With Christmas time rapidly approaching, considering some of the issues that have plagued Tottenham Hotspur’s season so far, you would have thought that festive goodwill would be in abundance in N17.
Following a summer of managerial change and tactical upheaval, only to be negated by chairman Daniel Levy’s failure to adequately back both up in the transfer market, Andre Villas-Boas’ side has been besieged by injuries to crucial first team players.
Yet despite the doom, gloom and often over exuberant doom mongering that’s been in attendance at White Hart Lane at points this term, Tottenham aren’t doing that badly at all. In fact, whisper it quietly, but they’re actually enjoying a very astute term so far under their new Portuguese leader.
With the frenetic, yet equally defining festive fixture list set to kick into gear, Spurs sit joint fourth in the Premier League, well in contention for a targeted Champions League spot, a place in the knockout rounds of the Europa League awaits and a series of Christmas fixtures that offers them a real chance to gain momentum, lies just ahead.
But bizarrely, where as the early phases of the Premier League season saw extrinsic outlets offer some of the most negative and often unfounded critique the Lilywhites have been exposed to in recent times, as the season has continued, it’s been the voices of many of their own that have offered the most cause for pessimism.
There was something ever so nihilistic in the lukewarm praise that small sections of Spurs’ support bestowed upon Andre Villas-Boas’ men following the 3-0 win at Fulham. Following the wins against West Ham United and Liverpool respectively, the three points gained at Craven Cottage saw the side step up to the plate when the pressure was on, turning the tides of skepticism that had come following three straight league defeats.
Although for some, the wins weren’t enough. The perceived stuttering nature of the football being played during these three wins wasn’t enough for. And you get the feeling that Sunday’s 90th minute implosion at Goodison Park offered some fans the perfect early Christmas present.
If you needed any evidence that some were slightly begrudging in their recent praise of Spurs’ performances, than look no further than the reaction from some parties to the 2-1 defeat to Everton. In the last 48 hours, the usual outlets from social media to radio phone-ins, has seen Villas-Boas slammed, Adebayor put on the armchair transfer list and the William Gallas hate mob turn their attentions to Steven Caulker.
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While it’s important to stress that the majority of Spurs fans are very much behind their manager, the alarming gloom emanating from a small, but sizeable chunk of supporters beggars belief.
The manner of the defeat at Goodison Park was difficult to stomach and supporters are well within their right to bemoan the amount of late goals their side have conceded. Yes, the side need to stem the flow of goals let in at the death, but for some to say they shouldn’t have conceded any goals so late, it’s simply out of proportion.
Spurs would be sitting at the top of the Premier League had games lasted only 80 minutes, rather than the 90. On the flipside if games lasted only 45 minutes, Aston Villa would be sixth. You can frame these sort of statistics however you want, but as frustrating as that is for fans, surely that should be acting as a motivational tool, rather than a stick to hit their manager with?
Since Andre Villas-Boas has been at the club, he’s not been able to field their player of the year in Scott Parker, for one minute of league football. Their outstanding central defender of last year in Younes Kaboul, was available for the season’s opener, before being ruled out till late January. The club’s one and only recognized left-back in Benoit Assou-Ekotto, racked up only three outings this term before injury.
It gets better, too. Mousa Dembele, arguably the sole outlet of creativity in this Spurs midfield, has missed a large chunk of their season’s proceedings with a hip injury. And even when you take fitness out the equation, the trouble hasn’t stopped there.
Spurs sit level fourth in the league, after selling not one, but two of their greatest assets. While the spiteful contingent are too busy hurling abuse at Luka Modric, they may have forgotten that the club lost arguably the best midfielder it possessed for near on 20 years. Rafael van der Vaart’s loss was a further hammer blow. And let’s not forget, where as Villas-Boas was desperate for the metronomic skills of Porto’s Joao Moutinho to build his side around, he was served Clint Dempsey instead.
These aren’t little pot-shot problems here. The injuries Spurs have faced and the transfer market dealings they inflicted upon themselves are the sort of issues that derail seasons. Yet they’re still well in contention for a fourth placed finish and progress in the Europa League.
Until people let go of the bleary eyed nostalgia of last season and beyond, this perceived negativity is never going to dissipate. Villas-Boas has made his mistakes and there is some real room for improvement, but the club is evolving.
Spurs aren’t pinging the ball around with the panache of last season, but they are still picking up points and that’s what fans should be focusing on, especially in the circumstances, rather than moaning as to where the swashbuckling play of last term has gone.
With talk of a revived move for Joao Moutinho in the works, a squad that is learning and developing through every game and a manager that desperately craves success on not one, but two fronts, fans should be bold, positive and content heading into 2013. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it wasn’t without its hiccups, either. The naysayers would do well to remember that.