How to console yourself after the utter humiliation of a 3-0 home defeat to West Ham? Let’s give it a go.
First of all it helps when you realise that Sam Allardyce is a tactical genius. Tommy Docherty was once asked what made a good manager and he answered ‘good players’ which stands to reason. But Allardyce has, relatively speaking, never had good players in the Premier League. Wherever he’s worked he’s had mediocre ones. Yesterday’s West Ham team sheet didn’t contain a single name that would have made the Spurs bench let alone the starting XI. Big Sam’s whole career has been built around picking up points with inferior teams. He has to rely on his experience, his motivational powers and his considerable tactical acumen and it was all there on display yesterday.
But on top of having a really well conceived plan carried out to the letter, Allardyce also needs luck and yesterday he got it. Spurs were the better team until West Ham’s first two goals went in, both the results of highly fortunate rebounds. If Spurs had had similar luck with any of their opportunities in the first hour West Ham would have had to try and come from behind and the whole tactical picture would have changed.
The third thing Big Sam needs to pull off an upset is for the superior opposition to be below par and Spurs looked knackered yesterday. Nine of the players that featured played a part on Thursday against Anzhi Makhachkala in Moscow and a tenth, Kyle Naughton, also made the trip. They got back to London in the morning on Friday so there wasn’t much in the way of recovery time. All of a sudden, that big deep squad looked a little shallower.
Good results up to now have masked the fact that this is a new Tottenham team with players still getting to know each and the best XI yet to emerge. It’s easy to argue that AVB picked the wrong side. Why pick Defoe over Soldado? Why keep ignoring the claims of Holtby and Sandro who could have added much needed steel and dynamism? But this is the easy after-the-event wisdom that clutters twitter after such a traumatic results.
It’s worth remembering that before yesterday all the other ‘big’ teams had suffered unexpected reverses at the hands of ‘small’ ones. Spurs have simply joined the club. The response in the next game will be highly significant. Unfortunately, in Aston Villa, the opposition will be a team of inferior players that over-achieves thanks to the work of a tactically astute, motivational manager. Tottenham will need to be re-energised and a bit luckier.
@theodelaney is a writer and film director with @hotspur_argyle, a director of @fantasistaart and a regular contributor to the @spursshow