“It’s a performance totally affected by defensive individual mistakes. The team was very solid, very confident and in the first half we made three individual defensive mistakes.”
This is what Jose Mourinho said after the hugely disappointing 3-1 loss to Liverpool last night at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
It’s important to first state that he is not wrong. Serge Aurier didn’t track Sadio Mane for the first goal, while Eric Dier and Hugo Lloris both hesitated and failed to deal with the ball across the box.
For the second goal, Matt Doherty allowed Sadio Mane to turn far too easily. Lloris then palmed Mane’s weak shot straight to Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Joe Rodon — who was actually impressive for most of the evening — didn’t deal with Trent’s cross at all for the third and Mane pounced to thump home.
Just like that, after three mistakes, Liverpool found themselves 3-1 up.
However, Mourinho himself made some poor decisions throughout the evening, starting with the personnel and system he selected for the match.
The only change from Sheffield United was enforced – Sergio Reguilon was injured and Mourinho opted for Matt Doherty at left-wing back.
This was the first mistake of the evening. First of all, this left only Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Tanguy Ndombele to cover the centre of the park. They were overrun.
Although, strangely, they both probably left the field with the most credit due to their involvement on the ball.
Liverpool’s three-man midfield ran all over the pivot. Firmino would also drop into pockets, and this caused problems. Not one of Spurs’ back three took responsibility for picking him up, and Hojbjerg and Ndombele were too occupied with the opposing midfield three.
Sissoko would have been well suited to pair up with Hojbjerg, which has worked well in defensive performances against bigger sides with a back four behind them earlier in the season.
Doherty, in particular, had a bad night against the Reds. He was slow, rigid, gave the ball away a lot, and struggled to deal with Mohammed Salah.
Toby Alderweireld, arguably Spurs’ best and most experienced defender, didn’t feature at all yet again.
But, in all honesty, Tottenham were actually quite good in the first half. Spurs were dangerous on the counter-attack: VAR cost them a well-worked goal within three minutes and Son should have scored after he was let free by Bergwijn.
However, as mentioned above, Spurs didn’t defend particularly well. So, at half-time, Mourinho made two substitutions. Let’s talk about Erik Lamela.
He was the person to replace the injured Harry Kane. This didn’t reek ambition, this didn’t work, and this didn’t make sense. Carlos Vinicius, a player brought in to deputise Harry Kane, was wrapped up in blankets the whole night.
Lamela has been at Spurs for eight years. We know what he offers — hard work, energy, but a whole load of nothing in the final third. His best season in terms of statistics is the 2015/2016 season where he got five goals in the Premier League.
Bale, a four-time Champions League winner and also a player that deserves a chance to show his threat in the Premier League, only came on in the 80th minute.
Harry Winks for Serge Aurier. Now this one was tactical. Mourinho clearly didn’t think that five at the back was working so he went back to a back four and Winks was brought in to stop the overload.
This didn’t work. Spurs were awful in the second half. They were toothless upfront (especially without Kane) and wide open at the back.
It was a bad day for Tottenham but it was also a bad day for Mourinho who failed to make the right choices when it mattered most. A collective failure.
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