The Myth of Rotation Blame

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Have we all lost our collective mind? This was Poch’s fault because he kept out Vertonghen? Really? Because he may have valued the small little tussle this Saturday over an uncertain outcome in Monaco? Because he just might have concluded that qualifying for next year’s Champions League when he has a squad a year older and more experienced that might also have learned how to play at Wembley by then takes precedence over a likely knockout matchup this season with, say, Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich? Because he knows better than we all do just what was lost and established last May at Stamford Bridge, and how vital the return visit is for real and psychological reasons?

Listen, I was hardly happy about the performance today. They looked slow for much of the game. The defending was poor, the energy hardly better, and the lack of imagination or creativity in Monaco’s third baffling but for the fact that we’ve seen it all before. So part of the responsibility lies with the coach for not preparing his team better. But maybe they’re just not ready for the regimen of tough Premier League fixture followed by tough European fixture a few days later and then repeat the pattern back in London. Maybe a not-so-subtle message to Mr. Levy has been sent that filling Wembley to the gills is one thing, but actually making it work is another and requires some more player investment.

But can we examine the options here? Poch knew he doesn’t have Alderweireld for Chelsea, nor Rose due to suspension nor probably Davies, either. Which means Vertonghen will be forced to play left back- not his favorite endeavor—against the likes of Moses and Pedro and even Hazard or Costa if Spurs are forced into a 3-5-2. Which means he needs a supreme performance from the Belgian. He cannot play every game. With Walker can we remember that he got a knock near the end of the West Ham game and he becomes equally vital on Saturday. And frankly playing Wimmer and Dier when at least one of them must return to the starting XI at the Bridge was probably advisable just for familiarity’s sake. So I can’t fault him for concluding that we might allow a goal, and it’s up to the attackers to win the game. Which they couldn’t. And in the ugly sequence that culminated in the winner tonight, it sure appeared to me that the Original Sin was by Danny Rose, who allowed a far-too-easy run down the right wing and forced Trippier to essentially choose which Monaco forward to cover. Rose has been our best defender with Toby out, but not tonight.

As for that attack, Son and Alli were kept out of the starting lineup vs West Ham for a reason: to play in this game. We all agree that Eriksen has been off-form—was anyone shocked or dismayed that he was left on the bench? Kane over Janssen is another no-brainer. And Dembele and Wanyama is our best holding combination. Who would you rather have started? Nkoudou? Sissoko? Lamela is out. Harry Winks was the one debatable choice but why not play a hot hand from the last game? Truth is Pochettino put the right attack force out there, and they played poorly. Is that his fault?

I don’t know if we can muster a draw against Chelsea. I don’t know if by beating CSKA (or drawing) whether Europa will a) give us a chance for some redemption and needed continental experience, or b) become the stake in our Top Four heart with Chelsea and Liverpool both able to focus exclusively on the league, and City and Arsenal having the pedigree to play well all the way through the season. But I do know this—with health and a couple of extra bodies, we are good enough to compete through May and earn a return engagement in the Champions League. If Poch had played Vertonghen and Walker, and Spurs had earned a draw today, we’d still require Monaco beat Leverkusen in Germany and a Wembley victory over CSKA. In other words, no guarantees. And if the defence had let us down v Chelsea as a result, wouldn’t the naysayers be howling then?

We’re not quite there yet. Losing two games against the likes of Real Madrid would be nice, but it wouldn’t change the reality. The league is where the focus must go—and we need one more attacker and one more central defender in the January window. Blaming rotation is a copout. Players play. Let them show us they’re capable.

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Paul is a respected U.S. political pollster (Democrat) based in Madison, Wisconsin and Los Angeles. His love for Spurs began when the Premier League games started appearing regularly in the U.S. and an American lover of football had to choose a side. Bale, Rushdie, Adele, Shakespeare, the Spurs faithful, The Lane, etc. were all irresistible attractions and have made Maslin a Spur for life.

5 COMMENTS

  1. You want a reason for last night?.. The joke of a summer we had.

    We're owned by an investment group looking to milk every fan dry whilst spending as little as possible,.. Before anyone mentions the stadium, at is just another 'profit maximiser' before enic cut n run,. Let's hope it's soon! By the time they f**k off well be lucky if Poch is still here, he would have shown he can work for clowns on a shoestring budget so he'll get snapped up by a club that actually try to win things on the football pitch,.

  2. Amazing – praise Pochettino to the skies when the team does well, and blame the players when it does badly! Isn't his job to MANAGE? If he can only get results with a fully-fit, in-form squad, he's no sort of manager at all – he's been very lucky in the past, but it seems to be running-out, so let's see what happens on Saturday, when we'll need all the luck we can get.

  3. All the arguments do not hide the fact that we have left out first team players and paid the price. This was a must win game if we were to stay in the Champions league, Chelsea is one of 38 games, it is not a MUST WIN, in fact after recent displays the most logical outcome is a fairly comfortable home win. Our best team would struggle there as they have always done, last win 91/2!! It makes no sense to leave players out and there is a total lack of consistency in his selection. Last year he took the full squad to Qarabag the thursday before the weekend Chelsea game and yet having then got to the quarter final fielded two much weakened teams against Dortmund. Why put out stronger teams in the earlier rounds to throw in the towel later? The fact also remains that having been given the best part of 80m he has, wasted most of it on players who have not improved the team. I hate to say it but Liverpool, City, Chelsea and Arsenal are all much better than us. They score goals and entertain more than us. Apart from a couple of notable exceptions, City especially, we dominate possession and yet play at such a slow tempo do so little with it. We actually had 62% of the ball last night. Sorry but us and United will play for 5th and 6th, the top four. Last night's selection justified if we win at Chelsea, questionable. If we lose he has not got a leg to stand on!

  4. Yes, it is clearly his fault. He left out first choice players and fielded a weaker team. Why? How is one of 38 league fixtures more important than a must win game? Even if Tottenham get points at Chelsea it does not justify his selection. If they lose he has not got a leg to stand on. He did the same at West Ham last season when a win would have taken us top and put pressure on Leicester. He left out Walker, Rose and Alli for the more important Saturday game against Arsenal. It backfired as we only managed one point from six. Selection often defies logic. Take the full squad to Qarabag the thursday night before Chelsea for a group game. Having got through to the quarter final throw in the towel by sending two weaker teams out against Dortmund. Explain the thinking behind that. If you do not want to progress put out the kids in the earlier rounds to gain experience. Tottenham blew their chance last year when all the big guns failed. This year top four would be a major achievement. We have spent poorly in the close season, our football lacks pace or tempo. It is far too possession orientated , even last night we had 62% of the ball but did nothing with it. We seem to have a plan A but nothing else. Stop our full backs and half the battle is won. Not selecting Rose for the Wembley matches another huge error, Davies does so little going forward. The best chance of Champions league next season is actually trying to win the Europa league.

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