We've had one very good result (City 4-1), and a lot of games which have been between pretty good and a bit poor. We are not receiving the odd thrashing, but neither are we handing them out. The team/squad is coming together, but in a way that is more solidifying than blossoming.
Pochettino has been in charge for nearly 18 months, the squad is undergone a number of changes in that time, and while there are still areas to address the core of the team appears to be there. Two pre-seasons and the time in between should provide enough opportunity for the team to nail down the primary way the manager likes to set up his men, and I believe our greatest challenge at this moment should be adapting a different way of playing, and rotating the side without a distinct drop in quality.
However, it still feels like we are missing something. It still feels like this 4-2-3-1 set up is a work in progress, as if Pochettino himself has yet to fully get his head around how he wants it to operate. There seems to be a lack of cohesion across the pitch, and very few partnerships. Save Toby and Jan, I do not see any pairs of players who have an understanding. Last season there was a couple of months where we saw Kane drift out to the left, with Eriksen going beyond him, and it resulted in a couple of goals (Kane's first against Chelsea in the 5-2 win; Eriksen's winner away at Swansea) but there is little sign of that at the moment.
Full backs and wingers are not operating together, either offensively or defensively. The CMs and AM are not rotating or working off each other. The wing attackers/inside forwards do not work off the AM. The list goes on. Everything seems very static, and the gears of the team are locked in together and nothing can move. Perhaps Mauricio is hoping that one big effort will set the wheels free and we will be off, an unstoppable object that powers on, but we've had that injection of a player having a golden period - Kane for a lot of last season, Chadli at the beginning of last season, Eriksen midway through, while Lamela was our golden child for a spell this season.
The team still feels like less than the some of its parts, and too susceptible to individual failings, be it defensive lapses or Kane not having his scoring boots. Players running down dead ends and into opponents is a clear sign that there is no standard attacking plan that creative players can work off. Instead they are made to make something happen as if by magic, no longer acting on instinct but having to think about something in the moment, which leads to our slow and turgid play.
The manager's disinterest in a plan B means we cannot add momentum by giving the players a fresh thought process, and there are the beginnings of players being frustrated that they just can't play fluently on the pitch. Okay, these might not be the most 'intelligent' players but if Pochettino wants a team full of players who can solve individual situations then we will be at the mercy of well organised defences and off days.
We are still a work in progress, of course we are, but we see the same issues reoccurring. The last time we were defensively strong, had lots of possession but ultimately very little goal threat was at the start of Andre Villas-Boas' reign, and rather than build that attacking fluidity we saw the defence fall apart and AVB was out. Pochettino has worked the transfer market better, and whatever happens it feels like we have a better foundation for any manager to work from, but Mauricio seems to be digging a hole and his only way out is to continue using the shovel.
In so many ways the Argentine seems a very good manager - the players like him, training seems to be good, he knows how to setup the running of the club in terms of transfers, scouting and his general ethos about how football should be played is congruent with how Tottenham Hotspur as club like to play. I hope that all Mauricio needs is time - a bit of time to work on our attacking play, a bit more time to get the players completely up to speed, a bit more time to make the final adjustments to the side. However, the longer we go coming up against the same issues, making the same mistakes, and finding the same frustrations, the more I worry that we have had yet another false dawn and another set of opportunities will be missed.
We are purring along nicely enough, but know we need to move up the gears and realise our full potential. I would really like that to happen with the current coach and players.