I’ve been amused by all summer by newspaper website stories on the Telegraph or Daily Mail with headlines like: “5 things we learned from Man Utd’s 2-0 defeat by PSG”.
I always think: “You managed to learn five things from a pre-season friendly?”
We’re so starved of football after the summer, that we’re itching to get back into full-on fan mode — instant over reaction, glorification or rage, sweeping conclusions, “this will be our year” giving way to “here we go again” either side of a silly Nacer Chadli handball.
We are all guilty of it. I went to a preseason match the other night and instantly wrote off one of the teams I was seeing.
But it is particularly acute for Spurs fans at the moment, as we’ve been denied seeing any pre-season matches so far up until last night’s MLS All-Star jamboree in Denver. I haven’t seen the game yet — my cunning plan of watching a replay before the cricket was ruined when it disappeared off the Sky planner for mysterious reasons — but have been amused by some of the reaction.
My favourite was the Standard breaking out full player ratings. For a pre-season match! “The midfield experiment was a failure” it declared of Eric Dier’s new role. Yup, let’s shut this down Poch, maybe stick Fede Fazio in there next match. Forget all the work he has done in the three weeks preceeding, and the basic logic that it may take him a little while to get up to speed.
Pre-season matches are about shaking off the summer rust, experimenting with new roles and tactics, implementing style of play and building on-field relationships. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose.
On this subject, there has been a lot of chuntering from Spurs fans about the preseason schedule, particularly about the Audi Cup on Tuesday and Wednesday. Ben Pearce wrote a very reasonable article for ESPN FC assessing the situation, and raised the question on whether Pochettino was being undermined.
Personally, I don’t see the problem. First, these are pre-season matches, so Spurs can select who they want and how many minutes they get, particularly on Wednesday. They have control over the situation. Second, if a full-strength team plays vs Real Madrid on Tuesday, they have ample time to recover and prepare for Old Trafford on Saturday. Third, Spurs should be used to playing midweek by now given the years in the Europa League. Fourth, tiredness shouldn’t be a factor: if they weren’t playing Madrid, you can be sure Poch would be running high intensity double sessions or full-match simulations on Tuesday and Wednesday to ensure the team was raring to go.
And this is the final reason is why I think the Audi Cup may be actually be a GOOD idea, and why Poch himself may well have signed off on it. Playing on Tuesday night against top quality opposition, Spurs have an opportunity to maximize their match sharpness before Saturday — they could really come flying out of the blocks.
Man Utd have been on a flabby US tour, ending last night vs PSG, and won’t play again until they meet Spurs. Is that really better preparation?