Opinion: Over and out – Knocked out of Europe in a tale of embarassment

Image: SpursWeb

No trophies. No Champions League. Perhaps not even the thrill of Thursday nights if the team quits on both itself and the manager. The truth has been hiding in plain sight for more than two years, and only rarely do we acknowledge it. I am not going to either condemn or defend Jose Mourinho. He won’t be here come the summer and maybe sooner—but he’s hardly the only, or even the main, one responsible for the mess this club has become. The fault, Dear Brutus is not in the stars, it is in ourselves.

Which means a bunch of footballers who simply came up short last night in every conceivable way. Harsh at the end when on a different night Kane and Bale might have put three past the fortunate keeper. But it should never have come to that. The first half was an abject failure, despite the score. Chances frittered away—Dele lacks the decisive touch. Winks and Sissoko—who had perhaps his worst game in a Spurs shirt—are too often statues, along with Davies. Kane seemed knackered and three separate times he had the ball in the box with but one defender to beat or already past the defender on the left, and never once managed a real chance on goal. Lucas and Lamela did their thing but to no good end. It was a portent that despite us being generally the better team a Davies error led them to have the best chance of all.

In the second half came the collapse. Serge Aurier (who would be criminally at fault for the winner) made two bright challenges playing up, nearly taking the ball away on both in a matter of a few seconds. No one ran back to cover for him, which I assume was the responsibility of Sissoko. As a result, he then had to get back and didn’t close down and give credit, the goal was a superior strike, the type we failed to produce all game. The second was a total breakdown involving several players with Ndombele and Sissoko particularly culpable as they both ran into the box marking no one and in Tanguy’s case, avoiding the ball on the cross. From that point on the outcome was inevitable—as until the very end we were simply atrocious on attack.

Gio has an excuse of rust, but what about Bale? A lot of flicks and crosses and through balls to no effect. What about Kane? He had one header from close range that was kept out. What about Ndombele? I frankly can’t recall much of anything he created in his stint. What about Reguilon? There was the attacking Davies can’t or won’t produce but where was the killer pass? The slicing run?  So much possession, so many failed touches, poor passes, until after Aurier and Sissoko were run through and Sanchez couldn’t close quickly enough on the winner, we actually came darn close to winning the game at least twice. At the end Bale turned from 10 yards, shot, and the keeper was there. Then after a scramble the ball came to Kane who shot, saw it deflected and somehow the keeper was there.

But for all the humiliation, did you really think we could win this thing? Beat United or Arsenal—or even Roma? Off what we have been watching for several months now. The magic was lost the instant Mane whacked that ball off Sissoko’s arm. It will not come back. Not until Jose is gone. Kane is gone (does he really want to stay and slog his way through two hours in Zagreb, only to lose?). Levy too could be gone. We had a nice run for about four years. Some might say bring on a Tuchel and everything will change instantly. Compare the talent level. 

Werner-Ziyech-Mount-Havertz-Abraham-Pulisic-Giroud compared to our front four-plus subs? Not to mention we don’t have a Hudson-Odoi, a Kante, a Kovacic, a Mendy, a Zouma.

This is a midtable club now. With broken pieces nearly everywhere. It will take years to fix, and even then there is a chance we never return to the heights of 2016-18. Last night was confirmation of everything that had come before. Levy took a big gamble on Mourinho—it didn’t work. We will have a new manager soon. And a bunch of new players. And a new expensive palace mocking us all the while. Ambition, you say? B*llocks on that.  

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