Monthly Archives: November 2013

How to get Spurs winning: Pt 1

In a series brazenly stolen from just about every newspaper and media outlet to ever exist, I diagnose a problem Spurs have and propose a solution.

Starsky and Hutch: The best attacks come in 2’s

I point blankly refuse to believe that a player can lose all his talent from one game to another or from one season to another. Roberto Soldado is a bloody good striker. He’s just being utilised wrongly. So there’s that but how do we utilise him properly.

About 6 years ago, the partnership of a no. 9 and no. 10 appeared. There’s a common misconception about this. I don’t mean a big-man-little-man partnership. I’d call that a partnership of two true no.9’s. It’s not a Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch partnership. What I mean is a creative forward and a clinical forward. It appeared, as luck would have it in, in a lilywhite jersey.

It was the partnership of Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov and it worked brilliantly.

Then it disappeared. never to be seen again…

Until January of last season. The creative forward and clinical forward partnership made its biblical return. The return of the prodigal partnership

Liverpool signed Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea. Suarez became the no.10 and Sturridge became the no.9. It’s been quite good since then.

Then over the summer it started its spread throughout the Premier League.

Manchester City started employing it. Manchester United stated to employ it. The three most potent attacks in the Premier League play using a no.9/no.10 partnership. This is hardly coincidence.

Red is the new black; False is the new true

While it true to say that the no.9 and the no.10 I am talking about here fall under the osposis of a no.9 and a no.10. They are not true no.10’s and true no.9’s

The partnership of a true no.10 behind a true no.9, holding strict tactical positions, is the partnerhship of Diego Forlan and Juan Roman Riquelme at Villareal.

Forlan tended not to get involved in the build-up.  He has  provided an assist every 12 games throughout his whole career.

Riquelme on the other hand was the artisan of build-up.

This was partnership of a true no.10 and true no.9.

False is the new true.

All the current partnerships of a 9 & a 10 swaps roles at a whim.

Van Perise is the 9 for United. His main job is to score goals but he often gets involved in the build-up and creation of chances.

Rooney is the no.10 for United. His main job is to create goal-scoring chances but he often gets involved in the scoring of goals.

The above is true for the partnerships of Alvaro Negredo, Sergio Aguero and the partnership of Sturridge and Suarez. Just swap the names around a bit.

That was just a dissertation about the development of striker partnerships from a big-man-little-man partnership or a true no.10 & a true no.9 partnership to the modern partnership of a false 10 and a false 9.

Don’t worry, be happy

We don’t score goals and the biggest reason for this is because Soldado, the striker brought into score loads of goals is extremely isolated. Soldado is receiving 20.9 passes per game. Which is pathetic but exactly what you’d expect from man who received an average of 19.8 passes last season.

Soldado doesn’t get involved in the build-up play and that needs to change. It gradually is as well. Much derision has made over this heat-map but I take positives from it. Soldado is gradually learning to get involved in the build-up. He has averaged 1.3 key passes per game from only 20.9 passes received. That translates into a key pass every 6.22 passes. I have no doubt that Soldado will grow into the false 9 role.

Now we just need the false 10. Lewis Holtby doesn’t fit the bill as this player. He drops way to deep and leaves Soldado so isolated that it’s simply for two CB’s to crowd him out, I don’t need stats to confirm this because it’s so blatantly obvious.

That leaves Christain Eriksen, who is injured for the time being, Gylfi Sigurdsson, who is appalling in tight spaces and unsuited to the role of a a false 10.

Eriksen is the perfect man for the job but he’s injured for the next month.

Once Soldado and Eriksen are partnered together and learn to interchange roles, I expect us to start scoring goals.

The mercurial Harry Kane

There is another player who’s perfectly suited for the role. Harry Kane.

Kane is strong and therefore good in tight spaces. Surprisingly elegant for someone you’d expect to be clumsy. He has a thunderous shot and has an eye for a key pass and assist.

Now I’m not for one minute suggesting that he’ll set the world alight immediately but the system, not those handling it, is more important  I mean Roma replaced the injured Francesco Totti with Marco Boriello and still continue to attack in a ruthlessly proficient manner. If that doesn’t prove my point, nothing will. 

The drop in quality from Totti to Boriello is much, much more than Eriksen to Kane. 

I certainly think that Kane can hold down the fort until Eriksen gets back and hey, you never know, he might produce a performance like he did against Hull in the Capital One Cup.

I’m confident that once Eriksen returns that Soldado and Eriksen will form a wicked partnership.

And this is all moot because AVB never plays a player lacking experience at senior level.


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Let’s Set the Record Straight

This is the interview that ensued meltdown.


If anybody finds anything controversial with the words he explicitly said in this interview, then they have to take a long look at themselves in the mirror. They’re the type of person who fears their own shadow because it follows them and finds an enemy in a 2 pound coin.

If you find anything wrong with what is implicitly stated in this interview, I’m about to debunk that.

What Defoe actually said

You can listen to the full interview above.  The non-stock quotes.

“Getting into a World Cup squad is based on merit and you have to play for your club”

“As a forward, if you are not getting the chances, it will be difficult.”

“Frank Lampard got it right when he said the other day that everyone is fighting [for places].”

“It’s important that everyone goes back to their clubs and plays games to try to impress the manager.”

“It’s a long way to go before the World Cup. There is a lot of football to be played and we will see what happens. You never know, I might play every game from now on.”

It took me 5 seconds to find a copy-and-paste of Defoe’s Sun interview on an Arabic website. Unfortunately some people are all too impetuous when succumbing to a pre-defined narrative.

Back on topic…

The Sun ran with the headline “Dewoe (lol). AVB Wrecking My World Cup Dream.”

As is evident, Defoe never explicitly said that AVB is wrecking his chances of making the World Cup squad.

The Sun only sensationalises the headline. A segment of Spurs fans took it a step further and fabricated a quote FROM THEIR OWN PLAYER. I mean, jesus.

For some hilarious reason, some-thing decided to fabricate a quote from their own player. This was obviously done to gain followers on Twitter. The reason Defoe was chosen, as opposed to the million other players who say they want playing time, was because he’s the archetypical Spurs scapegoat. A satirical post on what makes a Spurs scapegoat is in the pipeline.

Then other Spurs fans decided to believe whoever fabricated the quote and hey presto! we have stage 4 meltdown.

The Explicit/Implicit Pact

To take it a step further, suddenly every Spurs fan that doesn’t like Defoe is a qualified and chartered psychologist.

Anybody that thinks that Defoe took a stab at AVB in the quotes above, is delusional. He didn’t. Now he may have implicitly taken a stab at AVB. But who are we to know that? I wouldn’t imagine that there’s a probe burrowed inside Defoe’s head Eddie Murphy-style sending dossier’s about JD’s emotions to a man sitting in a cupboard.

Judging what a person is saying by the conformation of their face is ludicrous because there’s no way to tell for sure what a player’s thinking.

The journalist ask Defoe; “Do you feel it is important that you’re starting regularly?”

JD answered; “Getting into a World Cup squad is based on merit and you have to play for your club

Defoe thinks it’s important to start to get into the World Cup squad. What a disgrace.

Defoe could be a masochist. He could revel in the pain of not playing. In which case he’d show happiness

Defoe could be a sadistic axe murderer. He could only revel in chopping people in little chunks and be placid about not playing

Defoe could be a typical footballer. He could want to playing. In which case he’d be frustrated at not playing.

There you have three emotions evoked from the same thing. How can you draw a definitive conclusions from Defoe saying he doesn’t want to play if there are at least three viable options?

Trick question; you can’t.

‘But you can see it in his face!,’ they say

‘He’s saying that AVB is ruining his career,’

‘Look he twitched an eyebrow. AVB’s clearly holding his captive in cellar with only bread and water to drink.’


Defoe has multiple faces, all interchangeably, he has a ‘Build-up play is for peasants’ face. He has a ‘AVB’s ruining my career’ face. He has ‘I won’t score this because I hate Tottenham Hotspur’ face.



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Just Some Food For Thought

I like to start my posts with a simple question. I’ll continue in much the same vein.

How is it that a team can be completely transformed from month-to-month or week-to-week or in an extreme case from half-to-half?


Sunday against Newcastle United was one such extreme case. The first half absolutely turgid. A quick change of system and substitutions appropriate to instigate the change and hey presto! we looked phenomenal. The best football Spurs played since the last time they played their best football was played  that second half.

How is it that one tactical change (Kaboul for Chiriches is like-for-like), Sandro for Dembele, can transform a team into much more proficient defense and attack?

My Hypothesis 

My hypothesis is that the system deployed by a manager is more important than the players used in the system. In fact, the system deployed by the manager is so much more important than the quality of the players used in the system that the quality of the players isn’t important at all. Exaggeration. It is important but only minutely.

Hear me out.

A few anecdotes. Roma this season and last are a prime example of this hypothesis in action.

Roma under Rudi Garcia

Last season, the overall quality of the Roma team was far better than the Roma team now. The sum of their parts was greater last season than it is this season. They had players like Osvaldo, Lamela & Marquinhos on their roster. Players that are no longer there, needless to say.

This season they are doing better with a better team.

This season they are doing better with a worse squad.

The problem with Roma over the last two season has been that they can’t keep out goals. They had a very leaky defense up until this season. There was no problem with the attack, averaging 1.7 goals a game but they only had a goal difference of +21. They conceded 106 goals in 76 games!

This problem was endemic. It didn’t changed when Luis Enrique was sacked and Zdenek Zeman was appointed.

It did change when Rudi Garcia was appointed. Roma under Rudi Garcia play a bunkered defense and invite long shots. But when the opposition gets within 25 yards, they defend like a frenzy of bees. They press extremely hard but only within the opposition’s final third. As it turns out, Roma are very suited to this style of play. And it has stopped them conceding goals (3 in 12 games).

Garcia didn’t change a lot just how far from their goal Roma starts to defend and it’s completely transformed AS Roma. And an extra emphasis on attack, which was only made possible by the bunkered defense.

There is a system that suits every squad and it’s about finding that system. The system or philosophy, whatever you want to term it, is more important than the players themselves. As demonstrated by Roma. You can take out their 3 best players and with a slight change of system you can still perform much, much, much, much better.

Roma this season  and last is the example that is most relevant right now but there are a few other glaring examples from years gone by.

Barcelona under Pep Guardiola

Before Guardiola took over Barcelona, they played a push-and-run style very similar to Tottenham’s double winning side. It was brilliant to watch but not very successful. Barcelona hadn’t won a La Liga in 3 year (yes, that is unsuccessful for some teams!). Guardiola took over and immediately sold on Ronaldinho and Deco, the two best players on the roster at the time. Remember Xavi & Iniesta weren’t what they are now, back then and Messi hadn’t gone beserk just yet. In fact many very good players over the next two summers would be sold on. Including Eidur Gudjohnsen, Samuel Eto’o, Alexander Hleb and Martín Cáceres. They were all deemed unsuitable for the system.

Guardiola changed the team from a push-and-run style of football to a, as the term would soon be coined, Tiki-Taka style of football. This brought unprecedented success with a squad that had less individual quality.

A metaphor is apt here.

I often think of a team as an engine of a car. There are many players to a team just as there are parts to an engine. Each part has own job just as each player has his own job.

But it doesn’t matter how good the crankshaft is, it can’t be used as a piston head. It doesn’t matter how good a carburetor is, it can’t be used as a petrol tank.

This applies to players. A player may be brilliant but if you try and shoehorn a brilliant but slow or remiss centre back into a highline, then it’ll end ignominiously (Oh Hai John Terry!). Likewise, if you try and shoehorn a brilliant but unfit centre back into a bunkered defense , it will end in failure.

Let’s stop scapegoating

We’ve finally gotten to the fruit of the article. I see a lot of people saying that Eriksen should be played instead of Holtby, that Lamela should be played instead of Townsend or that Dembele should be played instead of Paulinho. A lot of people blame a poor performance on an individual. 

As outlined above, I think this is silly. I’m never going to say that anyone is the root of all our problems. I won’t call for anyone to be dropped unless they’re truly abject. I will, however, call for the system to be changed.

In most cases, just a slight change is needed. Take Tottenham, they should pass that little bit quicker and it’ll work wonders. Suddenly gaps will open up that would have been closed before we could exploit them. Precisely because the passing is so slow.

Just some food for thought.


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