Leading sports performance coach analyses Tottenham mentality in defence

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Harry Kane

Leading sports performance coach, Jeremy Lazarus, has claimed that a fear of being criticised for making mistakes might be the root cause of Tottenham’s habit of conceding late goals.

It was once again the Tottenham backline’s failure to deal with a cross into the box that proved their undoing against Newcastle as the Lilywhites threw away two points.

According to Football.London, Spurs have now lost 11 points this season by letting in goals in the last ten minutes of Premier League matches and 13 in the final 15 minutes of games.

When Jose Mourinho was asked on Sunday about why Spurs are struggling to see out games when his sides previously had a reputation of holding on to leads, the Spurs boss bluntly responded: “Same coach, different players.”

However, Lazarus believes that the problem could be due to an element of panic creeping into the Tottenham players towards the end of the game.

He told PA Sport: “There is almost certainly a mental issue, whether that comes from lack of motivation, lack of confidence or other factors. – I am not doubting their motivation, I am just asking the question.

“How much do the players absolutely want to do those hard yards, how much are they following their team and tactical pattern? I can’t say, only people inside the club can absolutely say that.

“Could there be an element of panic or fear in the last 10 minutes? If it has happened five or six times before do the doubts start creeping into people’s mind? That is completely possible. These are questions that need to be asked.”

Lazarus explained how athletes are less likely to make mistakes when the consequences of making errors are minimal.

He added: “I don’t know Jose Mourinho, he is a very successful manager so I am not going to criticise him in any way.

“It is completely feasible that if you go into a match thinking you might get hung out to dry or might be criticised in some way, either individually or collectively, that could affect the way you perform.

“There is much evidence about the impact on performance of ‘psychological safety’, the idea that to you need to feel ‘safe’ enough to perform at your best.

“It is a paradox, if you know that if you go out and make a mistake you are going to be OK, then you are less likely to make a mistake.

“If you are on edge and thinking, ‘If I make a mistake, not only am I letting the team down but I am going to get criticised publicly’, then it’s more likely that you are going to be a bit scared and make bad decisions.”

After Tottenham’s embarrassing 3-0 loss to Dinamo Zagreb three weeks ago, Hugo Lloris revealed in an emotional interview that there was a lack of togetherness in the Spurs dressing room.

When asked about Lloris’ comments, Lazarus said: “If you have got divisions, and it seems from what we are reading there are, if there are divisions in the club that is going to affect their mentality which could subconsciously affect their desire to really give that extra little bit for a team-mate.

“Generally when you get mixed messages it causes confusion. When Leicester won the league in 2016 there was a togetherness and focus in that team.

“There was no doubt what was going on at Leicester, but when one person is saying one thing and someone else is saying another it can start to put doubts in people’s minds and transmit itself on to the pitch. It can damage morale and faith in the manager.

“Managers have to be tough sometimes but when the players know he is being straight with them and totally supportive they are more willing to accept fair criticism.”

Spurs Web Opinion

It is only natural that an element of panic would creep into the players’ minds during the latter stages of matches given our tendency to throw away leads. The fear of failing perhaps also explains why the players tend to sit back on leads towards the end of matches despite being instructed to press high up the pitch.

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