One of the troubles with no Europa League is that we’ve had all week to dwell on last Sunday’s embarrassment at Old Trafford; another is that we can’t blame that particular capitulation on Thursday night fatigue.
It was a bad day all round of course but whilst we knew that we had limitations on the field, the tactical deficiencies and slow speed of response off it were also exposed. (Mind you, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised after Fiorentina at home). Seeing our players get brushed aside so often was bad enough but then to watch Fellaini pretty much play on his own at inside left until half time when something was done about it was demoralising, depressing and as I say, revealing. Youth has been our strength this season but here at least, experience was required.
Leicester will come to White Hart Lane fearing the worst, not necessarily in this game but certainly for the season’s outcome. They currently lie bottom, 7 points behind Sunderland in 18th. It doesn’t look good. Surprise was in many ways their weapon early in the season when they picked up some good results on the back of Ulloa’s goals, some speed in midfield and some solid organisation. Now though the Argentinian has been replaced by the misfiring Kramaric in attack and Mahrez, Schlupp and Vardy have become known quantities. In Nigel Pearson they have a manager who appears to believe that a willingness to take on all comers is a prerequisite of Premier League survival. Perhaps he thinks the playoffs involve a cage fight with the other managers in the bottom three.
After naming very similar teams since Wembley, Pochettino may think it’s time for a change in a couple of areas. Chadli and Townsend are proving frustrating, one or both may give way to Lamela and Dembele. If I was Vlad Chiriches I’d have been practising my overlapping and whipped in crosses all week, he must fancy his chances of getting a chance on the right hand side of defence. Mason might be given a rest, Stambouli? Up front Eriksen too has been fading in out and out of games more than normal, but unless Poch goes off piste with Dembele or Soldado then it’s hard to see another option. Christian has got creativity cornered in our current squad; maybe Pritchard will give him some competition next year.
There’s a danger now of the last quarter of the season drifting. A Liverpool Gooner cup final looks most likely meaning that Europa League qualification will probably go down to 7th and it’ll take one hell of a run for us now to threaten the top four. Presumably personal pride will mean that the manager doesn’t want to finish below his former club, maybe that’ll be his driver. Whatever the case, a win tomorrow is important to show that last weekend really was a blip and not a return to all too familiar days and ways.
Mike Dean is down to referee.
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