GameDay 15: Spluttering Spurs
The difference between when I was writing consistently and the several weeks that I could not write due to damaging my hands is that in that break, the wheels came completely off the Tottenham Title Pushing bus. The record at the break was Won 6 Drawn 2 Lost 1, which was good, but in the five games I did not report, Spurs lost 3 drew 1 and squeaked by a win against lowly Crystal Palace. On Saturday Spurs dropped more points in a 1-1 draw against Watford, but this time from a more self-inflicted wound as Spurs centre-half Davison Sanchez needlessly elbowed a Watford player and got sent off. If a team cannot win these days with 11 players on the field, one does not expect much with 10 players on the field. At least this time they did hold on to draw. Tottenham's manager blamed the poor run on Spurs starting slow, but that does not hold water. Manchester City (now having won 13 straight games) have recently started slow but ground now three 2-1 wins in a row.
The reality of this poor form is two-fold.
First is the loss of defender Toby Alderweireld to injury and when Toby is out, Spurs win percentage has consistently dropped. He holds the backline and with the support of his fellow Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen - create a formidable fortress. The chief reason for that solid backline is that both Belgian defenders are world-class but the team needs Toby. Spurs got lucky that Toby Alderweireld played for Southampton when Pochettino managed them, and so that prior relationship factored into Toby choosing Tottenham.
The second reason is the back room squabble between Pochettino and left-back Danny Rose. It is now clear with Pochettino only intermittently playing Rose and sometimes leaving him out of the team all-together that he may be leaving the club in January. It is disingenuous for Pochettino to say that he is focused on squad rotation and working on making sure Danny Rose is back to peak fitness following a long lay off. Pochettino is a strict disciplinarian but in the case of Rose, the poor relationship seems to be rubbing off on the team. The irony of the moment is that Spurs are now being quoted as "playing like Arsenal", while Arsenal (whose form has vastly improved) are now being quoted as "playing like Tottenham".
There is no question that Poch has some world class type players and other players who have the potential to become world class. Now his evolution as a manager requires him to become a world-class manager. That distinction won't be given to him until he finally begins to win silverware. It is no good sounding off disciplined philosophy, if the philosophy isn't leading to winning hardware. Pochettino has managed clubs that fell into the bottom of three of a division and in the last couple of years he has managed Spurs into the top 3, but his resume lacks hardcore succe