The attitude of the players seems to be the major gripe amongst the masses today, and that particular narrative certainly gets my vote, because from the AANP vantage point last night the attitude of the collective from first whistle to approximately the 115th minute stunk the place out.
And while the countless individuals thrust into the limelight yesterday should all be publicly flogged for their pitiful efforts, I do wonder what the hell Jose is doing to earn his weekly envelope. If the players’ attitudes are rummy, or their confidence low, then the manager is presumably tasked with inspiring the requisite changes in mindset, and sharpish. And if the manager is incapable of drumming into their thick skulls the need to buck up and get the pistons firing, then one might say he is incapable, full stop.
It would not quite be accurate to say our lot picked up where they left off on Sunday, because strictly speaking, on Sunday we perked up considerably once the odds had lengthened to enormous levels (anyone else notice a theme emerging here?) via throwing away a lead, going behind and going down to ten men. At that point the place was choc-full of fire in the belly.
No, more accurately, our heroes picked up pretty much where they started on Sunday, or perhaps a regressed a step or two from that point. The approach last night from the opening toot seemed to be to hope that the game would stagnate into nihilism, actively trying to ensure that nothing happened each minute so that we could hurry along to the final whistle and qualification, preferably without the need to break sweat.
Now strictly speaking, in logical terms, there was much to applaud about this approach. If nothing had happened, we would indeed have qualified. Very clever stuff. If the entire match could have been spent by Winks and Sissoko passing sideways to each other and occasionally backwards to Sanchez, as seemed to be the dedicated aim, then we would indeed have coasted through. In fact, I got the impression that our lot were hoping that the ref would decree that there was no need to play a game at all, and that he might just instruct everyone to sit quietly on the spot for 90 minutes, after which results would be recorded with minimal fuss.
However, while fool-proof in theory, if anyone wanted practical evidence of flaws in the tactical approach of “Let’s hope nothing happens for the entire 90 minutes”, then last night their cup overflowed with the stuff.
The galling thing was that one goal would have neatly ended the contest, and one goal against these willing but limited opponents was eminently achievable. Had our heroes gone up the necessary gears they would almost certainly have fashioned enough chances to kill the thing.
Instead, as per the headline, the attitude stunk the place out. Our mob presented themselves as fully converted to the doctrine that they needed only be present and the game would see itself through to full-time in their favour. No effort was exerted in search of a goal because no need was seen for a goal, and the sound of a million Spurs fans banging their heads against the nearest brick wall back home did nothing to amend this.
2. Jose’s Future
It has been widely suggested that Daniel Levy has sacked numerous coaches for less heinous crimes than the rap sheet currently pinned to Jose. Whether or not this is true, one would imagine that the Paymaster General is now casting his mind back a little nervously to Jose’s assurances on contract-signing day. Where Poch’s appeals for funds were often ignored, Jose was invited to dive into a cartoon bathtub full of money at the first opportunity.
Having been duly backed, we find ourselves outsiders for the top four and peddling some pretty dreadful fare on the pitch; and really at least one of these – results or performances – needs to be in place to justify this whole wretched experience.
In the interests of fairness it should not be overlooked that we have at least started beating the teams at the lower end of the table, as the recent run of victories evidences. Nevertheless, the nagging suspicion remains that, armed with Kane, Bale, Son, Lucas, Dele, Lamela, Ndombele and Reguilon at their disposal, most managers ever to have walked the earth could probably have conjured up a win at home to Burnley.
It is being suggested that a Cup Final win against City would be enough to keep Jose in post, and Levy presumably would concur. After all, the whole point of the Jose exercise seemed to be to bring in some shiny pots. I’m not sure that the t’s and c’s included doing so at the expense of our footballing souls, but if it’s pots that Levy is after, then at least one pot Jose now has an opportunity to snaffle.
The AANP tuppence worth is that this would not be sufficient. Should Jose win the Carabao then let that be a triumphant, if ill-deserved, coda to a pretty ghastly tenure, and let’s have him shoved out the door while bleating about his knack for winning titles wherever he goes.
As suggested above, Jose does not appear capable of coaxing, cajoling, hypnotising or blackmailing the players into playing with the requisite attacking feist. Blessed with arguably three of the most talented attacking footballers of their generation, not to a mention a supporting cast that would be the envy of most teams across Europe, he has fashioned a team that seems convinced the road to glory is paved with a counter-attack every half hour.
The style is only bearable if we are top of – or perhaps challenging for – the league. In this context, winning a trophy (via a bye, a penalty shoot-out and wins against two lower-league opponents) hardly cures all ills.
I spent much of last night trying to avert the bleeding of my eyes by working out whether we are a decent team that is occasionally dreadful, or a dreadful team that is occasionally decent. Neither of these seem good enough for a manager having wads of cash thrust into every available pocket, yet who, eighteen months in, is yet to present a plan for future improvement.
All that said, it is difficult to imagine Levy giving his man the elbow unless we spin down into the bottom half. For unfathomable reasons Levy seems pretty obsessed with Jose, having near-enough stalked the man until he agreed to hop on board. It seems unlikely that he will turn on his back on him now, with the Top Four and a Cup Final win both still within the realms of possibility.
3. Son and Kane’s Futures
But to hell with Jose, what about Sonny and Kane?
I’m no student of body-language, but Kane’s demeanour as he exited the crime-scene last night did not strike me as that of a man bursting with the joys of life and all it has to offer. My spies tell me that the fellow turns 28 this summer, and one would therefore not blame him for using his quieter moments to pause and wonder where the heck his first winners’ medal might come from, and whether any more might follow.
Things would be different if, as were the case in the prime Poch years, the club were elbowing its way into conversations about the top prizes, and appeared to be in with a shout. Kane presumably is not hanging his hat on this particular season being one of triumph, but, one suspects, he would at the very least want to see that the vehicle as a whole is heading off in the direction of success.
Alas, under Jose there is precious little indication of any such thing. The current lot are pretty accurately-seated, being somewhere between sixth and tenth, and with every step forward having pretty promptly been followed by one in the opposite direction.
Kane undoubtedly has affection for the club, and it’s a safe bet that he is well aware of being within a season or two of Jimmy Greaves’ record, but one would hardly be surprised if he announced that he would rather not spend his prime years working up a sweat on Thursday nights in Zagreb. This is not to denigrate Zagreb: I dated a Croat for a while in my youth, and can attest to the fact that the city has its fair share of delights; but regular Champions League involvement is not amongst them. Kane will rightly feel that he needs to be sharing a stage with Lewandowski, Mbappe and Haaland, and the clock is ticking on his career.
While Sonny may be inclined to wait a little longer, I imagine he will have less of an affinity to the club than Kane, and it’s a pretty safe bet that he will be almightily cheesed off if Kane gathers his possessions and pootles out the door.
Nights like last night are happening a little too often; much more of such rot and the whole dashed thing will unravel.