Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Poch saw it coming, and indeed Spurs crashed at Vicarage Road in a game that can only raise serious questions about whether this team are serious title contenders or, indeed, have what it takes to remain in the Top Four. Sonny—come back soon—your mates need you.

We were never convincing in all that scoreless time when we dominated possession, or after the goal, which fittingly did not result from an actual shot on goal. Truth is that until the final ten minutes when first Llorente failed to connect on an excellent through ball from Vertonghen and then Kane powered a header over the bar, Spurs rarely had any real chance today. The forwards were, collectively, about as dismal as they have ever been under this manager. It seemed by the end the only idea was to get the ball to Kieran Trippier and hope something good would result. Once Watford turned up the pressure and our defence started to sag, the outcome was pretty much preordained. Vorm was a statue on both goals, though one suspects even a reaction would not have made any difference— and the marking on each set piece was horrific.

As to the rest, Trippier did what Tripper does and several smart anticipatory moves in his own end were included. Ben Davies looked out of sorts from the beginning, as Watford seemed to make a conscious decision to press him tightly, assuming correctly that he couldn’t beat his man down the flank and might be forced into errors. Which happened, causing several turnovers when Spurs looked to threaten. Mousa Dembele had a hit and miss game, bossing the field in some instances and giving the ball away in others—in the end, Harry Winks had to come on for the Belgian was simply not going to produce anything dynamic. The back three but for the abysmal set piece defending had a good game—but so what? They failed when it mattered most.

Yet all of that pales by comparison to the play up front. Credit Lucas with continued pace and effort. The only other move other than throw it to Trippier that Spurs seemed to favor was a long ball ahead to the Brazilian, which generally produced at least a whiff of an opportunity. The goal itself, while fortunate, came from a concerted effort by Lucas. Christian Eriksen continues an early season malaise—several decent chances produced one shot directly at the keeper after another—he failed to figure out a way to link up with either Kane or Dele as they have been able to do so often in the past. Kane was again a fairly remote figure until the one excellent chance near the end—either he is being defended well or he simply has not been able since last spring to find his best form.

But the biggest villain today was unquestionably Dithering Dele Alli. I lost count of how many times our renowned goal celebrator gained possession in their half, in space with teammates rushing goalward, and after first looking one way, then the other, arms akimbo, he would either give the ball up, attempt to turn a defender who by then had gained position or would make an ineffectual sideways or even back pass.  He seems perpetually in search of the brilliant and is ignoring the good—over and over again.

With Lamela hurt and Son somewhere in Asia or on an airplane, there really wasn’t anything to do in the final minutes than put in Llorente and Winks and hope something good would happen. It didn’t. The Wembley game with Liverpool in two weeks is now an acid test of just what this team is capable of. With the stadium still in flux, and difficult fixtures at Milan and home to Barcelona leading off the Champions League, it is not premature to state that this team had better respond in the next month or we could be looking at a disappointing and perhaps fatal fifth season for the Pochettino regime. He saw it coming… and was apparently powerless to prevent it.

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  1. Well – a realistic appraisal from Mr Maslin – there’s a novelty. Last season we were worse in the PL on every measure, and crashed out of the CL and both domestic cups after leading in all three, and yet did nothing to strengthen a squad clearly weaker than in 2016/17. Then we had the World Cup, in which only Trippier performed with any credit, while Kane was a shadow of his former self, and Alli was, well, what precisely? We started this season with three wins which could have been draws or worse, and yet the bunting was already being prepared for next May’s open top parade, as if all our problems had been solved, just by giving Pochettino a massive pay rise last summer. We’ve got a great many problems, and the manager shows little sign of dealing with them, even in his fifth year in charge, so I think the gloomy conclusion to this article may well prove to be correct – let’s see what Liverpool make of us in the meantime.


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