or so at Arsenal.
I feel that still may be the case, we won’t find out at Tottenham Hotspur. Now stuck below 23-year-old Kevin Wimmer in the pecking order, the South American is one of the Lilywhites’ likeliest departures this month alongside Andros Townsend.
Rumour has it West Brom are interested and for the sake of my journalistic integrity, I sincerely hope Fazio proves a few doubters wrong at the Hawthorns. His Spurs career, however, seems well and truly over.
As unassuming as any athlete whose jaw hangs slightly ajar between syllables, it’s safe to say I was not won over by Harry Kane – even as he finished last season with the most goals of any Englishman in the Premier League.
Indeed, seemingly fuelled by the sheer of velocity of support from the White Hart Lane faithful rather than any overriding attribute other than local pride and determination, I tipped Kane of the Lane to become the latest (and one of the greatest) members of the Premier League’s one-season wonder club, fulfilling a prophecy set out before him by the likes of Michael Ricketts, Marcus Stewart and Michu.
It seemed written in the stars from my perspective, especially after Kane scored just a matter of seconds into his England debut against Lithuania, that those Spurs fans yelling ‘He’s one of our own’ every week would eventually be left with a monumental egg on their collective face. Clearly, however, I need a few more lessons in astronomy.
After an underwhelming start to the season, Kane now boasts eleven goals in 20 Premier League appearances, bringing his league haul for 2015 to a whopping 27 – eight more than any other striker in the division.
Furthermore, the Hurrikane only appears to be gaining further momentum; if you believe the tabloids, the 22-year-old is now a transfer target for La Liga giants Real Madrid.
To be honest, I think the majority of Tottenham Hotspur fans would probably forgive me for this one, harbouring similar opinions themselves.
Club-record signing Erik Lamela endured a torrid first few seasons at White Hart Lane and I was rather shocked to discover on summer deadline day 2015 that the Argentina international had somehow survived the transfer window when so many Serie A clubs were more than happy to take the £30million ‘flop’ off Spurs’ hands.
In many ways, I felt Lamela’s legendary Rabona goal in the Europa League summed him up – all the talent in the world yet none of the necessary industriousness or application. A show player protruding style over substance, to me it was obvious he wouldn’t survive much longer under Mauricio Pochettino.
But then came a Man of the Match display during a 4-1 win over Manchester City, in which the 23-year-old bagged the final goal of the afternoon after assisting an earlier one. For the first time in his Spurs career, Lamela genuinely looked like a £30million attacking threat – capable both inside and outside and ready to rip any left-back placed in front of him apart.
Don’t get me wrong, Lamela still isn’t exactly the Cristiano-Ronaldo-esque winger billed when he arrived from Roma back in summer 2013. He’s looked like a £30million winger on a handful of occasions, rather than over the course of a whole season.
But it’s the South American’s tenacity I like most, averaging a whopping 2.6 tackles per match in the Premier League this season. It shows Lamela is well aware how hard he must work to eventually fulfil his much-heralded potential. Best of luck to him.
I have never written from an anti-Pochettino stance but this time last year, I wasn’t exactly pro-Pochettino either.
Indeed, I felt Daniel Levy had simply hired the flavour of the month upon appointing the Argentine in summer 2014; he certainly added a lot to Southampton’s game, but he also inherited a very talented squad bursting with youthful promise that arguably went on to perform better under successor Ronald Koeman.
I also had a rather curious theory about the 43-year-old that became increasingly convincing in it’s comedic value. What if that rather hipster-looking interpreter at Southampton, that Pochettino didn’t bring with him to White Hart Lane, was the real mastermind behind it all? A double-bluff – the front-man insisting he’s not the front-man being the front-man after all?
Extrapolating that even further, what if Pochettino was being held at St. Mary’s against his will? For all we knew, he could’ve been saying “help me, I want to go back to Argentina where there is cocaine and steak, who are all these strange men, why are you filming me?” during every awkward interview on Match of the Day, only for his interpreter to tell the cameras; “Yes, we thought Adam Lallana played very well today and we have no idea how the referee missed that obvious penalty.”
So deep down, I kind of wanted Pochettino to fail just so I could carry on gloating about my theory, and despite impressive results against the Premier League’s top sides – most notably Chelsea on New Year’s Day – the wheels looked a few loose rotations from falling off as Spurs slumped to seventh in mid-February.
But the current campaign has been a real testament to Pochettino’s managerial abilities, particularly Eric Dier and Dele Alli’s success as a midfield partnership, Spurs’ division-best goals conceded record and their current league position of fourth – just six point away from the table’s summit.
Pochettino’s certainly won me over and although Tottenham fans might not want to hear it, I think there’s now a real danger of a top European club trying to prize him away at some point over the next few years.