Inside the Opposition: Tottenham

We may have had a scare in the Watford match, but it turned out to be another good win that keeps us involved in four competitions. It’s not an exaggeration to say we were completely outplayed in the first-half, and that Watford were tactically superior in that period, but we’ve found a way of winning when not at our best recently and this was another example.

Back to the league now then and a midweek trip to White Hart Lane awaits us. We’ve improved our record against Spurs in recent seasons, but as a City fan who remembers the day when they would beat us all the time, I am never confident about this fixture.

Earlier, I spoke to Spurs fan and football writer Jack Howes. I asked him about the AVB dismissal and whether the 6-0 at our place was the most comprehensive defeat he’d witnessed.

What did you make of the AVB dismissal and the Tim Sherwood appointment?

I was very disappointed that AVB got the chop though by the end, to be honest, it was clear his time was up. He bore the face of a guy who knew he was going to get the sack. He was in football management terms a walking corpse. While Spurs are not particularly successful, we have our limits as to what’s acceptable. Losing 6-0 to Man City, 5-0 to Liverpool and 3-0 to West Ham in such a hapless, pathetic manner went beyond those limits.

What people say, I believe incorrectly about AVB, is that he’s a tactician who bored his players stiff with constant tactics talk. Bollocks.

He played a high line against Luis Suarez and Liverpool for god’s sake, the exact opposite of what an astute tactician would do. The same thing was in evidence when City smashed us first time round. What I think AVB concentrated on was the overall philosophy and structure of the team, rather than on the opposition. We were always rigid under him, I think because he insisted that if someone made a forward run, someone would always cover for him, and that all the players had very specific jobs to do which left little room for players to express themselves. That, to me, is a separate thing from tactics.

Andre came across as a lovely guy who you’d want to do well for. He looked the part, sounded the part and I adored him. The players generally seemed to like him, Adebayor’s diffidence and Jan Vertonghen’s bad body language playing at left back notwithstanding. He’s a good coach who will succeed with more experience.

Appointing Tim Sherwood at the time I wasn’t happy about. He’s never been popular with the Spurs public. The first game I ever went to, Spurs v Leicester in October 1999 (we lost 3-2), the guy next to me spent the entire match calling Sherwood a “C*nt” every time he touched the ball. That summed up pretty much what supporters thought of him. However, I’ve slowly warmed to him as he’s got us winning games again.

Sherwood’s interviews are a difficult watch, and despite his decent results so far I can’t see him being successful at Spurs. Am I wrong?

Make no mistake about it – Tim Sherwood is a knobhead. What sort of prick in 2014 wears a gilet for god’s sake?

However, I’m very relaxed about Sherwood as Spurs boss. If he does well and Spurs miraculously finish in the top four, then fantastic. If he falters after this good start, he’ll get sacked in the summer and hopefully Louis Van Gaal will arrive. The thought of Van Gaal with his record managing Spurs is a very exciting one. As is Spurs playing in the Champions League obviously, so whatever happens there should be something to look forward to next season.

Do I think Sherwood being successful at Spurs? I genuinely have no idea. He’s not as stupid as he looks, there is a lot of merit in playing with a 4-4-2, while playing five in midfield at Swansea shows he’s learned his lesson after playing two up front against Arsenal and being completely dominated. You’d think his keep-it-simple approach wouldn’t work for long, but it worked for Harry Redknapp for two, three seasons. I’d be inclined to say he won’t experience success at Tottenham, but not with much confidence.

There appeared to be a disconnect between AVB and Franco Baldini. Rather than working together on drawing up a list of transfer it targets, it seemed like Baldini was presenting the manager with players. Is that how you saw it? And, if so, is that the right approach?

I think this is much more of a problem with Sherwood than it would have been with AVB. Andre didn’t have control of the signings at Porto and probably not at Chelsea either. He was used to having someone else sign the players and he and Baldini seemed to get along fairly well, even if the players he wanted (Hulk, Coentrao and David Villa) never arrived. Frankly, where it all started to go wrong for AVB regarding transfers wasn’t the £100m spent this summer, it was last summer when Levy didn’t sign Joao Moutinho. He was the player who would have replaced Luka Modric, who I think we’ve missed more than Gareth Bale. He would have been AVB’s on pitch lieutenant. He never arrived.

Sherwood though comes across as someone who does things his way and doesn’t like other people telling him what to do. One theory doing the rounds is that Baldini and Sherwood despise each other, resulting in Sherwood not playing Lamela as he was Baldini’s star signing and our manager thinks that if Lamela fails, Baldini will carry the can and perhaps be driven out of the club.

There is merit in having a director of football signing the players. On paper it should work, and in other countries it works fine. It’s only because in England we tend to treat managers as divinely appointed monarchs that we treat them with disdain. If managers weren’t so egotistical and were more co-operative with scouts and people who can bring in better quality transfers, it can definitely be the right approach.

Adebayor appears to have hit some form, which is unusual. How’s he doing?

Great!

Adebayor is clearly a complex individual. He often doesn’t give it 100% on the pitch, that is clear to see. For all of his ability, he’s only had two genuinely successful seasons in England, one with Arsenal and the other with Spurs when Redknapp was in charge.

Is that such a bad thing though? Without wishing to sound patronising, Adebayor has endured horrors in his life that none of us can contemplate. Witnessing friends and colleagues get shot is bound to give you a sense of perspective to running around a football pitch for ninety minutes. That missed one-on-one chance that might have given your team three points instead of one probably doesn’t hurt as much inside after you’ve been in a genuine life or death situation, not to mention other difficulties he’s faced, such as the death of his brother and constant battles with the Togolese Football Association.

Last season, I’d have been one of the fans slating him for lacking commitment. However, having heard him in various interviews and read about his life story, I’m much more inclined to like the guy, even if he doesn’t always harry the keeper or sprint to keep the ball in play. He’s a bloody good player when confident like he is right now.

How much have you missed Gareth Bale?

A fair bit, though not as much as I think certain pundits have made out. We’re on course to have a similar points total to what we had last season. And whereas last year Bale won us lots of games by the single goal through thirty yard screamers, this year we’ve won lots of matches by small margins due to either Soldado penalties or other flukey goals.

Bale’s a genuinely great player and I wish him every success at Real. However, he’s a winger. Wingers are expendable in a way that players in more central positions are not. I’d say we miss a fit Ledley King and Luka Modric more than we miss Bale, because those two gave us control of games. Bale, for all his goalscoring exploits, never allowed us to control games, merely to get more than we deserved from them. We’ve not played consistently well for nearly two years now, yet are still recording record point hauls.

Predicted Spurs XI?

Lloris
Walker Dawson Chiriches Rose
Dembele Bentaleb
Lennon Eriksen Sigurdsson
Adebayor

City fans are pinching themselves at the quality of football being produced this season. What have you made of our performances?

Very impressive. What’s both a bit scary and very impressive is that City play in spurts depending on the situation and still score loads more goals than everyone else. If they played at 100% for ninety minutes and didn’t just bother to score goals when they felt like they needed them, they’d average four or five goals a game at home.

At home, City are basically unbeatable. What City can do is score goals in all sorts of different ways. They can do all the fancy short passing stuff and slip someone in behind the defence to score. They can use Navas and Yaya to run at the defence if they need to. They can punt it up to Negredo or Dzeko and score that way. They are so multi-dimensional going forward, makes it almost impossible to stop them.

Where you can get at them perhaps is by attacking them a bit. They don’t have a pure defensive midfielder and the defence without Kompany and/or Nastasic is vulnerable. I think a lot of their poor away form earlier this season was due to freak circumstances and bad luck (the 3-2 defeat at Villa for example) but they are fallible.
That said, they are comfortably the best team I’ve watched this year in England and I hope they win the league. Arsenal winning it would be horrific, Chelsea winning it not so bad but still painful.

Was the 6-0 the most comprehensive defeat you’ve seen Spurs suffer?

Probably. I’m not very old so don’t remember clearly a load of our heavy defeats in the 90s and early 00s, but the City game was the one where we looked the most powerless to stop the opposition. It was so easy for City, 6-0 flattered Spurs to be honest. It was completely and utterly humiliating.

Prediction?

2-2. An entertaining game, both sides going for it, with at least one penalty. Both sides are better attacking than defending, so I’ll be surprised if there aren’t plenty of goals.

Interview by Rob Pollard

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