PROJECT POCHETTINO IN DANGER OF DERAILING IF LESSONS ARE IGNORED
Tottenham are by no means a crisis club, but an early Champions League exit must be a rather bitter pill to swallow after making such an impressive start to the domestic season.
The disruption over playing at Wembley hasn’t helped, along with injuries to key personnel in Harry Kane and Toby Alderweireld, but the fact of the matter is that Spurs should have comfortably qualified from a more than navigable group regardless of numerous variables working against them.
Yet, such an occurrence could quite easily have been avoided had Daniel Levy had loosened those purse strings a little more and added further to what has looked a stretched Spurs squad.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s ever-so-successful mantra centred around enjoying league or cup triumphs quickly, before immediately looking at how to improve the squad. Laurel resting was not an option.
Fans still high on the euphoria from such excitement in 2015/16 were delighted to see them improve problem areas of the squad in the summer transfer window, without that marquee signing coming in to “rock the boat”.
However, when the rigours of Champions League football take hold, remaining competitive is an altogether different proposition.
The TV money flooded in in the summer, and the chequebook was at the ready. On the verge of something great, top quality, proven talent could have been attracted to north London with a ambitious young manager and Champions League football providing a further attraction.
Instead Spurs relied on their signings hitting the ground running in unfamiliar surroundings in terms of expectation. Spurs fans got so close to a title dream they could almost touch it – and have been drunk on infatuation for more ever since.
Vincent Janssen, Moussa Sissoko and Victor Wanyama are all great players in their own right, and could go on to be huge successes for Spurs, but with no other top quality incomings, they had to prove an instant hit, and the fact that they haven’t really produced the goods so far has proven costly.
Janssen has looked especially out of his depth. Kane’s injury meant he suddenly became the focal point of the Spurs attack on all fronts – there was to be no bedding in process.
There has been zero goals from open play and very little threat as an attacking force from the 22-year-old. 56 players average more shots per game than Janssen – not what you want from your second choice marksmen.
It does seem slightly churlish to be in any way critical of a team that remain unbeaten in the Premier League as we approach December, but it all could have been even more rosy at White Hart Lane had they have assembled a more formidable, experienced squad.
At the very highest level, you cannot become a different side altogether without just two star names. The fragility at the heart of their defence in the absence of Alderweireld has cost them dear in the Champions League, with the meek resistance to Monaco’s second in their costly 2-1 defeat in the Principality a prime example of their struggles.
Eric Dier looks like his conversion into midfield anchor has been detrimental to his centre-back showings, while Kevin Wimmer’s woes continue.
Janssen’s substitute appearance summed up his season. Seven touches and one woeful shot off target further disheartened the travelling Spurs faithful.
Pochettino was wistful in his summary of Spurs’ exit, and struggled to hide the fact he knows the squad needs strengthening.
“To be competitive in the Champions League and Premier League we need to show more – and maybe to add real quality,” Pochettino admitted post match. “Maybe today we struggled a little bit to be competitive in both. I am disappointed, but in the same way I’m quite calm, our project is not finished today, it’s only just started.”
That last defiance holds a great deal of resonance. This is a Spurs side on the verge of something very impressive indeed, but the current squad needs adding to, and it is those new arrivals, in January or next summer, who could decide their destiny.