For all the good, the promise, the thrill of Spurs’ soon to be best ever finish in the Premier League, there remains one huge blemish that must be addressed by Mauricio Pochettino before next season. Spurs have been horrible—and that is not an exaggeration—in away games and at Wembley versus quality opposition.
Before we, or anyone knew just how good Monaco were becoming we lost at Wembley 2-1. Leverkusen were never all that strong but we lost to them at Wembley as well 1-0. Gent were a serviceable Europa League opponent and thanks to Dele’s “red mist” we could only manage a draw at Wembley 2-2. And of course yesterday for all the supposed superior play and possession, truth is we allowed more goals than in any game this season and lost to Chelsea 4-2. Four games at our probable home next year against quality opposition and nary a victory and only one draw.
Against the Big Six—away—including a cup tie at Anfield Spurs record is equally miserable. We lost that cup tie to Liverpool 2-1. Lost the league game to them as well 2-0. Drew at Goodison in the season opener 1-1. Drew at the Emirates 1-1 thanks to one Mousa Dembele thrust which earned a penalty. Were gifted a draw by the officials 2-2 at the Etihad in a game when Hugo Lloris was shockingly poor. Lost to Man United 1-0 at Old Trafford; lost to Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.
Eleven games away or at Wembley vs quality opposition and nary a win. Four draws and seven defeats. A record not worth even trying to explain away (Kane injury, Pochettino selection, Lloris mistakes, bad luck). The new Spursy is not bottling an advantage at the tail end of a campaign—we hope—it is coming up flat when the pressure is greatest and the stakes are highest. The effort and quality were probably best in the final two Wembley affairs—playing a man down vs Gent and yesterday’s frenetic tussle vs the league leaders. But the results were still harsh.
One suspects the solution—aside from experience hard earned—is less tactical or even roster-based (more depth) than it is about attitude. Somehow for all his clear skill and acumen, Poch has failed to bring the best out of his team in these particular games. It is a mountain yet to be climbed, or perhaps that final ascent in the Death Zone of Everest, requiring the right level of oxygen and the supreme commitment for success.
Yet make no mistake—if this problem cannot be solved, the new dawn of the Pochettino era will soon give away to the dusk of disappointment—trophyless, frustrated, a massive might-have-been. I have seen teams like ours struggle for more than a season or two with sufficient talent—it took Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls several different attempts to finally break through and win a championship—and when they did, the proverbial floodgates opened and they won five more. I have also witnessed plenty that never broke through and eventually drifted back to the pack. Let’s hope this is the darkest hour—the last obstacle to be overcome toward heretofore unimaginable success. Poch knows already and one assumes his mind is furiously spinning in a journey to the answer.
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