I can’t fault Nuno one bit. This loss hardly eliminates us from a borderline Mickey Mouse competition. Beat this same team and Rennes in London and we are pretty much guaranteed to advance. A loss on Sunday at West Ham threatens a top-six finish and puts the spotlight firmly on the Portuguese head coach.
Now if the argument goes that by confirming what this XI already knew that they are decidedly the second unit, he disincentivised them to play hard last night, well, I’m not buying it. The reverse was more true—show him that if and when Lucas, Kane, Ndombele or one of the back four get hurt, that you are the one to be selected by playing hard and well. But I can’t put this mainly on attitude—the harsher truth is that the quality of this XI is substandard—beneath anything Spurs have featured for nearly a decade. Which is why, since injuries certainly do occur over a nine-month season, I think it unlikely we can finish top six, unless we jettison all the cup competitions, and even then it’s a dicey proposition.
Let’s start in the back. They were confused and poor with the ball in the first twenty minutes. Tanganga, Sanchez and Rodon all made foolish mistakes or fouls—Gollini does not seem to be an imposing presence to organize them better. After nearly an hour of better play, the errors returned in the final twenty minutes, as if their desire or energy had run out—the Vitesse winner was inevitable. I simply can’t see any of these defenders playing anything but a substitute or cup role the rest of the campaign—the truth is we need at least two more additions to the squad and actually, we missed Doherty last night—and Ryan Sessegnon– not because of their defending but because then we could have played a 3-5-2 and disguised Tanganga’s weakness and also gone forward more effectively.
In the middle, it has long been apparent that Harry Winks’ days are numbered—last night told me that he has regressed to a Championship-level talent—which may reduce any chance of receiving much money in whatever transfer window we are finally able to dispatch him. Bryan Gil and Gio Lo Celso were our only bright spots—Gil almost put us ahead—but even they were victim of our poor attacking efforts and the players around them. They dribbled into trouble—or were bullied off the ball (as was Winks)—or simply lacked the final pass to make an attack good. Steven Bergwijn I will give a pass to for the simple reason that this was his first game in nearly two months—but that one break when he had three teammates all in a decent position and he made a pitiful back pass to no one was disappointing.
Dele plods. Dele pauses. Dele sort of presses. Dele passes… often badly. He is a shadow of his 2015-18 self—and growing fainter every day. I don’t see a viable role for him any longer on this club—but I don’t think we can afford to let him go until summer. And Dane Scarlett simply should not be playing anywhere near this level—he was outmuscled all night, and on the few times when he got the ball, seems to have no idea what to do with it. the notion that he is the backup striker on an elite Premier League club team is laughable. Loan him out—and buy someone new in January—Llorente-like if we must. This is embarrassing.
So on to the London Stadium in a game that matters. Nuno knows now he has to play several regulars three times next week, unless he is prepared to surrender the Carabao Cup to Burnley—and then some others three times the following week in order to defeat Vitesse in London. He took the one night off he could in hopes of a result—but his squad wasn’t and isn’t good enough. Paratici has much more work to do.
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