The Merseyside comparison is about all that’s keeping Poch and his crew above water these days. “You lost to Man City, Man United and Arsenal away?” “Yes, but we thrashed Liverpool at home” “On a weekend when nearly all your rivals won three points, you could only manage a draw v drop zone Southampton?” “Yes, but Liverpool lost to bottom dweller Swansea the next day” “You came within one Harry Kane tap-in of losing to a League Two side, or its equivalent, for the first time in more than 100 years?” “Yes, but we play on, and Liverpool were eliminated at home to next to last West Bromwich.”
Maybe it’s enough solace. But let’s face it—if today (and most of the past month) is any indication of how well Spurs will play in the three week gauntlet they now must run, this season could devolve rather quickly and leave a host of questions about just what the Pochettino project will become or how long it might last, hanging until summer. I guess the silver lining is how can Real Madrid want a coach who can’t beat Newport County?
As for the game, it was patently obvious from the first few minutes that this starting XI could not, and would not, score. Llorente and Kane simply don’t function well together. Wanyama coming back from injury and a diminished Dembele were never going to create any serious chances. Walker-Peters looked small and scared; Trippier has regressed since his early glory versus the Galacticos. When Moussa Sissoko is the likeliest player to create a scoring chance, your selection decisions have to be questioned. The game was crying for Son and Dele—and sure enough, Spurs finally broke the duck once they came on. We can only hope Eriksen is completely healthy for the games ahead and that Harry Winks might return before too long. Erik Lamela seems to be reverting to enigmatic self, once again unavailable.
The defence was befuddled by the pitch, the wind and the opposition tactics. The Exiles (and isn’t that a marvellous nickname?) knew that playing into the wind in the first half would hold up every long kick and throw and force Spurs defenders to deal with awkward bounces and situations. We simply didn’t adjust particularly well and a goal was inevitable, though Kieran Trippier certainly helped the home side considerably with a whiff of a clearance. And there was simply no response in return—Walker-Peters was, frankly, pitiful when given the ball with space on the left; Trippier’s crosses lacked accuracy; Wanyama and Dembele were feckless; Llorente tried to hold the ball, and occasionally succeeded, but to little avail; Kane was isolated and often hemmed in. Again, only when Sissoko worked up a head of steam did Spurs appear capable of threatening, but then again it was Sissoko and not one of our better attackers so the finish wasn’t going to be there.
And now come United, then to Anfield, then the replay, then the Gooners, then to Turin— ahhhh… Do you know what might be an excellent bet? Particularly if Spurs win the Newport replay? Palace on the 26th at Selhurst Park. Spurs will be on fumes by then.
I don’t for the life of me know how this stretch will go. Anything is possible, but certainly Spurs dropping a game or two is well within the range of possibility. A loss to Liverpool and a decisive defeat to Juve would leave Spurs gasping for air in two of their three remaining competitions. But how would a win over either taste if Spurs lose to Arsenal or Man United at Wembley and draw to the other? And what if we, God forbid, drop the replay to Newport? The Barcelona break in the sun has so far lost the plot— this is one time where the significance of recapturing it—and soon—cannot be underestimated.
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