Opinion: My review of a lacklustre Tottenham display against Rennes

Nuno Espirito Santo
Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

A debut season for the newly constructed UEFA Conference League has formed an alternative route to silverware for Tottenham, as they seek to repair the prolonged wait for a trophy.

Amid the insignificant aura surrounding the competition, Nuno Espirito Santo fielded a strong side that featured the likes of Harry Kane and Lucas Moura, whilst also gifting a first start of the season to Tanguy Ndombele.

The latter, who returned to his home nation this evening, looked to be on his way out of North London this summer due to another unsettled beginning under a new manager.

However, Tanguy was unsuccessful in forcing his move out of the club, with Thursday giving him a prime opportunity to prove his work to the boss.

Ndombele’s inclusion was evidently in response to the lack of creativity Spurs had at their possession against Palace, the lack of service to talisman Kane being the biggest issue.

Nuno hoped the midfielder’s bold mindset with the ball at his feet would aid in the team’s progression up the pitch, thus allowing the advanced assets to find space further forward, reducing the need for them to drop in.

Spurs were, as planned, allowed to start on the front foot as the game commenced. The away side’s push presented them with an early goal following a neat move in the middle of the pitch.

Ndombele’s trickery allowed space for Kane to pick out a fabulous first-time ball into the path of Lucas Moura who, looking for the Bergwijn at the back post, saw his cross turned into the net by young Rennes centre back, Loic Bade.

An ideal start for the North London side seemed perfect with this seemingly being considered as the toughest game of the group stage.

However, Tottenham were countered with a fierce Rennes crowd which seemed to be the catalyst in this ever-improving Ligue 1 side.

With this considerable boost, the home side were able to construct chances of their own, with Adrien Truffert firing a header over the crossbar from close range after Bourigeaud forced a parried save from former Atalanta keeper, Gollini.

Ever since the early goal, Tottenham allowed Rennes too much joy in the middle of the park, allowing them to break through and enjoy a dominant spell of possession which eventually led to a well-deserved equaliser through central midfielder Flavien Tait.

A bit of fantastic hold-up play by Guirassy allowed Tait room to slot an impressive curled effort into the far corner past Gollini to make the game level with just over twenty minutes on the clock.

At the half-hour mark, an unnecessary challenge from a Rennes defender forced Tottenham into an early substitution, with Bergwijn picking up what looked to be a nasty injury on the same ankle he had problems with on international duty.

A change of shape was employed with Hojbjerg introduced to allow Ndombele to explore space further forward, pushing Gil out to the left.

As the game eased towards halftime, Spurs were able to create their first shot on target in the match through Harry Kane, adding to the problems surrounding chances created weeks prior. The powerful shot from the edge of the box was no trouble for thirty-seven-year-old, Romain Salin in the Rennes goal.

With the halftime whistle looking imminent, a lack of concentration from Matt Doherty presented Rennes with a great opportunity to gain the lead heading into the break.

Traore was picked out by a pinpoint cross from the left, but the full-back saw his header drift wide of the post, ensuring all honours were even at the break.

A half which started so well for Tottenham came at the right time for the away side who were continuously being penned into their own half as the pressure mounted, a desperate team talk was needed.

Unlike the first half, the latter period was plagued with many stoppages, the primary interruption being caused by an injury to Lucas Moura. During these minor pauses, both sides were successful in creating chances as they looked to take the lead.

Tottenham had an opportunity through Tanguy Ndombele who linked up well with Kane on the edge of the box, his shot being forced out for a corner.

As for the home side, who were still being frantically urged on by domineering spectators, Guirassy saw his header fly well wide of the upright.

Despite Lucas Moura’s best attempts to continue, he was forced to come off, adding to the protracted injury list at Tottenham.

With Chelsea in mind, Nuno replaced Kane with seventeen-year-old talent, Dane Scarlett who was demanded to play through the middle to try and find a breakthrough. Emerson Royal was also introduced, with the new signing being experimented in a more advanced role than usual.

After a prolonged period of scarce action, Rennes took the lead through Laborde who pounced on a weak save from Gollini from a long-range effort by Sulemana. The striker was left isolated in the middle due to Ben Davies’ slow reaction to the seemingly inevitable parry by the keeper.

However, the home sides advantage was to be cancelled out by a fine finish from substitute, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. The Dane’s composed volley into the bottom left corner granted Spurs with a great opportunity to push and steal all three points, despite the lacklustre nature of their performance.

A win would prove valuable to both teams in the opening game of the group stage, however, the points were shared in Brittany as the game drew to a mellow close.

All in all, a collective of positives and negatives can be drawn from this game by Nuno, whose side dealt well with Rennes constant pressure and could have easily have seen the game get away from them.

The concern surrounding the lack of creativity was still at the forefront of Tottenham’s performance, however, Tanguy Ndombele’s display proved pivotal to Spurs’ attacking essence, constructing promise for the weekends battle against Chelsea.

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