Tottenham Preview: Swamp Life

The only surprise is that Tottenham didn’t ask the Premier League to make this their final home game at the Swamp. Let the away fans destroy the place after the game; “Gentlemen, do your worst”. Levy could have saved a fortune on demolition costs.

A match which assumes some importance beyond the realms of bragging rights for Spurs but not for us. Arsène claimed he’d got his Arsenal back after three consecutive wins. The defeats against Bayern and Chelsea knocked us for six, he said.

“The first Bayern game and the one against Chelsea, were a big knock. For a while we were a bit like a boxer who had been put on the floor twice.

“We lost a little bit, and people interpreted that as the players not caring. No. Maybe it is because they care very much that they were like that. Shocked. We were shocked. 

Yes, I understand you were shocked but you don’t have the luxury of that shock lasting for several weeks, as it does every season when things go wrong.

“The turning point is that you have to revolt and say, ’Come on. That cannot go on’.

Well, you can. We’ve said it for a while but nothing’s changing. Or at least not that change.

Dangerman or Danger! Mouse!

Positivespeak is just a stretch away from newspeak.

Yes, the utterances can be baffling, mad, outrageously positive, outrageous detached from reality; sometimes all at once. That’s not the irritation. You can place your own interpretation on the words, put them more succinctly if you like. I would: “We lost two big games as per, were a bit sh*t, scraped a couple of wins but beat Manchester City in a big game and that’s what I’m pinning all my hopes on”.

Which is pretty much what you or I would do. The real menace is when people take them literally, and believe in every syllable. Think of the like the bible. Not meant to be taken on face value but a bedtime story to scare the kids with.

And I’m not sure what anyone expects him to say in public. What’s said to the squad behind closed doors is what matters and getting them fired up for this afternoon is everything. I remember – and this may seem like I’m engaging ‘old fart mode’ – the unbridled joy of 1985 when we went to White Hart Lane around this time of year, won 2 – 0 in a midweek match and ended Tottenham’s faint title hopes.

I don’t remember much of the game, bar the goals and Graham Roberts hilarious penalty miss, but that ecstasy of wrecking their aspirations was outstanding. It’s moments like that which make football. Today has to be the same, surely?

Inspired By The Past or Past It?

We’ve got the same flaky attributes that we had back then, the question is whether we have the desire or belief that we can do it. Spurs are second for a reason; they have one of their periodic strong teams. There’s no hiding away from that, it’s a fact. We’ve got good players but nowhere near as strong a team as it looks on paper; that’s down to the manager.

However, today, if they show the heart, spirit, and desire they need to, Arsenal will win. Bold words, indeed. I put a proviso in there: “if”. Two small letters but a big word.

The outcome may come down to the defence we field. Laurent Koscielny trained yesterday but twenty-four hours earlier, he had a “60%” chance of playing. I presume he will start, if not then Nacho Monreal moves into the centre.

Arsène’s history with three at the back is strained to say the least, as Jonathon Wilson discussed in The Guardian, but the response now was more of desperation than of a true believer in the way Conte is. Wenger belatedly moved with the times not leading the field.

If it brings us three points today, will anyone care for twenty-four hours? A shaft of sunlight into these overcast Arsenal skies.

If change in defence is the least welcome aspect of today, swapping Olivier Giroud for A.N. Other is surely on the cards. The ‘new’ formation is not suiting him. Frustration overspilled at Wembley, after an anonymous performance at the Riverside. Options are limited; Welbeck has pace but strikes me as a better wide forward than leading the line, which leaves Alexis, which may suit the Chilean better.

It leaves the line-up:

Cech; Gabriel, Koscielny, Holding; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Xhaka, Monreal; Özil, Welbeck; Sanchez

Personally, I’d also move Ox into the middle in place of Ramsey but I don’t think that’s going to happen this season but for next? It’s on the cards.

Whatever the choices he makes, a win is the only outcome we want. Not a draw, not defeat; victory. We’ve won as many league titles at White Hart Lane as Tottenham; winning the last North London Derby there would top that list off.

Dad’s Jukebox

As you wait for the game, there is a new playlist on Dad’s Jukebox with the second in the series, Jukebox Classics. This time it’s the turn of The Jam, with the originals of the cover versions they played. And a healthy mix of 60s mod and soul it is too. Click here to listen.

Enjoy the match where’er you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

250 thoughts on “Tottenham Preview: Swamp Life

  1. Wavey

    Southampton, and Stoke are both playing poorly in the last couple weeks and both are stuck in mid table with nothing to play for. Sunderland will already be relegated and Everton have been poor the last 2 games and won’t really have anything to play for in game 38. I think we can win those 4 games but that only puts us on 72 points which will not be enough to finish in 4th. However, we have seen that both Manchester teams and Liverpool are dropping unexpected points and if we win against ManU and get to 75 points we have a real chance. I really expected us to get a point from today’s game.

  2. Miami

    You are correct. Nothing is going to change as long as Arsene is the manager and that Stan is the only one who can do that.

  3. Bill, I’m just annoyed. We are doomed to repeat this because there is simply no want to change. Stan just doesn’t give a fuck. I personally don’t care about the CL because we were just making up numbers. Good on the Spuds for giving us a lesson in giving a shit.

  4. Cech is no longer a world class player but he is still a good GK. He made several good saves today. We have decent individual players in the back 4 and we could build a decent defensive team with the right manager. Where we fall short is our organization and commitment. With all of the other places we need to rebuild we probably don’t need and can’t afford to buy any defensive players.

    I agree with Birdkamp. Xhaka is not a very good player. I agree with everything Lee Dixon has been saying on TV about Ozil, none of which has been very complimentary. Ramsey, Giroud, Gibbs, Ox Theo Welbeck were all “meh” at best today. Alexis did not have a good game and gave the ball away a lot but at least he tried to make things happen. Other then Alexis we just don’t have any difference making attacking players. For all of his reputation and past accomplishments, Ozil is no longer a difference making player and has not been for the last 16 months. Our other big money signing in midfield Xhaka is not very good. Ramsey, Giroud, Walcott, Welbeck, Perez, Le Coq, Perez, Elneny, Iwobe might all be decent squad players but nothing more. Ox has real talent but is remarkably inconsistent and injury prone. If Alexis leaves we are down to 0 difference making attacking players. We need a major infusion of talent upfront and in the midfield and that is going to cost a lot of money.

  5. If you look at the starting 11 of both teams today the only Arsenal player that would clearly get into the Spurs starting line up is Alexis. Erickson is certainly a better player then Ozil at this point. None of our midfielders or forwards not named Alexis would get into their regular starting 11.

  6. Bill,

    United may not be winning many , but they are very hard to beat so I would expect that to be a draw. Everton were OK against Chelsea until they scored. I know you could say the same about us against Spurs, but I mean OK as in that they were competing to some extent not just lucky that their opponents had missed two absolute sitters by half time. Stoke are still hard to beat and we don’t like it up us, especially when our confidence is iffy. Southampton are tailing off at the end of the season as they don’t have anything to play for, so maybe we take 3 points from that game. So that gets me to the following:

    United – 1 pt
    Southampton 3 pts
    Stoke 1 pt
    Sunderland 3 pts
    Everton 1 pt

    which takes us to 69 points.

  7. Bill,

    Agree with all of this. Even with a dynamic young manager with good fresh ideas, this squad needs major overhauling now and more talent up front.

  8. Wavey

    You might be right. I have been saying all season that Arsene will find a way to get us into the top 4 but this time may be a bridge to far for even him. Arsene’s ability to win games and find mental strength when the top 4 is at risk was the one legitimate argument that could be made for keeping him as manager. If he can no longer do that then he has nothing left to offer.

  9. The most depressing aspect of the present situation, for me, is that we are seventeen points behind Spurs ffs.

    For someone brought up with Arsenal in my blood that is a terrible prospect. The fact that we have let them get so far ahead that they will finish above us for the first time in twenty odd years is an utter disgrace.

  10. We got lucky to finish ahead of them many times over the years, so it isn’t ok surprising that it has finally happened. What is stunning is that they are smashing our points total on half the wage budget. That’s humiliation for AW who loves to congratulate himself for doing reasonably well on the cheap–as if anyone cared other than Kroenke who doesn’t follow or understand the sport to begin with.

  11. I know how Spurs have achieved this. It’s taken ten year of trial and error, and now they’ve found a seriously good manager whose style of play is so singular it makes it easy to scout players. That has coincided with a good generation of youth products/young acquisitions. Things have aligned for them, but it’s take no little ambition and decisiveness, and some knowhow too.

    They’re seriously hungry, and when you have ideas and ambition, a small canvas (smaller budget) can actually give you purpose. It might be interesting to see how they go from here, especially if they can’t pay their stars the going rate and flop in the CL again. But that doesn’t matter at the moment; right now they’re comfortably better than us.

    We’re in wishy-washy nowhere land; not big enough or rich enough to attract the very cream, but sellers see us coming from a mile off and now know we’ll pay upwards of £30m for OK-ish players. And we do.

    If we’ve been using some kind of stats system to make our signings these last couple of years (as we have, apparently) it’s been a disaster. I’ve been banging this drum for a year now, but we haven’t bought players for the style we want to play, and it’s not like we’re going to change that style. It’s crazy. Xhaka’s a case in point. Yeah, he’s dynamite when there’s room. But by definition he’s not a playmaker because the moment there’s a hint of pressure he settles for the simplest thing. Time, after time.

    And we hardly ever have room, partly because he can’t make any room.

    The best players in his role like Verratti, Modric, Busquets, Dembele…actually, even the OK ones, can work a yard of space, drop a shoulder, do something, anything, unexpected to shake off a marker and open up the pitch.

    Ah to hell with it. Xhaka’s a deckchair and we’ve already hit the iceberg.

  12. Birdkamp

    I agree about Xhaka. However I disagree with your contention that we have not bought players who fit the style we want to play. Xhaka, Elneny and Mustafi are the most recent purchases and all are technically skilled and very good at the ball possession style of play. The problem is that style of play does not work anymore so we have had to abandon it. Even Pep is struggling this season. I think a counter attacking style is much more likely to be successful but we don’t have the right players or the teams ethos to play that way. IMO.

  13. Perhaps the biggest problem from an attacking standpoint is we just don’t have enough goal scoring players. If Alexis is held down then there is no one else who you would expect to score a goal. Our only other threats this season have been Walcott and Giroud and no one is going to challenge for a title if you have to count on them.

  14. The team needs to be deconstructed and rebuilt. I don’t trust AW with any of this. He’s made a hash of building this squad with a large amount of money to use, some of which he refused to use (summer 2014).

  15. Unlike last year when we really struggled most of the season to score, the biggest problem this year has been the defense. We have conceded 42 so far and we are on pace to concede 48-49 goals this season. We are 7th in the table in goals conceded and conceded 20 more goals then Spurs. We have had some pretty bad defensive teams in the Emirates era but this would match the most we have conceded during the last 13 years. All of this after we spent $80M on 2 DM and a CB in 2016. You know you have major systemic problems when the biggest issue you have changes from season to season.

  16. Th only players I am committed to keeping are:
    Alexis, Holding, Chambers, Martinez, WS, Iwobi, Bellerein, Ox, Welbeck and Xhaka and Mustafi (for one more season on probation). Mostly I am giving youth a chance to develop but I can’t see AW developing them properly given his recent record. I think some of the others currently in the team can be squad/backups or do the job in a better balanced and talented overall team; I’m not saying all the rest must be sold, but I won’t shed a tear if they are.

    At the end of the season I’ll make my must try to sell list. But these are the only ones I would reqlly be concerned to keep.

  17. Limestone

    Makes sense . I am not a fan of Wojo. I would rather see us sell him and use the cash to buy someone like Forster from Southampton. Welbeck is versatile and works hard on defense and we need a few players like that on between the 16th- 22nd positions in the squad.

  18. A pretty accurate summary of Giroud yesterday (and on many other occasions) from the Guardian:

    Giroud was not just static here, he was inert, stopped, gummed to the spot. Arsenal’s first-choice orthodox centre-forward is often described as providing a “physical presence” but it is hard to imagine a less bruising, less imposing, more glossily soft-touch 6ft 3in professional athlete in a contact sport. For footballers of this standard, being shunted around the penalty area by Giroud must be a bit like being whipped senseless with a wet tissue or battered into unconsciousness with a fondant eclair.

    Giroud was signed to replace Robin van Persie, before Kane the last high-class centre-forward in north London. His continued presence in this team is an indicator of the decay and decline that Tottenham laid bare here, just as his opposite number’s consistent scoring under pressure has been decisive through the spring.

  19. andy1886,

    Eloquent as well. He was never a replacement. He was a useful option from the bench for a contending side. We’ve just had no real intention to contend. Spuds have put together a better season in the league, ( i.e. a genuine challenge for the title) than any we’ve had since 2007-8. That’s the shame of it. Not that they are finishing ahead of us but that they are actually mounting a proper challenge.

  20. Bill,

    “Welbeck is versatile and works hard on defence”. I don’t want a versatile striker who works hard on defence, I want a striker who scores goals, which Welbeck is patently not?

  21. I’m not sure that this squad needs completely deconstructing to compete. If we’re simply looking at playing ability.

    Two signings, a new manager and a proper CF and we could be fine

    The rest would depend of attitude and reaction to the new heron and possible “like for like” in and out trades which I’d put down to a new manager preference and people he knows he likes to work with rather than a natural upgrade on what we already have

  22. Spurs fans actually doing us a favour yesterday signing they want Arsene to stay

    Probably has more gravitas than any of our protests thus far

    We’re a laughing stock on the pitch and everyone can see the root of the problem except the two people who can do something about it

  23. Just sayin’, like –

    Julian Nagelsmann:
    Feb 2016: Appointed Hoffenheim manager – 17th in the league.
    April 2017: Hoffenheim qualify for the UCL.

    He’s 29.

  24. Damon,

    “The rest would depend of attitude and reaction to the new heron ”

    I would take a new heron over Arsene right now tbh. Even an embryonic stoat….

  25. Or a pneumatic womble.

    andy1886:
    Damon,

    “The rest would depend of attitude and reaction to the new heron ”

    I would take a new heron over Arsene right now tbh. Even an embryonic stoat….

  26. Bill, focusing on this one shortfall probably isn’t productive. But Xhaka doesn’t have particularly good technique. He can hit an astute long pass every now and again. So can Charlie Adam.

    It’s not a straight-up choice between possession and counter-attacking anymore either (if it ever was). The best teams can do different things from match to match, actually minute to minute depending on the situation.

    We can’t dictate play because we don’t have players who can play through tight spaces, and we’re not sturdy enough to soak up pressure.

    It’s funny how iffy media-handling has hurt Brendan Rodgers’ reputation so badly. He took an OK squad within a whisker of the title, definitely as close as Pochettino has managed, and then got burdened with mediocre or slow-burn signings. He’s not my first choice, but if we’re pretending we didn’t trade our style in long ago, he ticks a lot of boxes.

  27. https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/apr/30/alli-kane-dynamism-tottenham-decay-arsenal-arsene-wenger
    “Giroud was not just static here, he was inert, stopped, gummed to the spot. Arsenal’s first-choice orthodox centre-forward is often described as providing a “physical presence” but it is hard to imagine a less bruising, less imposing, more glossily soft-touch 6ft 3in professional athlete in a contact sport. For footballers of this standard, being shunted around the penalty area by Giroud must be a bit like being whipped senseless with a wet tissue or battered into unconsciousness with a fondant eclair”.

  28. Rodgers?
    Oh puleez. We can do better than that, surely.
    It was not just ‘iffy media handling’ that did for Rodgers he was a horribly egocentric personality to have at the helm – his stupid pop-psychology management techniques left much to be desired.
    I rated him for what he did at Swansea but his stint at Liverpool became increasingly about him and his swelling ego and rambling statements.
    And you can’t really think that he had no say at all in those mediocre signings…?

  29. Birdkamp,

    I’m sorry, but choosing between Wenger and Brendan “I’m so far up my own arse it’s a wonder I’m still visible to the naked eye” Rogers is like being asked which eye I’d like poked out.

    The only “box” Rogers ticks for me is the one going into the trash.

    I sincerely hope this isn’t even a vague option in the Arsenal BOD’s minds, I think I would give up supporting the club permanently (after 46 years) if that were to happen.

  30. Jonny, of course he did, but it would have been 25% or however that strange FSG committee worked. He mounted a title challenge in his second season. We haven’t seen that from them since. And the work at Swansea was genuinely staggering. Celtic doesn’t really count other than to show how over-qualified he is.

    As for his statements, once the agenda has been set and the pressure mounts you can make any manager look like a nut. And he should never have agreed to go on TV. That was unprecedented, just a rank idea all round.

    To me, there’s a reputation confected from twitter memes and soundbites that is only a fragment of the reality.

    Not saying he’d be first choice, or even second. But he’d be in the reckoning for sure.

  31. Jonny,

    I’m not sure that we can attract the very best managers right now. There is an enormous re-building job to be done, there is not an infinite amount of money available and we have dropped a significant distance behind our main rivals.

    Any new man coming in will have to be prepared to accept that immediate success is unlikely and will have to bare the weight of the fans expectations while simultaneously exorcising the ghost of Wenger.

  32. Birdkamp,

    In the Scottish Premiership, and if ever there was an oxymoron that title is it, a league of one, any manager of Celtic would look good. At least before they fell from grace, Rangers offered some level of rivalry, but their latest 5 – 1 thrashing at Celtic’s hands put paid to that idea.

  33. Yeah, there’s a touch of contrarianism and about this stance.

    But when you go to the source of his bad reputation it’s mostly based on stuff that doesn’t actually matter. And in a ghastly, moneyball sort of way there will be clubs intrigued that his name is still dirt even after he’s had an impeccable season at Celtic (once again, the bar is low).

    As of now, I’d be happy if he were in the running, that’s all I’m saying. Outside the top level, Lucien Favre or Pellegrini for a steadying hand, Nagelsmann for a long-term project. But I’m not really au fait with continental football these days.

    After those, Howe and Rodgers have good credentials and lots of experience in England, if that counts for anything.

  34. Orson Kaert,

    I thought I already played it down. But there’s winning everything, and then there’s going unbeaten and not even looking like losing a match, which is more impressive. And even so, it’s no real indicator.

    It just tells you that he’s over-qualified.

  35. Seems that beating city was more about them being bad than us being good. Difference is if guardiola doesn’t win things and play football from another planet next year, he will either resign, or be fired. Meanwhile I read a rumour that wenger will sign 2 more years then move upstairs with a young coach for him to coach from above. If that is anyway true…..goodbye arsenal goodbye. He ought to be embarrassed by the job he’s doing with the resources he has never mind fantasising that he is so good he will teach our next manager !

  36. Bob, why thank you.

    In terms of giving players the confidence to express themselves, committing to a style and making a side a lot more than the sum of its parts, there are a comparisons to be drawn with Pochettino. And then there’s a bad season. Dunno, desperate times. But they’ll never be desperate enough for Allardyce.

  37. bufallo,

    As much as I dislike Pullis and Allardyce I’d take either of them before Rogers.

    Allardyce (spit), would probably be a good choice at this stage to manage the transition and fallout from Wenger’s departure.

    At this stage we need a steady pair of hands to reorganize and steady the ship from the rupture and fallout that will highly likely follow Wengers departure.

    I don’t think the club should be looking at a “project” to follow Wenger at this point, and categorically not one where he “mentors” (read: destroys someone else’s career), a young manager to take over.

    If we can’t attract an Ancellotti, then Allardyce wouldn’t be the worst choice for a season or two, and I saying that I feel like I’ve just taken a mouthful of dogshit

  38. Premiership experience in a manager is not the ideal it once was. Indeed the Premiership is not the epitome of English football any longer. I suspect that there are as many, if not more “foreigners” both playing and managing in the league today.

    The foreign influx has changed irrevocably the style of play as well as the attitude of players and managers. Just look at the player’s gestures towards officials who penalise them. Watch a player with a minor injury sit down and demand on pitch attention and then signal his wish to be substituted.

    Our next manager must be adept at instilling the “ideals of continental football” in our players.
    Mourinho has successfully done it with Rashford, evidenced by his dive for a penalty yesterday.

    The “English” way no longer works.

  39. I honestly don’t see that Rodgers is much more than superficially similar to Pochettino.

    I also disagree that the stuff he was pilloried for was all stuff that did not matter.

    He’s a bit of a divisive egomaniac for my money and I genuinely do not see the ‘fit’ with our club.

    I’d advocate, that no different to when we did our homework last time and appointed AW, we should be looking further afield at fresh thinkers and innovators.

    I do see the argument for stability in the short term but I also feel a pretty radical overhaul is required. I’d be looking to Southampton and seeing if we could entice some of their behind the scenes guys over – from what I have heard the setup they have is both innovative and effective.

    Structurally it would be interesting to see what they would change as the suspicion remains that we are somewhat antiquated in some areas and slow to change.

    Problem is, I have zero faith in those who are now in charge of the decision for this important, nay, crucial undertaking…

  40. Good Morning all,either way you look at it we are simply fucked. Fucked fucked fucked.Wenger is going no where and Kroenke is going no where. It will be the same of the same. We are on a road to no where.

  41. Jonny,

    I suspect that the main reason for the apparent indecision over Wenger’s future is the lack of someone at the club with the knowledge, and the balls, to make that decision.

  42. Ras,

    Oh come on, you know Wenger is still going to get us into the top four, just ask Bill. 😉

  43. We clearly don’t have any innovators in the club’s upper echelons. Gazidis probably has access to a network and will hire like a consultant or something to help make the decision.

    As for Rodgers, and I don’t even like him so much that I want to spend too long defending him, but he slipped into weird mantras during press conferences to get out of difficult questions. All managers do it. Other than that, there’s a dodgy portrait of him in his home, which was actually made for him by some charity.

    Comparisons to Pochettino are actually much easier: High defensive line, crazy pressing. Faith in younger players, and actually getting consistency out of them (Sterling’s best season was 13-14). He has an identity, and that can’t be understated. We definitely don’t have one any longer. I’d say at their best, Liverpool played with more expression, while Spurs are more drilled; less flare but more organisation. So far their records are pretty similar given that Pochettino hasn’t had to cope with selling some like Dembele or Kane.

    And then the comparisons between Southampton and Swansea are clear too: Teams that rendered much bigger sides ineffective without a star between them, while being brave and actually moving the ball around. And once their players moved to new clubs (Allen to Liverpool ironically) you got the sense that it was the system or even just the atmosphere that the manager created that made them shine in the first place.

    Which is actually the fear with our pal Xhaka. Favre got a lot out of some players that havent looked quite the same after their moves. Nordtveit has been bad at West Ham, although I just saw he played in their last two matches after three months on the bench.

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