Football is meant to be fun, but we are not a fun side. We haven’t been for two years. I think that’s what’s really bothering me. It all feels a bit unnecessarily bleak.
There are defeats, and then there are defeats. The North London Derby was a proper, kick-in-the-balls, aneurism-inducing, existential-crisis-generating defeat. The kind of loss that makes me question the point of football fandom, and what it means to support Spurs in 2021.
How exactly the season will pan out is hard to judge and even the best sports betting would have me thinking hard about this question.
In isolation that performance, if we can call it a performance, was inexcusable. Within the context of the Premier League matches that preceded Omnishambles at the Emirates, (season 12), it bordered on professional negligence. The players and management were already under pressure, and they must have anticipated the flack they were likely to get from another meek showing. To turn out as they did, like misdirected lemmings, united in their incompetence, was…well, just depressing, man.
A few stats were gleefully paraded about afterwards, showing us pretty much bottom of the league by every metric. Goals, shots, chances, shots allowed…we’re in the bottom three for all of them. Most concerning of all, we were last for distance covered. Last for effort. Maximum exertion should be a minimum expectation, and yet we appear to be the laziest team in the top-flight of English football. You’ll never sing that, etc. etc.
Okay, I feel a little bit better now we’ve beaten a very good Aston Villa side, but something still isn’t quite right. It’s like a scratch I can’t quite itch.
What is it about this group of players? A sense of entitlement? An inability to carry out the most basic instructions? Whatever it is, many of them are right at the bottom of my Christmas card list.
Whether Nuno will make it to the festive season remains to be seen. He took responsibility after Woolwich, but his message was confusing. He seemed to blame himself for selecting the wrong players, rather than the revolutionary 4-0-6 formation he employed. Perhaps he had spent the week reading Scottish tactics manuals from the late 19th century. Perhaps he wanted to emulate the famous Queen’s Park side of the 1870s, those great trailblazers of British football. Perhaps, alternatively, he’s just a bit sh*t.
Although Villa was much, much better, the bar had been set so low it’s difficult to know how to take the win. We certainly haven’t downed tools for the new coach, but it’s far harder to get away with that in front of a packed White Hart Lane.
I do feel for Nuno. Managers of his type are very rarely chosen to succeed Jose Mourinho. After he left Real Madrid in chaos, he was replaced by Carlo Ancelotti, a flexible coach and warm character famed for his man-management skills. Ole Gunnar Solskjær took over from Jose at Man United, a fan favourite and real-life Lord of the Rings goblin or elf or something who was likely to be given time. They were clever, necessary appointments that appeased the discontented masses. Our appointments are almost never clever but, let’s be honest, extremely necessary.
In case you hadn’t noticed, Nuno is not a fan favourite. Nor is he a coach known for his progressive football. He also doesn’t seem particularly warm or encouraging. A decent bloke, by most accounts, but I can’t really connect with him. It’s not his fault- he just isn’t what we need right now.
The more I think about it, the weirder his appointment seems. What boxes did he tick for Levy and Don Fabio?
I might be proved wrong, of course, and I really hope I am. Poch didn’t get off to a flying start, as so many of us have pointed out, but you could at least see what he was trying to instil. I’ve no idea what team we’re trying to be at the moment, and the players look so disjointed. Our plans are still incoherent.
This is all Pochettino’s fault, by the way, the big cuddly b*stard. I never really expected title challenges and Champions League runs. Not before we’d built the new stadium, anyway. I’m desperate to feel that big-club energy again, and experience those historic nights against Juventus, Barca, Madrid and alike. Things could be much worse, but when you’ve experienced something like Amsterdam within the last few years, a 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace feels like a nadir.
Pochettino and the Champions League final seem to keep cropping up in conversation, like ghostly spectres reminding us of the mistakes we never learn from. I still don’t think we’ve ever really gotten over the disappointment of Madrid, which hangs over the club like some collective trauma. We were so, so close to cracking it.
That run in 2019 is still defining football for us, and effects our responses to occasional highs and recurrent lows. Such were the extremes of emotion under Poch, we’re now stuck in some sort of purgatory. Everything’s a bit ‘meh,’ isn’t it? Walt Whitman, an American poet with a beard that puts Nuno’s to shame, (seriously, go and have a look), perhaps put it best when he wrote ‘to show us a good thing or a few good things for a space of time-that is no satisfaction.’ 2015-19 has left us all deeply unsatisfied with Tottenham Hotspur, and until we let go of that era we’ll struggle to engage with the club again.
So how do we move on? How do we compartmentalise the past and regain perspective? It might take years of group therapy. We need our own Dr. Melfi to guide us through a cathartic transition. Of course, we may never change, but at least we might be able to come to terms with our own failings. Pochettino’s tenure could become an origin story; he might be our Dickie Moltisanti, who inspired us to become a ruthless, commanding presence.
I’m definitely taking this all a bit too seriously, but we play football like every pass, every tackle and every shot is fraught with jeopardy. It really isn’t. Whilst the players wander about the pitch aimlessly, hoofing another long ball up to a disinterested target man, they look like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. That mentality rubs off onto the fanbase. It’s rubbed off onto me.
Football is meant to be fun, but we are not a fun side. We haven’t been for two years. I think that’s what’s really bothering me. It all feels a bit unnecessarily bleak. I’m sure we’ll be good again at some point in the near future, and I’m sure we’ll even have moments this season when we think it’s all clicked. For the moment, though, Spurs remain firmly on the naughty step. It might take me a while to let them back off it.
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