Opinion: Houston, we have a selection problem

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Liverpool had one day less to rest after that intense affair at Anfield. Klopp rotated some players out of the lineup and they beat a Palace team we struggled to draw against at the same venue a week earlier 7-0. So let’s not humour any myths about which is the better team, whatever the reality was last Wednesday. It is now probably the case that our title dreams went down the drain the instant Bergwijn’s ball clattered off the post. And now? What are we? Second best team in the league? Or eighth? It could be either one given what both Manchester clubs are capable of, and also Leicester/Everton/Chelsea/Villa.

The problem today was simple in hindsight. Jose needed to rotate the squad, and to abandon the midfield structure which failed miserably throughout this game. Of course Aurier’s first moment of folly this season was huge—as was the injury to Gio. But before both those killer blows happened, this team was borderline pathetic in its attempts to play the ball out against Leicester and retain possession for more than a nanosecond. I do not believe he wanted them to play this way—but on this day they were incapable of doing anything more. 

Son was poor for most of the first half, and he and Kane were largely bottled up by the Foxes in the middle of the pitch—the one decent break we got was ruined by his “ball to nowhere” reminiscent of the Lo Celso late miscue vs Chelsea. Ndombele made a few nice moves forward but none of it was connected with his fellow midfielders, the wingers or the forwards. And the same with Lo Celso. Hojbjerg and Sissoko were liabilities from almost the get-go. They seemed spent, not marking anywhere near as well as they have been doing, poor with the ball, constantly putting their fellow defenders in danger by giving the ball away.

Jose should have played Winks. He should have played Dele. He should have played Bale. He should have played Doherty. At least three of those four. I can understand benching Bergwijn. Lucas has been unimpressive and Lamela is still injured. But he needed fresh bodies against a team as aggressive as Leicester was in this game. And he needs a team capable of going from Point A to Point B without losing the ball or being forced to try yet another ball over the top, very few of which have been working lately. 

This team has scored all of five goals other than its two star forwards, with no one player tallying more than once. How can we develop other options unless people get playing time? And doesn’t the fact that we have now scored all of 4 goals in our last 5 league games suggest that the system has to be tinkered with, and other players have to be brought into the lineup?”

A crucial cup tie and one more raft of games in the festive period means that Mourinho must rotate this squad. The game at Wolves will be tough—after that things should get easier. But this year you can take nothing for granted. 

We will have gone from first to fifth in a six-day period if Chelsea win tomorrow. He needs to decide if his centre backs will remain passive or whether perhaps Joe Rodon might offer something more going forward. He needs to make a big call regarding right back, for as good as Aurier had been until this week, his mistake today was unforgivable. And Winks, Dele and Bale, whatever their physical or other limitations, must be given a chance to play from the jump. If this is a team capable of winning trophies, we will see it in the next two weeks.


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  1. As much as two defeats in a row is hugely disappointing, the idea that we should have tinkered by bringing in Alli, Bale and Winks to name a few is a knee jerk reaction.

    The aforementioned players have had opportunities to impress in the Europa League and have not covered themselves in glory.

    Doherty has not looked defensively strong as Aurier who was looked a fantastic player for the most part of this season.

    Yes it was a rash error on his part which contributed to our loss but we were flat as a team throughout the game which was surprising.

    None of the substitutes who came on relatively early in the 2nd Half made any sort of impact which was disappointing.

    I would hope that the intensity that was missing against Leicester will return against Stoke where changes should be made where Bale, Alli, Vinicius and Doherty should be given an opportunity but tinkering to a large degree this season hasn’t proved to be successful which we saw against Antwerp and LASK.

    We’ve got a great opportunity to get through to the Semi-Finals of the League Cup and must remember that although we’ve missed the opportunity to keep the momentum going in the League over the last two games, we aren’t all of a sudden an average team who can’t regain our mojo.

  2. Whether or not you agree or disagree with the notion of Mourinho needing to freshen up the squad against Leicester – his dealing with certain players is a contentious enough issue in itself – the simple fact is following a difficult and perhaps undeserving loss to a now upwardly mobile Liverpool, Spurs home fixture to Leicester was not only a disappointing performance but a loss that merits no level of redemption in itself. Where was the tough and gritty comeback set to re-establish the path the message seemed lost as Spurs failed to match Leicester in both energy and hunger and defeat looked inevitable. Unlike some I am not seeking to blame individuals for this defeat however, errors may have been costly but the overall team performance was the real reason we failed. Perhaps the truth of the matter here is that Spurs were riding their luck a little too much with performances that conceded too much possession and a seeming inability to keep the ball. I have nothing against a counter attacking style, but there needs to be more to Tottenham’s game plan than just that. They must also show they are capable of controlling the game for longer periods, instead of simply sitting back defensively allowing the opposition to come at them and hitting on the break. If Tottenham are going to sustain any level of challenge they need to adapt and to give/show much more than they are presently doing or this will just become a bubble that has quickly burst.


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