Talking about intangible aspects of sports is difficult, mostly because it's almost impossible to make statements without sounding like a presumptuous idiot.
I don't hang out with players, I don't go to training every week and I'm not in the locker room during team talks. Even the journalists that do have that sort of access don't see every aspect of the mental side of sports; athletes put on face for journalists, always have and always will. It is impossible for me to know what is going on in the head of any individual athlete, and even the most entrenched and perceptive of reporters struggle to grasp the collective psyche of a team.
It is with that acknowledgement that I state that Tottenham Hotspur looked like an unfocused, unmotivated mess on Sunday. Most players looked afraid to make a mistake, but they made lots of mistakes anyway. There was no Gareth Bale, no Rafael van der Vaart and no Luka Modric to take over the game when things were going poorly. There was no Ledley King to lead, no Sandro to set the tone and no Dimitar Berbatov to change things with one moment of quality. Everything about their performance sucked and no one on the pitch did anything to fix it.
For as long as anyone who played for Tottenham on Sunday has been with the team -- save for the players who were purchased this summer -- one of those players has been around. Kyle Naughton, Danny Rose, Michael Dawson, Emmanuel Adebayor, Andros Townsend and Aaron Lennon have all played with more than one of them. They've always had some kind of leader to look to, whether that be someone who was a vocal leader, who set the tone with the intensity of their play or someone who could make magic happen out of nowhere.
No one on the pitch was willing to be the one who stepped up to do something out of the ordinary. No one wanted to try a difficult through ball or run at a defender and beat them. Tim Sherwood, apparently realizing that this was the case, put Roberto Soldado on the pitch in the 65th minute. If no one wants to try things, it's best to have another striker to make it more likely that very predictable and conventional attacks result in a goal. While it was an excellent idea -- Soldado had two great chances within five minutes of coming on, unsurprisingly botching the finish on both occasions -- it didn't work. Not only did Spurs not score, they didn't even challenge John Ruddy.
Right now, Spurs have a team of great second and third bananas with no star. Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela might bloom into those players next season, but against Norwich, all Spurs had was a bunch of complementary players who didn't know what to do without a leader and a superstar to bail them out of a sticky situation.
For now, I'm not placing blame on anyone. Bale's sale was an inevitability, Lamela's injury issues couldn't have been predicted and there was probably a decent reason that Eriksen didn't play. Sherwood picked a seemingly sensible team and made a very good change in the 65th minute when it became apparent that it wasn't getting the job done. But when a team is filled with excellent complementary players that have no star to support and no vocal veteran to lead them, these kinds of performances are always likely to happen.
There's no quick fix. No lineup change is going to make a huge difference and it's unlikely that sacking Sherwood will do anything positive either, even with the perfect replacement. Lamela and Soldado need to come good, Eriksen needs to get back on the pitch, Sandro and Kaboul need to get healthy and the rest of the players need to learn how to step up when they're absent.
Sunday's performance was awful, but there's plenty of reason to be hopeful. By next August, the five above-listed players who did not start the game could be Spurs' five best. It'll take some time, a little bit of luck and the right decisions this summer to make the pieces fit together, but the right pieces are there. It's just disappointing that the rest of the team doesn't know how to fill in.