Bouncing from rock bottom at Spurs. What will we see against Everton?

John McCormick:
John McCormick: looking for inspiration

Spurs was one of the games I planned to attend. Only tentatively originally, because Helen and Will (daughter and Spurs-supporting boyfriend) had a wedding to go to and they said I could borrow Will’s season ticket and bunk down at theirs, but it was all lined up until the game was moved to a Monday night and the plan was scuppered.

Thank God I didn’t go. What a waste of a journey it would have been. Instead, I stayed up here and watched it, which was painful enough. Although we went close and then took the lead our forwards never looked like scoring and it was always a case of could the defence hold out. Maybe earlier in the season they could, but not now. Speed is gone, confidence is gone and there’s so much shuffling of players that crucial element of communication appears to have gone with them. I don’t think Spurs were as good as a 5-1 win implies but we were as bad as a 5-1 defeat indicates. Surely there’s no way back, which begs the question,”Have we hit bottom?“

This was one of those games that wreck my sleep and as I awoke at 5.00am “have we hit bottom” was one of the thoughts that was whizzing around an over-stressed brain. I really do need a holiday, or maybe just a team to perform reasonably. And it would help if the manager’s post-match e-mail made sense.

So have we hit bottom? Can we get worse or is the only way up? I’m not referring to league position as we may yet have a relegation to endure but in the way we perform on the pitch. Before I attempt to answer that question it might be helpful to think about how we got here, wherever it is.

We’ve had how many seasons of underperformance under how many managers? Steve Bruce came and went, then Martin O’Neill, and neither set the place alight. Their best players departed, leaving others who were the epitomy of mediocrity until Di Canio came in with a new manager bounce that was enough to shake them up and save last season. However, management style and weird transfers subsequently caused a car-crash that made Bruce and O’Neill look like Arsene Wenger. So in came Gus.

Gus had impressive wins against Man City and the Mags but with teams like Arsenal, Liverpool and Man Utd at the SOL it’s no surprise we were still bottom at Christmas. Even so he appeared to have steadied the ship, and with good cup runs came optimism. The weak teams were coming and we could make up the deficit.

Only we didn’t. Self-destructive tendencies in some cases, injuries in others, notably Fletcher, but some of the losses must be laid at the door of Gus, who didn’t appear to use the transfer window well and more recently, as he seeks to field a winning side, has made change after change in the starting line-up. In some ways that is not surprising. The months between Gus coming and the January window were full of promise and with a strong enough squad on paper maybe he thought we’d have enough once morale was addressed.

Was this due to our manager’s inexperience? Is that the reason for a number of surprising team and tactical changes? Some of these these have been tremendously effective, but not as often as we’d like or we need, and some, such as leaving out Jonno or bringing in Cuellar for O’Shea have been baffling (but, then, what do I know about football management?). In my opinion it’s this inexperience which is at the heart of our demise. A more experienced manager might have just – and it’s a close call, so bad were we – managed to get us out and then keep us out of trouble but new boy Gus had next to no chance and has done well just to keep us in the mix, especially bearing in mind those self-destructive tendencies.

So where do we go from here? Up or further down? Let’s think short term, until May, and longer term, from next season.

evertonians

The consensus from some Liverpudlians on Sunday was that we would go down but bounce back. Then on Monday some Evertonians, fresh from a trouncing of Arsenal, told me they didn’t relish the prospect of a visit to the SOL as we would be fighting for our lives. How things must have changed after Monday night. The Liverpudlians must be thinking we won’t return, if they are thinking of us at all, and the Evertonians will be thinking things like: “if we concede only three in the first half we’ll be OK in the second” or “run at them and they’ll cave in”.

Such thoughts will go beyond fans with the result that Saturday is a massive game for Gus. Not because it’s must win but because it will show what he can do as a manager to lift a team that seems to have lost its spirit, and with that its hope. Even a loss might provide a lift, provided it’s a hard-fought loss to a club with a point to make and not a cave-in. If he can achieve that then the bounce-back next season is possible; if he can pick up a point then anything’s possible. But another abject failure doesn’t bear thinking about.

Me, I think Gus can achieve something against Everton despite his inexperience, mediocre players and the gloom surrounding us. He has, as far as I’m concerned,  got it right as often as he’s got it wrong and I’m not calling for his neck. I also believe relegation will have been discussed when he took the job on and he and Ellis Short will handle it. That’s where the longer term comes in. I’m optimistic that he’s up to the job and he’ll get there. We might lose on Saturday, and we might go down this season, but we won’t submit easily; next season, with a refreshed squad and players that play and perform as a more experienced Gus wants, the rebuilding will bear fruit.

I’m not looking forward to the next few weeks but I’m keeping the faith.

Jake: as hope dwindles ...
Jake: as hope dwindles …

The Everton ‘Who are You?’ and Guess the Score will appear tomorrow (Thursday).

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8 thoughts on “Bouncing from rock bottom at Spurs. What will we see against Everton?”

  1. Mackay for me also.Got a feeling we will start next season with Poyet though. It’s a massive rebuilding job that’ll need doing, lets hope he’s up to it

    • Ps I’ve a sneaky suspicion Poyet was looking to use us as a springboard for a ‘ bigger ‘ job. As it stands no one of any stature would touch him with a barge pole. There’ll be no bigger job than sorting our mess out though .

  2. I’d go for Malky too. He is a proper football manager. Behaved with great dignity at Cardiff, and would have probably kept them up if their rather strange owner had an iota of sense.

  3. When Poyet came he had 31 league games to achieve safety. When did Pulis arrive at Palace? Don’t get me wrong, Palace are dreadful; but they’re staying up with a manager who’s given them a way of playing and stuck to it, regardless of a bad result here and there. When Terry Venables was England manager he said ‘the first thing a player under pressure forgets is the last thing they were told.’ Basically don’t try any drastic changes until you can embed them. Guess what? Poyet’s tried changing systems and personnel, all to no avail. 4-1-4-1 made us hard to beat and our points tally ticked over, slowly but surely. A bad result to Hull (10 men) then Arsenal, and the panic button was hit. Nothing gained since. I just hope if Poyet stays, he learns from this. No, the players aren’t remotely good enough, but there have been times when it’s looked like they’ve had no idea where or how to play, and the defending at set pieces? That is the coaching. Poyet cannot be absolved in this shambles.

    • Agreed

      His tinkering has probably cost us our PL place. The simple truth is that after almost an entire season, he has no idea of his preferred 11, and no clear tactical system.

      I am under no illusion about the poor quality of the squad, but that said, many of them are current internationals, and have played for, and learnt their trade in successful clubs. We should easily have had enough to be out of the relegation places.

      Above all, his activity in the January window convinces me that his judgement is hopeless. He spent much of he time chasing Bridcutt, an average Championship player from what I have observed. We already have Cattermole and Colback for that job, both IMO better players.
      We were reasonably covered at centre back, yet he brings in Vergini, who is no where near as good as O’Shea or Brown, and no better than Cuellar.
      We desperately needed a striker, and Poyet recruits Scocco, who he tells us, is not match fit, after being at the club for weeks!

      I could go on, but really it has all been said. Poyet himself looks as if he has given up the fight. I think he is a one trick pony, with no Plan B. A number of Brighton fans have mentioned that.

      All in all, it’s a mess.

      • Sadly I agree. I suspect that part of the deal struck with Ellis Short would be the chance for Gus to leave. Malky McKay anyone?

  4. Excellent Scotter!

    What will we see against Everton? More rubbish and a few goals flying in past Mannone.

    4-0 to Everton would be a safe bet.

  5. Five surgeons are discussing who make the best patients to operate on.

    The first surgeon says, ‘I like to see accountants on my operating table because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered.’

    The second, responds, ‘Yes, but you should try electricians! Everything inside them is colour coded.’

    The third surgeon says, ‘No, I really think librarians are the best, everything inside them is in neat order.’

    The fourth surgeon chimes in: ‘You know, I like construction workers…

    Those guys always understand when you have a few parts left over.’

    But the fifth surgeon, shut them all up when he observed: ‘You’re all wrong.

    Sunderland footballers are the easiest to operate on. There are no guts, no heart, no balls, no brains, and no spine…

    Plus, the head and the arse are interchangeable.

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