Review of The Season Part 2. Or – How On Earth Can We Finish 5th Next Season? Or 4th…Or…

My final post of this season. Sincere thanks to everyone who has read and commented on Tottenham On My Mind this past year, makes this one-man old-fashioned blog in a sea of clickbait and ads all worthwhile. It’s a labour of love about a passion undimmed even after all these years. Posts over the summer if there is something worth saying, see you in August.

Regards, Alan

I’ve just finished reading Terry Dyson’s autobiography, a rattling good tale of the Double years that I warmly recommend. Dyson could have dedicated his book to his family, who feature in the photos almost as prominently as do his goals that won the ’61 Cup and the ’63 Cup-Winners Cup Final, or to any of his Double team-mates. But he didn’t. This is what he wrote:

“To all Tottenham Hotspur supporters – the most important people at the club.”

Dyson means it. He’s a down-to-earth, honest man whose love of the game and of his fellow players in what many contemporary observers say is the greatest ever club side shines through on every single page.

This truth has been mislaid somewhere along the line. Exorbitant ticket prices, constantly changing kick-off times, a club dismissive of supporter interaction, more false dawns than Groundhog Day. All of these and more have created an unprecedented distance between supporter and club. The season began with so many people saying that they had almost had enough. These are supporters who have been going all their lives, every week, across England and europe. Hard core but these days they weren’t feeling it like they used to.

So the greatest achievement of this season has surely been to bring fans and players closer than before. The young home-grown players, Kane, Mason and Bentaleb especially, have matched the passion of the supporters. When they celebrate, they’re celebrating with us, rather than putting on a display of self-indulgent preening and posing. They mean it too.

“Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes”. At Spurs we’ve been desperately seeking someone to revere, to thrill, to lift us from our seats whenever he’s on the ball. At the end of August, Lamela’s excellence against QPR convinced me that he was the heir apparent. Skillful and distinctive on the ball, he had all the hallmarks of a Tottenham maverick to remember.

But I was premature. Our hero came from closer to home. As Lamela spent the rest of the season running down blind alleys, Harry Kane burst through to take his place. More valuable even than his precious goals, he truly was one of our own. In midfield Mason was wholly committed, Bentaleb clever and responsible, Rose too took his chance. They turned our season round, driven by the desire to succeed for the white and navy blue.

Football fans aren’t stupid, although a bad day on twitter could easily lead you to think otherwise. We now and have always known that we are not treated well by the board, and this is true for most of Tottenham’s history. The difference is, up until comparatively recently, supporters felt as though they had a reasonable relationship with their club, something that’s true for all clubs, not just at Spurs. Admission prices were acceptable, within the reach of working people, and there was some reciprocity between players and fans. It felt as if the fans could be the 12th man, to be part of something. In return, the players would respond, try their best. We understood if they didn’t win every time, that wasn’t the point.

Times were different then. Players now choose to have lifestyles that separate them from supporters. Terry Dyson earned £40 a week when the maximum wage was abolished in 1961, lived in the same digs for 10 years and drank after the game in the Bell and Hare. Regimented all-seater stadia and high prices dampened enthusiasm but Kane et al showed it does not have to be this way. Over the past two seasons, this blog has been critical of the board’s unduly negative and secretive approach towards the fans, and I will continue to be. On the field, something did change for the better this season and it lifted spirits wonderfully. We had some fun.

We should be justifiably proud of our young(ish) over-achievers. Supporters of other teams are envious. This season we fielded the youngest ever PL team on several occasions and probably have more home-developed players than the top four combined. However, despite the optimism, they have carried the burden of a flagging side and a failed transfer policy for long enough. This summer needs an influx of several new players able to settle quickly.

Pochettino made the key signing several months ago. He needs players able to respond to his methods and tactics, and Paul Mitchell has the task of getting them. Some managers prosper by finding a formation that suits the players at their disposal but Pochettino isn’t one of those. The current squad, bought for different purposes and a different manager, largely do not fit his high tempo, forward-passing, pressing game. The post-League Cup Final optimism in some quarters that we needed ‘one or two’ to add to our ‘homegrown spine’ was touchingly naive and completely misplaced. The squad needs a major overhaul.

Should they stay or should they go? Capoue, Kaboul and Chiriches aren’t good enough. Soldado and Paulinho are good players who have failed at Spurs, partly because various managers did not play to their strengths, then they could not lift themselves out of the doldrums. So they go too, with Adebayor whose time has passed and with my thanks and best wishes.

I’m wary of selling talent, always hopeful that skill will finally win out. Therefore I would keep Lamela and Townsend, the latter if only because he’s part of that group who dictate the dressing room atmosphere. This is important at any club, especially so at Spurs where the several new players will walk into this positivity. This will be what they learn is integral to being at Spurs. Townsend has been dreadful this season but I’d play him on the left. Both may be sold however if the price is right. Neither are indispensable and I could see them used as bargaining chips if Poch really wants a particular transfer target. I feel less strongly about Dembele, who will probably be sold but his strength and power on the ball has a role further upfield.

The manager will have a judgement to make on Fazio and Stambouli. Pochettino must have sanctioned his countryman’s purchase but it’s hard to see where such an immobile centreback fits the masterplan. However, defending is a team responsibility so if we tighten up in front of the back four, Fazio’s strength in the box may shine. Until now, they have remained firmly behind a dark cloud. He could be sold. Stambouli has not been given many opportunities, perhaps because his manager doesn’t rate him. Interesting snippet – Michael Bridges, a Spurs-supporting journalist, tweeted last week that Mitchell had Stambouli lined up as a replacement if Saints sold Schneiderlin, so they must think something of him.

I’d keep everyone else. The question is, will some of them want to stay? I just can’t see my lovely Lloris staying for more if one of the top European sides come in however much he and his family like living in London. I assume that’s why Vorm agreed to come, on a promise of first-team football. Vertonghen often looks uncommitted and I’ve thought all season that he wants to try one last big move. Eriksen too is highly thought of in Europe, although I suspect he’s not played well enough this past season to enhance his reputation. Kane will not be sold.

Kevin Wimmer, the former Cologne centre-half, is our first signing, hopefully an indication that we will try to do business early in the window. Judging from Four Four Two’s analysis, he’s a template for our transfer strategy – some experience (22 and I international cap) with his best years ahead of him, fast, decent on the ball, ambitious, dedicated. Both talent and attitude should be part of the job specification.

He’s also cheap – £4m. Levy has openly stated we’re not spending more than around £10-15m for players with most considerably less than that. All the more reason why Mitchell is so important. If a player gets an offer from a CL club, chances are they will reject us.

Depending on Fazio and Vertonghen, we may need one, possibly two centrehalfs. One keeper if Lloris goes, maybe someone experienced as third choice if he doesn’t. Another right-back possibly but the spine is much more important, so at least one more DM, preferably two (Mason is not a natural DM), two wide players able to attack and defend – the latter is absolutely crucial to the point where success or failure could hinge on those signings – and two strikers to support/cover Kane.

That’s a lot. There’s some variation depending on tactics. Jay Rodrigues at Southampton joined midfield and went up front as required, working extremely hard in the process as well as scoring goals. I think Pochettino hopes Chadli will fulfil this role but as yet he does not work hard enough. It’s a tall order, and that’s without the problems of integrating so many new players into the side, however able they are. That’s what did for AVB after all.

So an optimisitc end to the season but frankly a difficult summer ahead. Pochettino has said he wants players with PL experience but I reckon we will not have heard of many of the targets, like Wimmer. Support for Pochettino goes without saying. All the signs are that Levy will back him too. It’s perfect for him – success on the cheap, after all, isn’t that what he pays his managers for? Spent all that money, did what the football people told me to do and where did that get us? He’ll be happy, again though the suspicion that this was why Levy appointed Pochettino, because he would be compliant over transfers and bring on the youngsters. At least it looks as though we have a strategy.

Whenever we go to White Hart Lane, the spirit of Bill Nicholson is always there, a force for good in a mixed-up mumbled-up shook-up world. Despite the determined efforts of PR and marketing departments to plunder his heritage to sell units and thus demean his achievements, Billy Nick will rise above it all – the game for Spurs really is about glory, doing things in style.

Comparisons with our greatest are invidious and unfair, but it is worth a reminder of how he lay the groundwork. Bill Nick was at the club as player and coach for over 20 years before he became manager. His signings were superlative but over half the Double side were at the club before he took over. We’ve had umpteen changes of manager and Director of Football, let alone players. Pochettino has basically spent a year coaching someone else’s squad.

Last week my son and I went to the Trust meeting, where it was good to see several long-standing supporters of Tottenham On My Mind. I enjoy the meetings even though fans understandably air grievances with the club over the new ground, prices and, well, everything.

Spurs blog 111

It is a heartening experience though, not just to be with fellow supporters trying to bring club and fanbase together, but also, surprisingly, to hear that some of the club employees are as passionate about the club as we are. Sue Tilling, the club Safety Officer, chatted with us about this classic photo of Bill Nick in the dressing room. One of the chief away stewards (sorry, didn’t catch her name), stood up and said we the fans were her family. That’s why she looks after us. She meant it. It was the perfect note on which to finish my season. Let’s hope the club means it too.

Review of the Season Part 1- Spurs End On A High. Or – How On Earth Did We End Up 5th?

Spurs ended this convoluted and at times incoherent season on a high. Harry the Hero’s diving header from Dier’s sumptuous cross gave Tottenham victory against Everton and lifted us into a delightful but improbable 5th place.

2014-15 will be remembered as the season of the Fine Young Men of Tottenham Hotspur and it was fitting that Kane, the very best of them, should seal a creditable finish with an assist from another young player who when thrown into the limelight through necessity, did not blink. Like Mason and the excellent Bentaleb, who could turn out to be the best of them all, Eric Dier made the most of his opportunity. Often these youngsters have carried their more experienced team-mates on their shoulders, too often in my view.

Fitting though this ending was, the quality of the goal was not in keeping with large chunks of Tottenham’s football over the past 9 months. We have seen such rubbish sometimes, it was a most unwelcome resurrection of long-buried memories of the mid-nineties when Spurs were devoid of teamwork, ambition and above all hope. After a bright start, autumn and spring were flat and frustrating, bookends for a winter that was anything but bleak.

I watched open-mouthed and aghast at the disjointed, inept performances against Villa and Hull away, Stoke and Newcastle at home, that became a worrying pattern. Yet away from home there was another element. Late goals against the run of play transformed the side. 3 points at Villa, Hull, Swansea, Leicester, winning this way became the norm. However undeserved these wins were, we have been lucky that so many sides have missed good chances against us this season, the players began to believe in themselves. Their manager’s fearsome fitness regime that some older heads rejected, proved its worth. Spurs were still running as opponents flagged. Injuries were at a minimum. We had skilful players who without imposing themselves on the game for 90 minutes could win the match with a moment of class, Eriksen being the prime example.

In April and May, understandably the young players who had lifted us from the doldrums were mentally weary and performances suffered. The legs were still willing but the minds were weak. This inconsistency was intensely frustrating but completely predictable given the inexperience of half the players and the lack of balance in the team. Those who have taken a heavily critical approach on social media should just consider this for a moment. More about the manager and players in a moment, but this squad was in no way equipped for success. Sides full of young players do not prosper in the Premier League. I have been critical of an apparent lack of learning-from-mistakes and apparently of effort, I’ve bitten my tongue in irritation at a succession of crass errors, I realise our high final position is in part a comment of the inadequacies of other teams in a mundane PL, but remember this season as one where a developing team over-achieved.

In the middle, remember too some glorious matches and moments made all the sweeter because they were unexpected. Kane’s emergence as a top class footballer, one of our own come to save us from mediocrity. He will have a fine career but surely never a season like this one where for a while everything worked, every shot went in, even the dodgy ones. I loved him most though over the last month or so where though he played well the goals weren’t coming, yet he worked so hard, often without any support, intelligent, constant effort shifting the defence around, making space for others, always an eye for goal. He’s forever trying to do something for the sake of the team rather than personal glory. And all this without a hair out of place.

A hard-fought, tense draw against Manchester United after Christmas was a creditable result that should not be forgotten despite what followed. My vision of the Chelsea match is a dream-like blur of white shirts sweeping at will through the Blues defence, goal upon goal but the movement was sublime. Eriksen drifting here and there, pulling defenders with him, Chadli into the space, Kane a ghost for all Cahill and Terry could lay a hand on him. Harry’s shimmy and turn for his goal in the second half, bliss.

Then Arsenal, not just north London bragging rights but a deserved win against one of the best. Kane’s winner, right behind that looping header that hung for an age before nestling softly into the corner of the net, was unforgettable. Most of all, the atmosphere was as full-bloodied and committed as anything from the 45 plus years I’ve been going, and I’ve been to every one of the glory glory days and nights in that time. Bedlam in the stands, ears ringing in time with the tuningfork girders of the grand old ground vibrating in joyous rhythm, perhaps for the very last time. Perhaps there will never be another occasion like it before the wrecking ball comes in.

A Wembley final too, disappointing outcome but at least we took the game to Chelsea in the first half before their experience and billions became too much on this occasion. A reminder of the correlation between salaries and success in the modern era, Spurs’ wage bill is the 6th or 7th highest in the PL and that’s where we usually finish. The best young player of the season gets about a quarter of what Sterling is demanding.

Mauricio Pochettino isn’t the messiah, not even a naughty little boy. He’s a hard-working, diligent manager who has done very well to get Spurs through this season, let alone finish 5th. Firmly wedded to 4-2-3-1, the players know what is expected of them, and, most importantly in terms of progress in the long run, can build on this next season because for once there will be no changes in the summer.

This focus can also be his weakness because there have been times where this set-up has been too rigid. Towards the end of the season it felt as if he was devoid of ideas and waiting for the summer where he could buy players to fit his philosophy of high-tempo, pressing and always looking to pass the ball forward. I’m trying to sidestep the word ‘transitional’ here because it applies to most of the last 20 years, but also because it’s a euphemism. Pochettino has faced up redoubtably to a legacy of gross mis-management and neglect of the playing resources. Villas-Boas did not know what to do with the post-Bale influx of players, a £100m windfall and once in a generation opportunity that has been wasted. Sherwood was merely a caretaker.

Tactics schmatics. In the end, it’s all about players and the manager’s ability to pick the right ones. Pochettino was left with a poor squad unfit for purpose. One reason he’s been unable to change things around too much is simply that he does not have the options. The young players have prospered because they were prepared to buy into the approach of a manager who told them he could make them better players. Remember too they had to play because Pochettino quickly discovered the paucity of his inheritance.

Several apparently were not able or willing to follow their manager. Chiriches is a walking mistake, neat in the tackle but holds onto the ball in dangerous situations and easily beaten in physical aerial challenges. Capoue is too slow and one-dimensional for this manager, whose biggest mistake was entrusting Kaboul with the role of first-pick centrehalf. Injuries have deprived the Frenchman of the supple athleticism and power that made him so promising. The risk of giving such prominence to an injury-prone player was too much. I would not have sold Dawson, whose leadership and determination was surely an asset during times of change. Fazio, presumably signed with Pochettino’s agreement, does not look like an upgrade as he lumbers in and out of the side. Tough and clever enough to compensate for his limitations, he’s a barrier in the box but outside he has all the mobility of a tower block. Dier as I’ve said shows promise at centreback. He was fearless up against Costa in the League Cup final.

Vertonghen appears distant and aloof sometimes yet remains our best centreback despite being caught square one on one too often. In one match, Leicester home I think it was, he was inexcusably arm-waving and moaning at the problems around him instead of taking responsiblity to do something about them as senior defender. I suspect he would go if made a good offer.

Perhaps the season should be characterised not so much about the youth of the players who have done well but by those willing to take their opportunity. Ryan Mason said recently that he finally feels like a proper footballer. He’s taken his chance magnificently. From nowhere to the England team via a good summer tour in America that was the start of it all. I like his committment and ability to move the ball forward and he does not seem like a natural defensive midfielder so maybe all of this and playing out of position. We would have done less without him yet can’t rely on him to be the heart of the defensive midfield. His partner Bentaleb often gives him encouragement and an arm round the shoulders in solidarity. Spurs have taught this group togetherness and to take responsibility. Always available, he has an eye for the pass and keeps the ball moving. Highly impressive, he really could be something in the future.

If we’re talking about taking chances, Danny Rose comes out on top. He’s fought off the promising Ben Davies and looks every inch the attacking full-back. He deserves fulsome praise.

Our biggest problem has been the players wide in the ‘3’ of the 4-2-3-1. None of them suit the set-up because they are defensively weak. Chadli and Lamela are best when freed of any defensive responsibilities. I have been critical of the Belgian for his lack of work-rate. Lamela has learned to put in the yards but not that in the PL he’s going to get tackled before he can get up a head of steam. Both are effective when allowed to drift into the middle. Chadli has scored some fine goals and Lamela’s perfectly weighted angled through-balls from 25 yards are a delight. However, the gaps they leave behind have repeatedly left a fragile back four exposed, which some opponents have ruthlessly exploited.

Townsend is the Spurs youngster who has failed to grasp the nettle. He’s best flying down the left wing, powerful and direct. He’s not a great thinker on the pitch and the inverted winger role gives him too many choices. Come inside, go outside on the weaker foot, lay it off – too much for him, slows him down for a vital, fatal second.

Inside, Eriksen’s season has tailed away. He will never be a player who dominates a midfield. Rather, he needs someone else to win that battle, then he could win the match for you. Some fine goals and free-kicks will linger, none more so than his cool finish up at Brammal Lane when the defence fell apart late on. Spurs need more through-balls – we made chances from these and Eriksen can deliver. Trouble is, and this sounds crass I know, but he and Lamela have to have someone to pass to. So often this term, Kane has either been on his own up front or has gone out of the box in order to set something up. Poor Bobby Soldado is shot to pieces, a troubled soul who has scored goals by instinct since he was a boy and so has no idea how to make it better now they have dried up. Beyond redemption in north London, I can’t bear to see him suffer any more and wish him goals wherever he goes. Adebayor has been invisible, a troubled soul and out of contention. So no one to pass to.

Dembele holds on the ball and so does not seem to fit, but he has so much ability and strength, surely we can do something. He’s never been a DM and should play further forward. I’m surprised Stambouli has not been given more of a chance, especially as he was bought under Pochettino’s watch. Paulinho needs some sun on his back, once a good player who looks a long way from home. Nothing left in north London for him.

Last but not least, Hugo Lloris has been outstanding this year. I feel for him playing behind a dreadful back four. He looks so crestfallen when we concede as if it hurts him personally. His saves have earned us a good few points this season. I assume he will go in the summer, why would he stay if an offer from a better team in Europe comes along, and good luck to him, I will really miss him.

After the League Cup Final, it was easy to get swept away in a tide of optimism. The many pieces saying we had a spine of young players to rely on to secure future success were sweet but naive. My view is unchanged from well before Christmas. This summer requires a major overhaul of the squad and that’s without departures of the players like Lloris, Vertonghen and Eriksen who might be in demand. More about the future plus reflections on where the club is right now later in the week.

Spurs Head for the Beach In Trunks And A Sash

When it’s time, know when to let go with a smile and slip away peacefully. The final home game of the season took place in hot sunshine but couldn’t work up a head of steam and certainly didn’t fire up the fans.

Even relegation-threatened Hull did not display the expected passion. In the end they succumbed meekly to two fine Spurs goals completely out of keeping with the leaden mediocrity of the rest of our performance. 2014-15’s time had come, and judging by the way the team have faded since the League Cup Final, it’s unlikely to be lamented.

Spurs trotted out resplendent in their new shirts, now on sale at the club shop. I haven’t bought a team shirt since promotion in the Admiral top with a collar and nasty cheap knitted polyester, but think I am right in saying that in recent years it’s not been available until early September and several games into the season. However it does mean that to keep up, fans have had to buy two different designs in one season.

Oozing PR blather like pus seeping from a blackhead, designers Under Armour say it’s part of our heritage, inspired as it is by the six lines below the cockerel on the emblem atop the West Stand. The six lines that are ENGRAVED ON THE HEART OF EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US. I think it’s hideous and inspired by a tin of Tesco Value Baked Beans but then I’m old and see Spurs in white shirts and navy blue shorts, nothing else. I don’t even know the squad numbers off the top of my head. In some ways I’d prefer if they just came out and said, “Look, we’re trying to flog as much schmutter as we can and what can you do with a farkuckter white shirt?” At least that’s honest. Leave the heritage stuff o when it matters.

Everyone’s ready for the beach. Even the ‘lap of appreciation’ was over in a trice and we strolled back to join the ‘queue of frustration’ at White Hart Lane station. The players nipped out, followed by excited kids holding a banner saying, “So long suckers, thanks for the cash.” Most people had left by then already. Except three Hull fans. Why do three away fans always stay behind for our lap of honour?

Every year I’m cynical about it, and every year I stay so the only sucker is me. It’s part of my end of season ritual. Endings have to be done properly and so I wait until the very last player has disappeared down the tunnel before taking a last look round the old ground and turning for home. Glad this season is done but wondering how I’ll spend the summer without it.

As the stewards came out near the final whistle as they do for every game, I chuckled that they were ready for the pitch invasion. Looking towards the Park Lane, the numbers of high-vis jackets meant it looked as if they really were. More like the brightness would wake a few people up. I can confirm there was no hysterical emotional surge towards the front as the players trooped round. I know it doesn’t matter in the slightest but they could make a bit more effort. Half of them chatted amongst themselves paying little notice to the stands. They used to kick a few footballs into the crowd and give out some tut from the shop, corny but why not. Adebayor posed for selfies last year (absent this by the way as was the club captain and the manager), again it’s corny but it’s some rare and precious interaction between fans and players.

Only Hugo at the head of the column and Kane proudly bringing up the rear really tried. Harry didn’t want to get off the pitch in a season that he will never forget. He will stay but this could have been Lloris’s last lap. I can’t see him starting next season, not even because he’s inspired by the new goalkeeping jersey. A sad loss but glad I could bid him farewell.

We bade farewell to another Spurs keeper, Brad Friedel. Spurs gave him a new lease of life as his career looked to be on the slide. Not only grateful for the chance, he fully repaid us with much-needed reassurance at the back. The respect and influence he engendered behind the scenes was shown in the way the substitutes joined in the applause at the beginning and end of his half-time interview.

Through these soft-focus, misty lenses of my specs, more nostalgia. Or maybe they just needed a clean. Michael Dawson received a standing ovation from all four stands on the final whistle in appreciation both of what he gave us and what we have lost. I know what he could and could not do. I don’t see that what we bought was a significant upgrade and we could have sorely done with his spirit and heart.

Ah yes, there was a match. Spurs’ early intent was not matched by cohesive football. Several moves ended prematurely. At the back we looked unsteady but Hull like many opponents this term missed the chances that came their way. As the game went on, Hull appeared to be stiff with nerves and never showed the urgency I was expecting.

Into the second half, much of the same. Chadli and Lamela were reasonable in roving roles. It suits them, but other teams much better than Hull have exploited the gaps they left behind. Yesterday they combined to produce a fine goal. Lamela’s rabona brings me less joy than his ability to slide in a diagonal pass from 25 yards out. We’ve seen it several times this season. Here, it took out the whole defence and Chadli’s clever run took him past the keeper and he rolled it in.

That was my favourite but Rose followed close behind. He and Mason both had decent games. Their turn to combine, Mason chipping over the back four to Rose whose slightly mishit volley sailed in. Runs and through-balls that found the runners. Take note.

End of season and time for big changes. More about this over the next couple of weeks in the usual summaries of the season, but the essence is: these players are not good enough. Tactics, motivation, manager: all relevent but Pochettino has spent the last nine months discovering how thin this squad is, both in terms of talent and how their skills fit the way he wants to play. The optimistic post-League Cup Final articles saying we had the spine of a team in our youngsters were sweet but wrong. I like Mason, Kane, Dier and Bentaleb, Rose has come on leaps and bounds, but at a conservative estimate we need two centre-halves, one DM, wide midfielders who can defend as well as attack and two strikers to join these young men and create a strong squad with options. And that assumes Lloris, Eriksen and Vertonghen stay. But let’s worry about that another time.

Spurs Sink Without A Trace

A game to illustrate the difference between supporters and players.

Supporters: end of the season but there’s still something to fight for. Europe, well, on balance yeah, a few trips, better than nothing, good to bring players in come summer. Anyway, 6th is better than 7th, isn’t that enough? Pochettino wants to finish above Saints, must mean something. We pay to watch the shirt so you can play for it, bit of pride.

Players: nah.

Yesterday Spurs continued their relentless pursuit of mediocrity in dogged fashion, contriving to produce one of the worst performances of the season. Try as we might, we still can’t fall below 6th place. Simply awful. We bucked up a bit last week against City ( sorry no article last week, I was at the game but work pressures got in the way of writing. Feh!) but folded at the first provocation versus a determined Stoke team, who really do have nothing to play for but you would not have guessed.

Faced with the absence of Rose, not for the first time this season Pochettino not only brought in another player, Chiriches in this case, but shifted the whole defence around. Vertonghen and Fazio are hardly an impenetrable barrier but they are the best centreback pairing we have available. We might even be thinking ahead and giving them more playing time together in preparation for next season (although I think Verts will go if he gets a good offer).

Yet Jan was switched to left-back where he’s not so super and Chiriches came into the centre. Dier is a good prospect but inexperienced and also out of position. We can’t defend anyway and more disruption was meat and drink to Stoke, who gorged themselves until they were full and could eat no more.

Poch says Yedlin isn’t ready for the PL yet. On this showing neither are the rest of them. A poorly cleared cross let Adam in for a header on the quarter and that was pretty much that. The latest in a long line of defensive cock-ups saw Dier and Lloris get in a total mess, leaving an open goal. It’s precisely the sort of error that comes from not playing together as a defensive unit often enough. Hugo pulled out a few decent stops in the second half, in between thinking about his transfer to, well, anywhere where he doesn’t have to see Fazio and Chiriches standing in front of him.

Chiriches made life difficult for everyone by being sent off for two bookable offences, fouls that smacked of the desperation of a player who knows he’s out of his depth. Vlad the Bad sums up the Tottenham transfer policy that has seen a once in a lifetime windfall of the cash for Bale almost completely wasted. When he joined Spurs, you could see why we bought him. A ball-playing centreback with the ability to pinch the ball off an opponent in the box, we could mould this youngish man, already an international, into a very modern mobile defender. As it turned out, he has contributed precisely nothing over two seasons. He’s a mistake waiting to happen who appears bewildered by the pace and physicality of the Premier League. Never has a player more often made me shout, “No!” in that fraction of a second when he’s about to try something nifty on the edge of our box that everyone in the ground knows is doomed to failure.

Kudos to supporters of both sides who gave Jimmy Greaves a rousing get-well-soon round of applause. Jim, all the very best.

That’s it really. No pointers, no judgements, just some finger-pointing at players who could at the very least put more into this game. Like our season, this article ends not with a bang but with a whimper.

You could pass the time with this new football trivis app, written by Justin, a ST holder in the Park Lane. Happy to help a fellow Spur