Well the final 70 minutes weren’t so bad, right? This was no AVB-style collapse, but we already learned at the Etihad that this team won’t capitulate. It almost became a mini- Battle of the Bridge in the second half.
But the simple fact is inescapable—against a team as talented and desperate as Liverpool were tonight, a left back combination of Ben Davies and Eric Dier simply can’t cut it. In fact, I’d go as far to say that without both Rose and Vertonghen Spurs are not much more than a midtable side. Which speaks volumes about the need for Levy and Co. to acquire depth this summer. And may suggest that failure in either or both Cups may be in our immediate future, not to mention real worry now about whether this team is capable of finishing above two others of an increasingly crowded Second Five behind champions Chelsea.
Really it may all be Kevin Wimmer’s fault. Surely Poch would have preferred to play three in back against the Reds’ press and shift Dier back to the center right position he had grown accustomed to playing. While Davies lacks Rose’s pace he understands the role and is not without the skill to produce crosses and advance the action. But the Austrian has been deemed unworthy, and the American Carter-Vickers is still too green, and thus the shambolic 4-2-3-1 beginning to the game. Wanyama must bear part of the blame as well- there were at least three of his giveaways which allowed Liverpool to gain the front foot. And the Reds’ undeniably pressed harder and with more effect than Spurs did.
The troubling thing now is the continuation of two poor trends: 1) Spurs failures away from White Hart Lane. This makes only 6 wins from 20 games this campaign, including the 3 at Wembley and a road record against the other 5 main contenders of three losses and two draws, with the draws being a gift at the Etihad and a single effort from Mousa Dembele at Emirates which won a penalty; 2) Spurs’ sputtering offense since the draw with City. We haven’t scored in open play in the last three games—whether that is to do with being forced to abandoned the 3-4-2-1 shape that featured Kane-Dele-Eriksen as a potent triangular force, or defences simply making life tougher, or some weakened form from all of our attackers is hard to say. If it continues much longer Spurs’ will be out of the top four, though. There were glimpses of chances tonight—Son had the best but Mignolet stoned him. Other than that a lot of missed connections and, to be fair, resolute Liverpool defending and blocking of several Spurs opportunities.
Poch has to think hard about how to play the next two weeks. Unless he believes he has a side capable of navigating its way through four home and home Europa legs—and my guess is he doesn’t—all three of the next fixtures are meaningless when it comes to Spurs’ ambitions in the league this season. But he won’t have Rose or Vertonghen for any of them, and he knows now he has a major problem to deal with in the back. This is the chance to get some playing time for the likes of Nkoudou, Onomah, Winks and Janssen but he also cannot be satisfied with the performance of his regular first team attackers over the past few weeks. One would hope the return of Erik Lamela is coming soon—this team needs a spark.
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