'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 the subject of some debate.
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.