How many will be getting out of this particular kitchen? Christian Eriksen for certain. Jan Vertonghen must be considering it. Alderweireld? Pochettino?
The hard truth about a season already in considerable tatters is that Spurs have played six halves. Three were miserable exercises at our swanky new ground against promoted or winless sides. In two others we were flat dominated by the best team in the league. In one thirty minute stretch we played like we belonged in the elite of England and Europe. And that is it. The truth is pretty inescapable—this is an average team with very little understanding of how to win games or break down defences. Whether it can be much more than that is an open question—one painful reality that last season’s miraculous European run obscured is that it is nowhere near a quality Premier League side, and hasn’t been for nearly nine months now.
So let’s begin with the beginning of this horror show. Once again we came out– against an inferior side set up to pack the middle and frustrate our forwards– at a walking pace. Maybe crawling. No urgency, no swarming, no spirit to try to grab control of the game. The first goal would of course come from the opposition for that has been the Spurs way these last many months—this time it didn’t come until nearly a half hour in, but like a broken record against the run of play Davinson Sanchez screwed up his positioning and Lloris had no chance. Then the game settled into a familiar backwards, sideways pattern—our “round the world” attack never looked so pathetic. Harry Winks is a nice chap, but he kills the flow time and time again. Only near the end did he actually wake up to the fact that maybe a straight ahead run might lead to something better. Kyle Walker-Peters has either been told not to round his man or lacks the confidence or wherewithal to do so—and he is bullied off the ball far too much for my taste.
But even if such penetration had occurred, to what end? Kane and Son were either invisible or ineffectual. I lost count of all the balls bounding off feet, poor passes, lame attempts at a shot. Erik Lamela tries to make something happen in his awkward way, and Moussa Sissoko was the one player who I thought might actually do something that might lead to a goal. Lucas was either too small, blocked off, or lacking the precision on the two or three good finishing chances he was presented with. Lo Celso was a non-factor upon his arrival; and, curiously, so pretty much was Eriksen.
As for the penalty shout and VAR, well we can join the club. By my count there were at least four fairly clear penalties this weekend that weren’t called by the game referee and were either never reviewed by VAR or were deemed not be a clear and obvious error. Listening to Lee Dixon trying to claim the Newcastle defender had accidentally fallen into Kane’s path was almost as bad as Mike Dean’s non-decision to begin with. But that is hardly an excuse because at best that call cost us one point, not all three.
What does Poch do? Fact is, without that Ndombele wonder strike we very likely would not have won the Villa game either. He’s got dissension in the ranks given Eriksen and Vertonghen that is unlikely to improve over the next week. He’s got an attack force with combinations of players coming off injury, suspension or new to the club that has simply not gelled. He’s facing the likelihood of Spurs being buried somewhere in the bottom half of the table without a victory in the NLD. Most importantly he has a team that within the league has not been good since New Year’s. The sample size is growing. The patience is not. Trophies? Really? They had better downsize their expectations and simply see if victories can happen first.
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