Reading v Tottenham Hotspur, 4pm
16 September ~ During the international break, Tottenham Hotspur moved into a new state-of-the-art training complex. It is a rival to any in the Premier League but the same cannot be said of the team. Two points from the opening three matches, including two winnable home games where we went ahead, left fans howling with frustration and the media scenting blood. Their cosy relationship with Harry Redknapp afforded an unparalleled level of protection – an end of season collapse two years running and poor transfer windows raising barely a murmur.
André Villas-Boas is a new manager who has yet to find his best team. Spurs have played well in spells without ever controlling a game or taking the stream of chances that have come our way. At the back, a crass late error in each game cost three goals and five points. Playing well, not converting chances, failing to shut down a game and unnecessary mistakes at crucial moments are tell-tale signs of a side struggling to find its way.
Last season Spurs often left the back four exposed. Although our work rate is high and we hold the ball well, that hasn't changed despite favouring two defensive midfielders. The young Brazilian Sandro, a top-quality player able to dominate that area of the field, is weary after the Olympic football tournament, while the promising Jake Livermore is error prone and Scott Parker injured. The last-second failure to land Villas-Boas favourite João Moutinho from Porto was a blow.
At the back, Jan Vertonghen is classy and quick but with Younès Kaboul out the manager is unsure about the perfect partner. His preference for the wily but ageing William Gallas is puzzling, given the claims of Michael Dawson and Steven Caulker, back from a successful season on loan at Swansea. Kyle Walker's attacking brilliance remains underused.
Villas-Boas is not the first manager to discover that Jermain Defoe's reputation as a consistently sharp finisher is exaggerated. His presence as a lone striker diminishes the value of playing two wide men in Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon. At least it has given opposition defenders plenty of heading practice.
Against Reading we can release the potential of Gylfi Sigurdsson, the excellent Mousa Dembele and Clint Dempsey, an opportunist steal at £6 million, so we score more goals without sacrificing solidity. Emmanuel Adebayor should return with Defoe and Lennon stepping down. Cut out basic mistakes at the back and we will prosper.
Villas-Boas must now shape his fine squad into a cohesive unit. It's discomfiting to share their growing pains but Spurs fans must possess both patience and realistic expectations. In August I predicted a tough start with good times to come and I see no reason to revise that yet. Alan Fisher tottenhamonmymind.wordpress.com