Mental weakness

JimmyG2

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Mental weakness'. Can it be the cause of all our woes? It certainly seems to be gaining ground quite widely as the comprehensive explanation for our failure to hold a winning position, most recently at Everton. It is not a new accusation and we seemed to have overcome it recently. When we were constantly losing to late goals a couple of seasons ago it was debated vigorously on here and has been since.

However as a theory it worries me, especially when so many people take it up like a slogan with such enthusiasm. As soon as people seize on any theory: Comolli or mental weakness or Gareth Bale or Harry or whatever to explain everything I get doubtful. Life thankfully, is never that simple.

This season we seemed to have overcome many of our previous hang-ups which is why we are doing so well. I list a few: scoring the second (and on occasions the third, fourth, fifth and even ninth) goal: coming from behind to win and draw; holding on to win; scoring late to win; winning five times away from home.

In general, keeping our nerve and seeing things out. Stoke and Everton were the exceptions rather than the rule. The games against Manchester Utd. Chelsea and Arsenal might be said to show mental weakness but it could be that we were beaten by better teams, or shot ourselves in the foot by individual errors.

So why this sudden attack of mental weakness in a season where we have generally been mentally strong? The idea that Spurs are mentally weak seems to suggest that it is something in our genetic make-up at Spurs. Even players that arrive mentally strong succumb. Is that the reason why a promising player like Gareth Bale loses it? Or why Wilson seems so jaded?

Easier explanations are available; injuries or personal problems in these two cases. If it is mental weakness its a difficult problem to address. Again I list some possible remedies: the appointment of a more uncompromising and experienced captain; the appointment of a team of sports' psychologists; late goal electric shock aversion therapy; severe fines for poor passes, tackles, and missed opportunities. If its a long-standing Tottenham problem then I am not hopeful of a cure.

Actually I am. The first cure is success: winning games breeds confidence and I think that this is true of this season. All the other remedies are football ones which are easier to implement than attacking 'head' problems even on an individual basis let alone as a team or club neurosis.

Lets start with better tactics. Trying for the third goal when you are 2-0 up on 59mins. is not unreasonable but the game plan changes when you are 2-0 up with 10mins left. If the players don't know this from their own experience then better and more comprehensive coaching is the answer.

Better and quicker substitutions in response to the situation and the tactical changes of the opposition. Giving the team a clearer understanding of what is required of them collectively and individually at different stages of the game depending on the situation. 'Visualizing possibilities and outcomes' I think they call it in modern coaching theory.

All these apply to the Everton game and they are down partly to Harry and the coaching staff not just the players. We dropped points at Everton in my view due to purely footballing reasons; poor positioning (Kranjcar Bale and Bassong) poor clearances (Palacios) failing to retain possession of the ball(everyone more or less), dropping too deep when under pressure( a perennial Tottenham habit). Was all this the result of 'mental weakness'?

These are all deficiencies that can be cured by better coaching at team and individual level, after all even Aaron has learnt how to cross. Better players and a new manager might cure most of these problems but I do not advocate either. We are, as many point out frequently, doing very well, so wholesale changes are not required.

Lack of leadership on the field is another possibility. The first step might be to appoint Dawson as captain given the uncertainties surrounding Woodgate and King's injuries and now Keane, who has been regularly subbed and has not started the last two games.

He is likely to become first choice centre half and plays with wholehearted enthusiasm and has improved as a player. At the moment he is fifth choice captain, after King, Keane, Woodgate and Jenas. He might lack experience but would grow into the role and certainly give leadership. He has scored twice in two games as captain and a settled back four pairing would certainly help.

Is it the answer to everything? Obviously not in the same way that even if there is an element of truth in the accusation of 'mental weakness' it is not the whole problem. 'Mental weakness' doesn't do it for me: it has a somewhat mystical element: 'The Ghost in the Woodwork at White Hart Lane' and ignores many more basic problems.
 

Chedozie

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#2
We have a young team, they are going to drop points away from home, draws at Everton and Villa are good results, especially as our two best central defenders and our best midfield player were unavailable.

If Ledley, Woody and Modric had played in those games we probably would have won.

We are having a great season, we're not going to win every game.
 

chinaman

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#3
We've already improved a lot in this respect although we are sometimes still found to lack concentration as Everton proved.

Anyway I can see that under Harry, we can continue to improve.
 

JoeT

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#5
I think your article just about said it all 'JimmyG2'. We are in fact, doing quite well this season, especially with five away wins...and we are presently in 4th place, having had our two most experienced centre-backs out for a good chunk of the season, plus for the past three-months have had our best midfielder missing. All teams 'blow' games now and then, and we have too, but I really don't see a major problem here.
Sure we can improve with, as you noted, better coaching of game tactics and the developing of stronger on-field leadership, especially now that our more 'senior' players (Keane, King and Woodgate), are not there. But as has been noted Dawson is coming along nicely in that respect (plus of course a quantum leap in his playing ability). Another 'no-nonsense' midfielder in January could add to our team leadership, and I believe this is a priority by management.
Only one team in the Prem. has a Manager who will do absolutely anything - even dispicable behavior - to win games, and thay are only 4 or 5 points above us at present. I know that having some "class" doesn't put points on the board, but I'm glad that our Manager acts in a way that forms part of the Spurs tradition.
The other so-called Spurs tradition of being a 'pushover' I think is generally being put to bed by out current squad and management. The only people who won't let it go sometimes are us, the supporters.
 

DiscoD1882

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#6
I think you can iradicate some problems with a new mentality but you essentially have the same core pleayers at the club we have had for some years. They have been through numerous managerial changes and are probably still adapting to yet another managers ethos. I think this year has been a massive improvement. I havent felt in every game that we could lose this lead. the steely determination is coming but as you said it come from success. If you look at Manure and Chavski they have pleyers that have one major honours and that rubs off on other players ala the carling cup game last week. We are getting there and we are going to have some ups and downs on the way. But the main thing is we ARE getting there
 

minesadouble

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#9
Mental toughness may come into it but I don't buy into the 'Spurs as a club doesn't have it'. It may be more to do with the types of managers and hence players we've tended to have over the decades. But the likes of Mackay, Roberts and Mabbutt weren't mentally weak.
I think mostly it's about experience and ability. Man Utd simply have way more experience than us of closing games out assembled over 20 years and 3-4 generations of players. And they also have more players who are more comfortable on the ball, which is key to closing out the final 15 minutes (however mentally 'tough' you are).
What's changed is that, where we were losing in the final 15 minutes, we're now not always winning. We are back to where we were in the Lasagne Season but with a crucial difference, of a squad with more depth now and, in my view, more game-breakers than we had under Jol.
Everton wasn't exactly a one-off but it always felt like a game we might not win. We didn't seem to have the luck of the bounce. We could easily have been 2-0 up at half time and Crouchy should have put us 3-0 up with 20 mins left, and Defoe should have won it on 91 mins. Luck plays a part and we used up a shed load against Wigan !
Great teams overide luck, a manic crowd, battlers like Everton and the pressure of being pegged back to 2-1 with ten minutes to go. We're simply not there yet. But I don't think it's something endemic in our club or our current players (although I would love us to be able to sign an indomitable CM or Defender who simply refuses to lose).
I hate saying 'patience' but this time I think that's what we mostly need.
 

jimmy-jojo

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#11
We haven't been able to keep leads before or after Edgar Davids. We need a seasoned aging truly world-class player to bring the mental strength to the team.

I'd like to see Gattuso tried for....
 

Paxtonite

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#12
In general, keeping our nerve and seeing things out. Stoke and Everton were the exceptions rather than the rule. The games against Manchester Utd. Chelsea and Arsenal might be said to show mental weakness but it could be that we were beaten by better teams, or shot ourselves in the foot by individual errors.
That is one third of our league games so far (5/15). If we are not going to turn up against the top sides then that puts even more pressure on the team to get something from the remaining matches. Losing a home "banker" one week and blowing a 2-0 lead and a last minute penalty to take all three points in another week, doesn't have the markings of a top team.

The seaon is going well so far, but the frustration is that as usual it could have been oh so much better. I would like to come away from games saying "yeh we deserved that win" rather than "we should have won today" which becomes a little tiresome after a while.

This season we have outplayed Stoke, Everton and Villa. We got 2 points out of a possible 9 and you can't afford to be that lax if you want to have a great season.

Its always about players. Whoever is on the pitch has to be committed and focused for 95 minutes no matter what.
 

JimmyG2

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We have a young team, they are going to drop points away from home, draws at Everton and Villa are good results, especially as our two best central defenders and our best midfield player were unavailable.

If Ledley, Woody and Modric had played in those games we probably would have won.

We are having a great season, we're not going to win every game.
Good points,we are short of and missing our experienced players plus the 'youth' of the team could substantially explain the idea of 'mental weakness'.
 
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#14
i myself have a different view ;it is that teams now view us as one of the big boys and even one point at home is viewed as a big success;witness the everton celebrations after the match you would have thought they had won the f.a.cup.it is something the sky four have lived with for years;and if we want to be up there with them we have to learn to cope with teams viewing you as a big scalp.with the departure of possibly pavlachenco;bentley;hutton;then the possible incomeing sandro;and the striker from young boys berne plus the return of modric;dos santos;king;woodgate.i think we could do even better than 4th .onwards and upwards
 

Paxtonite

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#15
i myself have a different view ;it is that teams now view us as one of the big boys and even one point at home is viewed as a big success;witness the everton celebrations after the match you would have thought they had won the f.a.cup.it is something the sky four have lived with for years;
That's not it. Evertons celebrations were due to salvaging a game that was lost. We have done it ourselves in the past. Remember the Arse game at home a few years ago when they won the league at our place? Keane late penalty earned us a draw, but they won the league on our pitch!! That is one example that springs to mind.
 
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#16
i take on board the view of paxtonite but i beleive his point only reinrorces what i am saying..we did celebrate madly at the draw at the emerates..i think we have come on a great deal since then and will from this point on be going into sky four games expecting to have a50..50 chance of winning ..not entering these games praying not to be hammered or over the moon to get a point...this is where the mindset of players is important ;go in expecting a positive result ;dont go in hoping for a draw.
 

spursbhoy67

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#17
I was working at a club last year and when they played Spurs the staff kept mentioning our fragile mental strength especially on the road. Our ability to grind out a result and scrap and battle was seen as a weakness and an area to exploit. I heard it again this season from the same staff. We were bullied in both games and won neither. I have got the "same old Spurs" line two years in a row.

Yes, we have come a long way since Harry took over, but in truth we are where we should be considering the talent in the squad and the money spent to bring them in. Harry has done well and if he can keep us in the top four he can elevate himself as a manager. We still need a bit more about us in certain games as Everton and Stoke showed. Our performances in both games deserved six points not one. A Perryman or a Mackay would have driven us on to get those results.

As for our games against the Sky 4 we were playing well against Chelsea, Arsenal and United until all three scored. Then we capitulated. Again, a leader on the field may have seen us through the tough periods in those games and we may have had different outcomes. I don't know if we have that leader at the moment and without one we will throw away more points.
 
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#18
dont get carried away with the sky four resul ts .arsenal have played 2 and won none;liverpool have played 3 and won one;we still have the return games to come if we have no success after these 4 games against the sky four i will then concede your point...but i am optomistic that we can beat chelsea and arce at home;as for liverpool away who knows;man unt we were; two up last year untill the ref gave a phantom penalty that turned the game on its head...so why dont we wait untill later in the season see the results against these sides and then have this same mental toughness debate
 

ultimateloner

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#19
I think it's all about belief. That's what top level sport is all about. Spain beat Italy on penalties and haven't stopped winning since; it's prime example of breaking a deadlock in the mind.

For me mental weakness is merely a symptom - the players never won convincingly against a full top 4 squad. You could only cure this via results.
 
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#20
that statement is to my mind not 100% true we have beaten full sides from chelsea last two home games plus liverpool 1st game of the season.which proves we can win these games but it goes without saying we need to do it much more often..we will get a real sense of where we are when we play arce;chelsea;man unt..all in a row near the end of the season...i myself try to have the outlook that the cup is half full because the cup is half empty people must have a miserable time of it.
 
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