Wednesday, 29 April 2015

End of Season Report Card

The least obvious talking point of this Premier League season, from my POV, is why the press hasn’t had the knives out for Mauricio Pochettino the way they did for AVB and Tim Sherwood, his two predecessors at Tottenham Hotspur.

I suppose a League Cup Final appearance kept the dogs at bay and the fact that Spurs have been there or thereabouts for most of the less important part of the season. Not that they weren’t when AVB was at the helm or when loudmouth Tim was caretaker; it’s like the press gave Daniel Levy their approval and have held off of the speculation even if they haven’t the criticism.

Reading press reports of the season so far suggests a Jekyll and Hyde team that has been capable of, finally, beating some of the big boys, but has been sadly lacking at times, offering poor displays and leaving a lot of fans scratching their heads. We have again been suffering from targeting all the cups with the same intent as the highest league finish – and why shouldn’t they; it’s not just for a pay cheque but for glory, especially when you play for a team that has a reasonable chance of some minor success.

For all the manager’s sometimes baffling selections and faith in kids, many Spurs fans will feel the team has arguably fallen short of some their expectations. It needs to be pointed out that however vehement or ridiculous an expectation is, it is just passion that dictates it. It’s the hope that kills us is a term often used by Spurs fans.

So, what did I make of a season that has yielded Europa League football yet again and what did I make of the players and how they rated.

Hugo Lloris – doesn’t ever get the recognition he deserves because of the younger De Gea, Courtois and Hart, but he’s almost the star performer in a team that needed his consistency. He saved a great number of points and has been the rock in a fragile defence, which until recently doesn’t seem to have found the right combination. 8/10

Michel Vorm – did what was required when needed. Fills me with the kind of dread that Gomez did. I hope he isn’t the designated replacement should Lloris go for glory, next season, which is earlier than I expect. 5/10

Kyle Walker – has always worked well with Aaron Lennon and the work they did on the right was never reflected in assists or goals, but they did so much more to give the team balance. Lennon’s isolation has been to the detriment of Walker and the fact he’s played while not fully fit and injured suggests that right back is a problem position for us. 5/10

Vlad Chiriches – plays like he thinks he’s a cross between Davids Bentley and Beckham; reminds me of the former much more in terms of impact. The way he plays it’s like he’s angling for a defensive midfielder role but has far too many basic errors in his armoury to be anything other than a desperate measure. 3/10

Eric Dier – shows his age but has been a plus. Reminds me of John Terry, but his lack of experience and wisdom suggests he has untimely errors in him and needs to be played sensibly; injuries and inconsistency of others have propelled him into the team faster than I would have expected. Much promise. 7/10

Younis Kaboul – club captain and now nothing more than a fringe player. Hasn’t come back from bad injuries the way you would have hoped and while he has the enthusiasm, I don’t think the body is willing any longer. Would do a good job for a Championship team. 3/10

Jan Vertonghen – if there are confidence players then there are happiness players and Jan is this to a tee. He is a world class defender when he is happy and he’s a liability and a bad influence on the dressing room when he isn’t. He needs to play and he could be a leader. The manager made a mistake not making him captain. 6/10

Freddy Fazio – is the curate’s egg of our defence; he is both excellent and rubbish in equal measure. I can’t make my mind up; he has no pace but he reads a game well; if he had both he’d be a great defender. 4/10

Ben Davies – has suffered from the positive form of Danny Rose. Looks solid and a good buy which confounds the reasons for giving Rose a new 5-year contract, unless the plan is to move Rose into midfield/wing.  One for the next few seasons and could be as important for us as Leighton Baines is for Everton. 6/10

Danny Rose – offers a lot of what BAE offered but is error prone and finds himself out of position a lot. He’s been reasonably consistent and grew into his role until injury hit him. 6/10

Paulinho – I have never rated him and I struggle to see what he brings to a side – a very unBrazilian player who simply disappears in matches and even his work off the ball has to be questioned. A real enigma, but equally a player who, like Roberto Soldado, is in a team that doesn’t play to his strengths. An awful signing. 1/10

Etienne Capoue – is a good player, he’s not for us. Bad signing. Doesn’t work for the team and that showed by his disappearance from the match squad. 1/10

Ryan Mason – there’s no disputing his heart, but technically he simply isn’t top class – a good squad player but nothing more and his failings are often highlighted but hidden by his willingness and work rate. He’s the weak link in the midfield that has been favoured by the manager largely since the New Year. I don’t rate him; I hope I’m wrong. 5/10

Nabil Bentaleb – could be our Patrick Vierra and is improving all the time. He’s young, he’s entitled to some mistakes and he works his arse up to make up for them. One of the bright future stars of Spurs, especially if he continues to develop. 7/10

Nacer Chadli – the stats don’t lie, but is he really all he’s cracked up to be? Is his form too inconsistent and does he offer enough? I struggle to see him as more than a squad player, but who am I? Needs to show more grit and steel in midfield. 5/10

Benjamin Stambouli – who? Going? 2/10

Christian Eriksen – brilliant and average; game-changer and invisible man. Where would we be if he hadn’t fired at times? Used too much, looked tired and devoid of ideas at the arse end of the season. Needs cosseting and protecting – he loves playing, but not too much, eh? 8/10

Erik Lamela – a bit of a cheat, a bit nasty and for all his brilliance at times, he’s looked lost and out of his depth at others. I don’t know how he fits into a cohesive side that isn’t built around him and he’s no Ronaldo or Messi. Difficult to assess; much better than last season but that wasn’t hard. 5/10

Moussa Dembele – so much promise, so much running about, nothing really forthcoming. He’s a great player and will flourish somewhere else that plays to his strengths. 4/10

Andros Townsend – runs around a lot. One dimensional. Able to turn games on a sixpence; but is he worth keeping? Impact sub at best, I like his loyalty and drive but he lacks in good judgement. 5/10

Emma Adebayor – why (I know why)? Is capable of being brilliant, you just never know when that might happen. 1/10

Roberto Soldado – what a great player in a side completely out of tune with what he needs; has been destroyed by his time here and I feel sorry for him. Works really hard and does the job of a #10 very well, but he’s never been played there. 3/10

Harry Kane – many years ago there was talk of this lad; he was going to be the next best thing and arguably the best thing the manager has done is to allow the boy to flourish; what he lacks in pace he makes up for it in guile. People have been waiting for his obvious fall from grace, it might happen next season, but pundits know how good he is and quality – if unhindered – will out. 10/10

Mauricio Pochettino – the manager has been protected from the worst of the bad reactions; Spurs fans have accepted that stability needs to be considered this time around because the quick fixes, multiple players, plus the chopping and changing of managers has really pushed the team backwards. The jury is out – everywhere – as to whether Pochettino is a brilliant new manager or is one-dimensional, devoid of a plan B and is prone to the same failures that many of his predecessors had.
I wasn’t a fan of the Argentinian's appointment, but then again I have struggled to find favour with any manager since Harry Redknapp – who I also feel had gone as far as he could with the team. As for the new man’s ability – when we play well we play excellently; when we play poor we look devoid of ideas and drive – he doesn’t appear to be able to counter this when it happens. There is a feeling he sets his teams up badly and doesn’t give them enough freedom. There is also the argument he hasn’t got his players yet; but there have been players who have arrived since he arrived – Stambouli and Yedlin that have had less than a handful of appearances since Christmas.
Not in any imminent danger of the sack, because the board realise that stability might be just as productive as not having a clue, but next season needs to show a team challenging, not making up the numbers and anything but a top 4 spot will probably spell the end of the manager. 6/10

Already a new defender has been signed - another youngster with potential - this doesn't bother me because it is an area that needs work on. I expect business to be done early this year; if it isn't then we might see deja vu all over again...