Is that all there is? All the hype, expectation, crowd size and that happens? A frustrating night in both attacking and defending thirds. Sure there were chances, and boatloads of corners, yet but for one dazzling Toby Alderweireld header it was a night of poor finishing and little inspiration. Are we out of this competition already? No.. because we are capable of flying east and winning on the road. But we’re on the brink, that’s for sure, when we cannot beat the lowest seeded side at our “home”. And now we are inexorably linked to our North London rivals for bottling it at Wembley first chance we got.
Let’s start with the goals against. Erik Lamela did a couple of nice things in this game—his corner converted by Alderweireld, a near-miss on a nice shot in the first half. But the giveaway that led to Monaco’s opener was horrific. Top sides and top players earning top coin should never do that. But Vertonghen and Davies were culpable too with some pretty soft defending in the box, and shouldn’t I say it? Poch went with only one holding midfielder, preferring Son over either Wanyama or Dembele. It almost led to an opening goal for Spurs, but I wonder if he doubts his decision seeing the heavens part for that first Monaco goal. On the second, I don’t know what Vertonghen and Davies were doing—Alderweireld was also too much a spectator, and let it not be forgotten that our most disappointing player this year (well, there are other candidates—Alli and Kane), Christian Eriksen, engaged in some soft defending near the flag which led to the cross that created the goal. But simply not the type of defending that a team at this level—or one that fancies themselves a title defender—should ever engage in.
Offensively, the less said the better. Walker played well. We missed Rose. Dier was anonymous. Davies barely registered. Dembele did what Mousa does in the second half, but he was more valuable for possession than any real attempt at finishing. Son bollixed one chance, but his first attempt was a goal but for a fortunate and hustling Monaco defender. Lamela wasn’t great but he contributed. And at least Janssen with muscle and Sissoko with pace supplied a threat in the waning moments as the others frankly looked spent.
The crux of the matter—and I suppose we’ll be saying this all year—rain or shine—is the troika of Kane, Eriksen and Alli. Slow, Weak and Stupid—at least today. Hate to say those things, but it is painfully obvious. Kane had at least two or three chances to score where a quicker action might have borne fruit. But he doesn’t have that spark for whatever reason. Eriksen is a mystery— one thing that became ever more clear tonight is that he simply doesn’t beat anybody—can’t fight through or around them. And Alli too often was making it “Dele against the world” trying to split defenses rather than make an incisive pass, or instead shooting poorly or unnecessarily or simply not showing the imagination of last year. He almost equalized with a wonder strike at the beginning of the second half, I’ll give him that. And Kane could have received a better service from Janssen after the latter fought his way to the ball in the box, but instead had to pause and try a left-footed shot that was just a bit too weak.
But the larger truth is that, unlike City or Arsenal or United or certainly Liverpool, our attackers simply do not yet possess the verve necessarily at this level of competition. I say “yet” because they did last year. We can only hope this is early season cobwebs and the dynamic group will return soon. It had better. The trip to Moscow is not a must win, and after games against Sunderland and Boro, the league schedule will get a lot tougher soon thereafter. We lost the plot–luckily it’s only the first Act
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