Our problems started to escalate from our game against Burnley (away), last season, where we lost 2-1, a game we should have won. After that – out of eleven games left in the league – we only won three. The most humiliating was our defeats against Bournemouth, Southampton and West Ham (our first home defeat in our new stadium).
Again, against teams we should have won. This time, contracts, wanting to leave and the Champions League final, all contributed to deeper problems. On top of all that, there were several players who wanted to go in the summer. Which reinforces what I said; that the rot was setting in well before the start of this season. And not forgetting Pochettino’s outbursts in the summer and about his role within Spurs. All adding up to more profound uncertainties.
The start of this season was the continuation of the end of last season. So far we won 3, drawn 2 and lost three.
Hugo Lloris was subbed off after eight minutes, which didn’t help – the quickest a keeper has been replaced in a Premier League match since Lloris against Leicester in April 2015 (four minutes).
Brighton, who have had poor form this season, ended a run of eight Premier League home games without a win (D3 L5). They also equalled their most significant margin of victory in a top-flight game and scored more than once in a Premier League home game for the first time in 16 games, since beating Crystal Palace 3-1 in December 2018.
Every game this season (even the ones we won), and part of last season, I sensed that things were stirring that shouldn’t be stirring in a professional and well-run team.
Questions were being asked after our Carabao Cup exit, where questions should have been asked long before that game; but having conceded 10 goals in five days, we are now bordering on a crisis, a crisis that can spiral down if we are not careful. To be honest, I can’t see us improving any time soon. I can also envision us struggling to get a place in Europa League football for next season if things carry on as they are.
Pochettino has become one of the most coveted managers in Europe during his first five years in charge, with his side gradually improving each year and reaching last season’s Champions League final. But I am sure that those admirations are quickly turning into questions about his inability to deal with deeper problems (or I should say, if he is unable to deal with the current issues).
Four months on (from the final), we were jeered off at our luxurious new home after the defeat to Bayern. Our manager now facing the most searching questions of his Tottenham tenure, admitting that “sometimes critics can make you realise you need to wake up”. But that “wake up call” didn’t seem to work for the Brighton game.
Lloris’ early blunder hardly helped our cause. After that injury to our goalkeeper, we struggled to regroup.
In a Friday press conference, Pochettino said he has no doubt over the commitment of his players, particularly those in the final year of their contracts, such as Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. Even though there were question marks over Alderweireld and Vertonghen.
There was no questioning Vertonghen’s desire to put his body on the line, in this match, blocking Dale Stephens’ goalbound volley with his head before needing treatment after a clash of heads with Maupay.
At one point it looked like we had got a foothold in the game, just after the break, but twenty-minutes later we conceded our third goal.
Alderweireld was found wanting after the break as he stood off Connolly, turning his back as the youngster cut inside before firing into the bottom corner. Eriksen had another quiet game in midfield, but you can’t just single him out.
Eriksen’s meek long-range strike was our only shot on target in the first half, and although we won three corners in quick succession at the start of the second half, we still couldn’t muster an effort on goal.
Later on, the ball squirmed away from Son in the box while Harry Kane fired over before substitute Lucas Moura was twice denied by Mat Ryan as we failed even to claim a consolation, seemingly leaving Pochettino and Spurs at a crossroads.
But moments later, Connolly got in front of Ben Davies to flick Dan Burn’s cross goalmouth and slam in the rebound, before side-footing wide from Pascal Gross’ ball.
After the Seagulls’ final goal went in they remained comfortable for the rest of the game. The final whistle was a relief for both sets of players; for Brighton, they were relieved and delighted that they managed to defeat a top-four club, while we were just relieved that the humiliation had finally come to its end. That was on the pitch, but the embarrassment will continue for many months to come.
Watching the game, Pochettino made many tactical errors. Personally, I believed he shouldn’t have taken Son off, but Kane. There is some psychological reason why he can’t or won’t take off Kane when the situation calls for it. The formation we deployed wasn’t up to denting Brighton. And there is a question mark over what players should play and who shouldn’t; for instance, why isn’t Moura getting a start? And of course players playing out of position.
Long before the final whistle was blown I, and the bench could hear the boos from the Tottenham away fans end. Then when the third goal was conceded, the mass walkout started. With many V signs being shown as the supporters left. Some brave souls stayed until the end, even applauding our team – for what, I don’t know. Maybe for managing to only concede three!
We now have a two-week break, and in that time, Pochettino must start rethinking his tactics and how he handles the players’ individual problems. If not, calls will gather momentum for his dismissal.
Pochettino has been at the club now for 5 years, and in that time he has done a remarkable job… but has he now reached his limits?
Now we wait and see what will our next game bring us. Hope? Or more concerns?
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