Tottenham Hotspur and seeing beyond the immediate opportunities


In philosophy of ethics, there is a very popular and controversial concept that I believe is somewhat related to Tottenham Hotspur's 10-point deficit behind Chelsea, and that is "prima facie." Literally meaning "at first appearance," in Ethics this notion signifies a person's primary duties in terms of doing the morally right thing. For instance, if you borrow an axe from your neighbor, you have to give it back sometime, that is your primary duty. Nevertheless, the problem with this notion arises when the moral decision becomes more complicated, such as in a case where your neighbor goes mad and tries to kill someone. Would you still give the axe back? The same question can be applied to football in this way: Your duty is to get the ball to your strikers, but you know that the pass will not make it, would you still try it? I and most contemporary philosophers would say no, and I assume no football tactician would disagree with me either.

The problem is, even though the Tottenham players know what they are doing and they have an extraordinary vision of space as a team, individually and collectively sometimes they do things for the sake of doing them, not for their end. For instance, they usually follow a strictly counter-attacking pattern and do not have a back up even though the failures are obvious. I watched the team carefully against Southampton this Sunday and despite the fact that their opponent left the initiative to them, they did not change their system to utilize the space left to them by the Southampton players. I understand the difference between a system that excels and a secondary system that hardly works and I do respect a team's loyalty to their system. Nonetheless, if Tottenham want to play like a champion and catch Chelsea, they have to learn how to switch between tactics.

On the other hand, unfortunately this notion of "prima facie" is even more evident in individual performances and decisions. A feature that signifies the high quality of a player is executing an idea without hesitation, that is true, but another is considering second or even third options in the same moment together with the initial response. Beyond the physical and technical qualities, this is what makes a player much more valuable than others in the game, seeing what others cannot see, in other words what is not immediate or evident. Although Tottenham are full of young, promising stars, I have not seen any player who has reached this experience level in their game, and it is vital for a team that is fighting for the championship.

On the bright side, their ability to cripple the opponent and execute deadly counter-attacks is still fully operational, and they can stop any opponent regardless of their strength. It is not surprising to watch Tottenham beating top teams in the Premier League after understanding their game, the way they play becomes more effective as the opponent takes more initiative. But as the fate of all counter-attacking teams, they are struggling to get easy three points. If they can broaden their game plans next year, they will be one the best candidates for the championship.

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