Friday, September 23, 2011

Tottenham - A Winning Mentality

Do Spurs have that desire to win at any cost which the top clubs possess?  Those clubs have players who don't know what it is to be beaten and when they are, they don't like it.  That makes them stand out from all the other clubs around them but do the players at Tottenham have that same desire and winning mentality?

Is Scott Parker a Leader for Spurs?
Tottenham have always been regarded as a soft touch - a team who won't perform on a cold wet night in the north west.  Players will go missing and won't take responsibility when the going gets tough.  Do the current players have the desire to turn such opinions around?

Last year the team managed to gain 22 points from losing positions but they gained only 11 points out of a possible thirty from the bottom five teams in the Premier League which affected their final position dramatically.

The team has won their last two Premier League games but went out of the Carling Cup on penalties at Stoke.  The weakened team contained eight international players but they were unable to score in two hours of football and when it came to penalties their defeat was the sixth consecutive penalty shoot-out loss. When it came to the pressure of the shoot-out, it was an international striker, Roman Pavlyuchenko, who missed a crucial early strike so transferring the pressure to other less experienced players.  Similarly, the defeats in the Carling Cup Final and UEFA Cup match against PSV Eindhoven saw seasoned Premier League players with international experience miss vital kicks at a crucial time in the shoot-out, David Bentley and Jermaine Jenas.

Top teams regularly play under-strength sides in the early rounds of the domestic Cup competitions and have progressed to the latter stages, even going on to lift the Cup.  Tottenham's squad players aided by some talented youngsters weren't able to produce a similar result this week.

The victory at Wolves suggested greater application from the team against opposition who have proved difficult opponents since returning to the Premier League.  The win over Liverpool was pleasing in the energy that the players showed from the start taking the game to their visitors and not giving them a chance to control the game.  The four goal success was their largest win over Liverpool since 1963, so we shouldn't be too critical. However, the one question that has lingered in my mind since last Sunday is - should it have been more?

If things had been the other way round - Spurs at Anfield, reduced to nine men and three down with twenty five minutes remaining, would Liverpool have settled for four?  I suggest that they would have gone for the jugular and it would have been an even greater embarrassment than Liverpool felt last weekend.  Manchester United didn't settle for 5 - 1 or 6 - 2 against Arsenal they went for it and left the visitors totally shell-shocked.  Spurs, however, having gone three up and with Liverpool offering nothing, settled for playing 'keep ball' with pass after pass in midfield, not looking to create anything and Liverpool were content to let them do that as they weren't under any threat.  A team  with a winning mentality would have benn looking to create more chances, score more goals and make their opponents really suffer, as frequently happens to Spurs.  As it was Tottenham's fourth goal didn't come until the last kick of added time with Emmanuel Adebayor putting away Benoit Assou-Ekotto's cross.

Successful teams have players who lead by example and never know when they're beaten.  Steven Gerrard is the perfect example of that special type of player when he is wearing the 'red' of Liverpool.  He has pulled them through many 'lost' causes to success and they have an outstanding penalty-shoot record in vital European and Cup games.  Last season's defeat to Northampton Town at Anfield when Tottenham's Oscar Janssen was in goal for the visitors was an amazing 'blip' on an incredible record.  Manchester United had Roy Keane and Brian Robson who led by example, Livwerpool also had former Spur, Graeme Souness, but it is some time since Spurs had such a player in the team.

Graham Robers - a Leader
The most notable example is Dave Mackay from the 1960s with Graham Roberts and Paul Miller created from the same mould.  In Tottenham's UEFA Cup Final success in 1984, Roberts scored the equalising goal against Anderlecht and then led by example as captain on the night, by scoring the first penalty in the successful shoot-out.  Alan Mullery and Steve Perryman had similar qualities and were prepared to roll up their sleeves and get on with it when the going was difficult.  Who of recent Tottenham experience has had such a presence in the team?  William Gallas is certainly a 'winner' who doesn't take kindly to losing and on a number of occasions last year he showed that spirit when battling on with minor knocks and injuries bandaged or strapped up, rather than be substituted.

Harry Redknapp has often lamented the lack of a player with such character and qualities and the experience of Scott Parker was something that the manager felt would be of benefit to the current team.  A player prepared to fight for the right to play and not afraid to battle when things get tough.  He showed such leadership qualities while battling with West Ham last season.

The match against Wigan won't provide any conclusive answers but a defeat would further strengthen the argument that the Spurs players still lack a winning mentality while success would provide an indication that they might just be moving away from that 'soft' Londoners tag.


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