Date: 23rd March 2018 at 3:33pm
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A recent quote from Hugo got me thinking about how players and fans see the game.

When asked by the Associated Press (via the Evening Standard) about whether we will win a trophy soon, our n0.1 had an interesting answer:

‘We want a trophy because I think we deserve a trophy. It’s just because we play so attractive football. I think people enjoy the way we play because we are a very positive team with a lot of energy. The way we play football is a bit risky but we create a lot of chances.’

It really does depend on your view, but some would scoff at the above comment. The more pragmatic would say football is about winning, the three points and the trophy at the end of the season. They`d say that Poch has spent nearly four years playing attractive football without anything to show for it, while a certain Mourinho has already won a League Cup and Europa League title in half that time.

However, the aesthetics are important for football fans as Hugo rightly points out. Out of the two fanbases, who do you think is happier, us or Manchester United`s? It`s clear that supporters can go without winning silverware, and still be happy with progress.

Even though we are getting closer, the near misses do rankle with me a bit. In this debate between pragmatism and aesthetical qualities, one side doesn`t necessarily win out over the other. Pep at City, and in the past with Bayern and Barca, has shown you can win things by playing the right way, while at the same time, a pragmatic approach doesn`t always win out, as Mourinho is finding out this season.

It doesn`t mean however we should stick to one way of playing no matter the circumstances. Especially in knockout tournaments, winning ugly is sometimes the only option. The two legs against Juve were an example where just a bit more pragmatism could have been rewarded with a win.

Most observers felt we would have deserved to go through because of our performances in both legs of the tie, and yet we didn`t prevail. I am not a conservative man by nature, but there were certain points in that second leg at Wembley where I`d wished we`d held back a bit more and kept things tighter. In those crucial moments, the purity of the game has to be sacrificed to get the result.

Getting over the line is something we`ve struggled with so far and being a bit more savvy at the right moments will be critical for changing that. Perhaps we will be rewarded for the attacking football we play like Hugo says, but my instincts say we won`t be unless we become smarter, and a bit more pragmatic. What do you think? Let me know in the poll.


26 Replies to “Aesthetics v Pragmatism – A Debate For Spurs Fans To Ponder”

  • Looking at Man City and them going with 5 defenders and 5 attackers that there is proof that champagne football can win and do it comfortably. We have the players to do the same but have held back and gone 5-1-4 – Dembele acting as a make-weight between defence and attack – all rounder (box to box). Depending on the opposition I would love to see us mix it up with the current formation and then something like City aswell – would be good to keep opponents guessing. There is of course a time to sit back and defend and we probably should have done it against Juve but we had the upper hand and did not want to conceed possession of it a la Juve had done to us in the first leg after going two goals up. A killer 2nd would have surely buried them even with 30 minutes or so to play but we fell asleep for about 5 minutes and that cost us everything. As long as the momentary lapses can be ironed out as best possible we should stand a much better stead of winning and doing it with style. We also press all over the place added to that formation and I think the makings are already in place for winning football what we may need is more luck with injuries, too many and too long to key players.

  • Kane, Lamela, Rose, Alderweireld, Walker last season, etc. If we want to win and compete with the moneybags that are City, Chelski and Utd in the mainstay then we need luck with injuries to key players and that means them staying fit and healthy all season long – that could see us challenge properly for the Prem and win something or other. If we have to compete with injuries aswell it makes that much harder and then we are really stretched – no wonder we have to prioritise Prem over everything barring the CL maybe. Palace are a good example with so many injuries it could cost them Prem survival and they have good players – Zaha, Cabaye, Van Aanholt, Townsend, Benteke, etc – certainly enough to be comfortably mid table and yet they find themselves in a solid relegation scrap.

  • The best teams can do both, certainly the Liverpool teams of the 1980s and Ferguson’s United teams could. At the moment there isn’t really an English team like that. At some point we do need to add that mind set if we want to make the most of what we have.

  • I have to say that given our impressive defensive record for the past 3 seasons, we must have been pretty pragmatic as well as being just damn right pretty, most of the time. I mean, since when has good defending ever been called pretty anyway?

    2 matches v Juve are the main exception in a cup competition this season, when it comes to wise defensive play, if you like and being more pragmatic (once we took the lead). But, then again, 2 matches v Real showed us the complete opposite of this. Given that Real had by far the greatest amount of possession and goal attempts in those matches, both home and away.

    We are getting there. We are learning very well the balance. But, even so, as with Man City right now, mostly, our best form of defence is still attractive and attacking football and with the greater possession of the ball.

    And, as for this season? Well, it ain’t over yet!

    Atletico Aesthetes 6-4 Pragmatists Wanderers!

  • Hot Tottingham – The point is that while Madrid may have more star quality and better players it was Juventus who had the kind of professional attitude and killer instinct we need. They basically won the tie in 5 minutes.

  • I wasn’t responding to your post jod,if that is what you were thinking. I hadn’t read it before I posted mine. I was just making my own point after reading the article… I agree with you on your posts… I will tough add that it was Real that beat Juve in last years CL final. And so my point in that example is valid, in that (IMO), we are quite pragmatic most of the time, when given our overall defensive record as well as our attacking football being impressive whilst showing the more attractive side of our game… My real point is that we have been getting there, in both aspects or our game, given that we have both good defensive and attacking stats, along with our pretty good win percentage, under MP, whilst mainly playing attractive football but coupled with a strong and (mostly) impressive defence.

  • El Jefe,

    When did Lamela become a key player for us? We improved leaps and bounds without him last season and finished second. He was not missed. Eriksen & Son are in that key bracket not Lamela.

  • …I will also just add that Man City, whilst playing some of the most attractive football in Europe this season and scoring a hell of a lot, that, in the EPL they also have the best defensive record. It is however only 5 goals less than Spurs that they have conceded. Maybe, it is our finishing that is not quite up to scratch, when it boils down to winning more games? It’s more than likely down to both our finishing and our goals against, given that our possession and goal chances have often been the greater of both teams, even when we have lost. So, pragmatism should also be associated to our attack as much as it is to our defensive attributes, IMO.

  • RichmondSpur, Lamela has never truly had a run/season to prove what he promises and in that we have missed out. That’s the whole point, injuries have denied us the opportunity ti get the best out of him. Also as I stated elsewhere he for me is the back-up to the likes of Alli, Ericksen, Son and Moura. Also I feel we will add at least another AM or better put winger this summer in someone like Malcom, Zaha and then even perhaps Sessegnon but that aside Lamela would still be vital in squad rotation. I have argued for a 4-1-4-1 formation with Dembele playing as the DMC and then in-leashing 5 attacking players in Ericksen, Alli, Moura, Son and Kane. For me Lamela would struggle to get into my first team be it 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1 but I would still love to have him in the squad for rotation purposes and then see what he does with it – plenty of games with CL qualification so no need for anyone to get too disappointed. Also this is the case now but up until Moura signing and what comes in the Summer – he would have been in there or there abouts and for the time being Moura is still not match fit whereas Lamela is – so again squad rotation. Between Ericksen and Lamela (my MOM) against Swansea (Prem opposition) they ran the game and was an indication of what Lamela is capable of and WAS and what he have missed with him spending around 2 years out of 4.5 with injuries and then recovery time, gaining fitness, sharpness, form – he’s never been able to give a full season’s account of himself and for that we have surely suffered – he was up until recently our record buy after all. This all said I agree with you in what you say but also back up my point that if he had been able to play freely he could and probably would have been as crucial as a Son or Ericksen etc and for that our challenge for titles has suffered a certain degree in keeping with him being only 1 player naturally. But when you think of the crucial injuries to eg Kane, Rose, Alderweireld, etc it goes to show how unlucky we have been given our limited resources these last 2-3 years and still how well we have done. Neither is it allowed neither could/can we go out and buy replacements for these injuries so one wonders what might have been without them. City, Chelski, Utd can handle it due to massive funds we on the other hand have to get Plan A right and then wish for luck that it’s not de-railed misfortunately. Injuries can and will happen – but there’s a question of to whom and longetivity and I would argue within our tight constraints we have been very unlucky.

  • How did Leicester win the title – what if they’d had injuries to Mahrez or Vardy and at the back, etc – would they have still won it?! They got lucky with consistency and did not have to play in Europe and the rest is history. If we did not have to play so many matches and been lucky with injuries who know’s the Leicester year or last year especially?! This season again similar: injuries, adjusting to Wembley, a fine CL run – it all factors in. We lost Walker, Alderweireld’s been out nearly all season so has Rose that leaves only Verts of what was arguably the best defence in the Prem. Firepower Lamela missing, no Moura yet signed – we relied heavily on Alli, Son and Kane and it was good enough to get us 86 points I believe and 2nd place – in Leicester’s year that would have been a 5 point winning margin. Last year Chelski run away with it, this year City, but if it gets into a fight and we have all available I think we’d stand as good a chance as any – hopefully in the next 2 season’s we can see this happen.

  • Hot Tottingham – Hard to assess City’s defence when they are so dominant in games they do very little defending. Certainly when Liverpool did manage to get at them and scored four they didn’t look too clever.

  • See Danny Rose could only manage 70 minutes last night – looked promising but again we need him for 90 not 70 – just proves MP right in having to keep him and Toby out maybe instead of it being other issues here’s hoping anyway. Trippier did OK aswell – sound game.

  • jod, True, which is why I compared City to Spurs when saying that possession and attacking football is mostly both teams best form of defence, even though both teams have very good defenders and defence in general, anyway… When it comes to possession football, City are way ahead in their percentages than all other PL teams. For instance: They pass the ball far more than any other. It’s very difficult to get the ball from them in order to get that many goalscoring opportunities v City, in the first place. They just happened to have been very efficient (pragmatic) when it comes to making and scoring goals, this season. … When it comes to saves made by our respective goalkeepers, City and Spurs are at 20th and 17th in the table with the least saves made. This is a good sign that it’s our possession football, high press etc, that has very much to do with our defensive attributes as the actual defending around our penalty area does.

  • El Jefe, don’t forget that Danny took quite a bad knock right at the start of the match last night. I thought he still lacked a bit of sharpness but by the same token, he did work hard and was very busy and likewise with Trippier. He was also very involved. It was good to see that even though Walker played, he still couldn’t keep Kieran off the pitch. 🙂

  • I’ve just realised that Ben Davies is in China with Wales. Whereas Danny is playing much closer to home. If Rose is fit and Ben is suffering from any jet lag and tiredness, then it could be Danny that is needed or preferred v Chelsea. Ben (if picked) will play his 2nd match on Monday afternoon in China and Danny (also if picked) will play his next match on Tuesday evening at Wembley… Chelsea is on the following Sunday. Hopefully both will be fit and up for contention.

  • El Jefe you make a lot of good points. Lamela’s best position is in the Am role, he has had to be used as a wide player because it took spurs a season and half to buy a better option out wide Moura, hopefully Lamela gets a run playing centrally as he is very skillful and gives Dele and Ce competition. There are always if’s and buts, however, Spurs had every opportunity to win the League, however, MP was not a good enough manager to beat Lester to the title. Last year the Chavs took an opportunity, spurs tried their best and it wasn’t good enough no shame or blame, same this year Pep’s too good. Spurs can get t4 and win the cup the opportunity is there is MP good enough to deliver? i hope so.

  • I think the players might also have a say in that… Scoring goals, missing chances or letting them in, etc. A bad ref decision (in spite of VAR). Or, Simply being outplayed by the better team on the day. Or, perhaps scoring one more or one less penalty in a shoot out could be the decider… Poch will not be directly responsible for any of this.

  • I have no desire to watch boring football. I like exciting football. That’s a large part of why I became a Spurs supporter 60 years ago. Defense can be beautiful. Not parking the bus, but playing a disciplined game in which each player knows his responsibilities and takes them seriously, going forward and covering when the other team attacks. Losing rarely is beautiful, but winning doesn’t have to be beautiful. I don’t like ugly football, even when it leads to three points. I want to win, but not at all costs. No winning through cheating, that’s ugly. No winning through ugly football of any type for me. There are two points to this game: winning and playing beautifully. I’m greedy. I’m not satisfied with winning ugly. Doesn’t give me joy. And joy is what’s it’s about. Otherwise I might as well concentrate on self gratification. It’s okay on ocassion, but not as a way of life. Just like winning when playing ugly football. Leaves me with an empty feeling all too quickly.

  • I also do not have a desire to watch boring football, David. Who does?… But pragmatism by definition, does not mean boring nor, does it mean ugly.

    Pochettino is a pragmatist, for sure. He has to be as Tottenham’s head coach and, as a top professional club manager in the dizzy world of EPL and European cup football.

    He is also a dreamer, a philosophiser, a manager and a respected ex-footballer with a desire to play football at its best. With flair and joy, with strength, hard work, team-work and with a long-term plan.

    He is both pragmatist and aesthetic. He uses practical, sensible means and methods in which to achieve successful, winning football that is hard-fought but also, easy on the eye.

    This is no mean feat. But so far, he’s doing a damn fine job of it.

    The Spurs are getting there. To the place where winners go. Football heaven!

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