Tottenham for all that we are about to move into an exciting new stadium and are blessed with a crop of highly promising young players, our away record against big sides has become an issue according to an article in The Irish Times.
The article adds that it is a problem that predates Mauricio Pochettino telling how we have now won just four of our last 87 away games against Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool – and the article thinks that it’s not going to end anytime soon even though Saturday’s loss this was Pochettino’s first league defeat to Arsenal, he has now won just one of 18 away games against other top-six sides.
It does mention mitigating factors, that neither Harry Kane nor Mousa Dembélé looked fully fit and that Harry Winks wasn’t able to start, plus marginal refereeing calls on both Arsenal goals – but there always are.
The article ads that Poch,as he had to, mounted a defence, pointing out that other top-six sides also have problems in away games against the elite, but this was a game settled in the final half hour of the first half as Arsenal produced one of the displays of ferocity and discipline of which they are infrequently capable and which they have recently reserved for big games in the FA Cup.
It adds that once Spurs had gone 2-0 down, we were forced on the offensive and could easily have leaked more, and it adds that for all Pochettino claimed his side had been on top until they were undone by the referee Mike Dean, that was not how it seemed. The focus on refereeing decisions often ignores the fact that they, just as much as defensive errors, are often the result of pressure.
The article then adds that our problems could be traced to the back of midfield, where the pairing of Dembélé and Moussa Sissoko offered muscularity but not control. It adds that the duo were an oddly immobile pairing, both of body and mind, clearly rattled by the pressure they found themselves under.
It points out that it is hardly a secret that Sissoko is a player who tends not to relish the rough and tumble of a derby with Saturdays encounter being the first game he had started for Tottenham against Arsenal. The article then adds how Sissoko contributed to Tottenham seeming oddly short in an area in which Arsenal are often fallible, in central areas just in front of the back-line. Statistics don’t really explain the issue which is largely positional, but for Sissoko to have won the ball back only once in the game, whether by tackle or interception, is very low for a holding midfielder when his side were under such pressure.
It adds that the introduction of Harry Winks just after the hour made a significant improvement: he imposed himself far more than either of the other holding players, to the extent that he had 48 touches in his 29 minutes in the pitch.
The article says further up the pitch it wasn’t much better with Kane ineffective & Dele Alli, who had also missed the England friendlies with injury, not being at his sharpest and thus was a largely peripheral figure anyway until being booked for a late lunge on Granit Xhaka.
The article adds that perhaps it is just a learning experience. Perhaps a young side feeling its way to the next level will always have setbacks like this.
It does say that the prognosis for Tottenham remains generally positive however, and as Arsenal could tell them, sooner or later there’s a need for potential to be transformed into something concrete otherwise it withers away.
It concludes that in this game, perhaps, Pochettino was right, that we were largely unfortunate, both with decisions and issues of fitness, however a wider pattern is clear: our away record against top-six sides is dismal and until it improves the frustration will endure. Already any thought of a serious league challenge this season has all but gone.
Have something to tell us about this article?