The Big Four in the English Premier League was supposed to be a Big Five. With all the spending and dealing done by Tottenham last summer, the London club had the look of a potential powerhouse.
So much for the best-laid plans.
Tottenham manager Juande Ramos, a man synonymous with silverware, is feeling the walls close in as his Spurs are sitting at the bottom of the EPL standings, managing just two points from eight games.
Luiz Felipe Scolari isn’t having as much trouble. The Chelsea manager is dealing with a myriad of injury issues but his team just keeps on rolling, all the way to the top of the EPL table. Considering Chelsea and Tottenham are both in London it is amazing to see just how far apart they are in terms of quality these days.
SBI EPL correspondent James Tyler of The Unprofessional Foul compares and contrasts the vastly different starts for Chelsea and Tottenham in this week’s look at the English Premier League.
A Tale of Two Clubs
By JAMES TYLER
There are two emerging truths from this season, both exhibited and displayed in full this past week: Chelsea are winning the league, and Spurs will soon be exiting it.
Chelsea put 5 more goals a garden variety ‘Boro defense, and there exists such a casual playfulness and fun to their on-field exploits that one can’t help but catch the fever (I am resisting comfortably, by the way). Headed goals from Lampard? Check. Swerving right-footed goals from 30 yards that leave the keeper helpless (and struck by a backup right-back who was deputizing in midfield due to injuries, nonetheless)? Check. It didn’t matter that there were 11 players on the field for poor Middlesbrough, as they had simply no answer for the product currently wowing the league. Scolari’s managed to remove the sense of cold joylessness and workmanlike graft that plagued the Blues under Avram Grant. Now, the charisma of its manager off the field is matched by his players on it. Kalou and Malouda look far more potent than they have to date in the Chelsea kit, and Bosingwa is a revelation at right-back.
The reward for casual supporters is a match-up with this year’s grateful benefactors of Lady Luck’s smile, a Liverpool side that would be more Tottenham than title contender if it weren’t for their scrapping and goalscoring in the last 15 minutes of every matchday. Of course it helps when they’ve had opposing players sent off in their last 3 EPL fixtures (all for tackles on poor Xabi Alonso, the Basque punching bag), but their knack for getting results out of nothing has them 2nd in the league only on goal difference. They can’t keep winning like this (on Saturday, it was 2 yellows in 3 minutes for Antonio Valencia and then goals from Riera and Kuyt in the last 10 minutes to win 3-2 at home), but then again, Chelsea can’t keep bagging goals by the truckload, and something will give this Sunday. Will it be Scolari’s video game style of pass-and-move, or will it be Rafa’s lucky rabbit’s foot?
Meanwhile, in the bottom 3, we still don’t see Stoke or West Brom, but Newcastle and Spurs, easily two of the proudest clubs in Association Football’s history. The Toon toiled with ten men for 77 minutes and won a well-deserved 2-2 draw at home to Manchester City, and their performance Monday night suggests that they’re up for the battle ahead. Spurs, on the other hand? A much different story. They play for themselves and not for each other, and all the complaining about the referee for dismissing 2 Spurs players (Bale was perhaps unlucky, but thuggish sub Michael Dawson deserved an early bath) is rendered moot against their impotent play. Stoke took their chances well and were a constant menace, whereas Spurs lucked out on their equalizer as Darren Bent was a yard offside and was still able to bundle the ball into the net via shin and toe.
Ramos looks lost on the sideline, unsure of just what to do. Picking a regular XI might help, as well as having the balls to try Pavlyuchenko and Bent alongside one another for more than 45 minutes. Zokora can’t atone for the defensive shortcomings of whichever center-back pairing gets picked, and this week saw another key injury, this time to Vedran Corluka. The gifted right-back ended up at center-back, and was wounded twice in a minute by his own goalkeeper. The first blow was a flying knee to the ribs while Gomez flapped to defend a set piece, and then the goalie finished the job kneeing him in the temple while trying to clear a corner.
It’s one thing when you’re struggling at full-strength, but when your players are putting each other out of commission, then Ramos must wonder if their on-field petulance is akin to mutiny and sabotage. Woodgate simply shrugged when he conceded the second penalty, and more than once on Sunday did Spurs players show off their best Berbatov impressions, standing around the field, hands on hips, sighing heavily.
They face Bolton this weekend, and it’s nigh-on impossible to envision anything other than a draw. After all, the situation is dour, but one gets the sense it’s going to get much, much worse before it gets any better.
Two vastly different fortunes are playing out in London: Juande Ramos is staring at the salida while Big Phil Scolari gazes at the stars. The teams and managers in-between are simply dazed by both.
You cut your losses whenever you feel relegation is a real possibility.
As embarassing as this start has been, as embarassing as it would be to sack this manager, going down would be downright catastrophic.
we’ll work on it.
As for Spurs?
A.S. – no-one’s shocked that they’re struggling, but there’s definite surprise that they’re clear bottom of the league. In the summer, they were the vogue pick to break the Top 4 even when we all knew Dimitar and Robbie were leaving. Simply put, they’ve spent too much money on unproven, unknown quantities. Sure, Modric and Pavs are young and could well come around and start dominating, but who knows if they’ll have time to do just that!
Giaco – come Jan, the only changes we might see are sales from Spurs. I don’t think Levy’s going to open his wallet for Commoli (or his replacement) based on current returns. Plus, what self-respecting good footballer is going to want to join that troubled mess?
Cam – agreed, although I think it’s a bit early to blow up the village in order to save it. Ramos has given them their worst league start in almost 100 years, while Jol was fired for much less (not to mention Jol had them finishing 5th in consecutive seasons, their best league finishes in a long time). The money and investments simply aren’t paying off. Question is, when do you cut your losses?
spurs probably will beat the drop, but this is pathetic. tyler is 100% right, they are playing for themselves, and not very well. what do you expect, juande doesnt even know how to speak english, how is he supposed to lead an english club?
they need a new everything. new owner, director, coach, players. i cannot think of a worse way of handling the berbatov and keane situation. these guys are absolute clowns. i almost feel like personally apologizing to saf, and it was he who took our best player! spurs fans are among the most passionate in the world, we deserve much better.
Ramos’ struggles with Spurs can be explained with a close examination of the photo above. Look at his shoes. He’s got velcro straps instead of laces. How can his players respect a manager that can’t even tie his own shoes!!
Comolli will be out by the end of next week. Ramos will stay in and Spurs will beat the drop. Hopefully in January and the offseason we will see some useful change at Spurs.
Come on you Spurs!
Ives, I enjoy this feature but I would also enjoy an even more comprehensive EPL round-up that touched on each match as opposed to a feature column.
I don’t know why anyone’s that shocked at Spurs’ troubles. They have zero offense, because they sold their only two consistent goal scorers from last year, kept their mediocrities like Darren Bent and Aaron Lennon, and brought in a bunch of unknown EPL quantities, like Pavlyachenko and Modric. It’s really no wonder they are last in the EPL in scoring.
Hey Ramos, karma’s a bitch, eh?
You’re nada without Kanoute and LuisFa. Toma!