Whatever fleeting chance there was for a Top Four finish this season ended when Heung-min Son kicked Antonio Rudiger in the ribs.
Mind you, there were plenty of guilty parties in a pathetic New Year’s hangover of a game on the South Coast. But none bears more responsibility than Son—his impetuous act has helped kill our attack for a set of games where 7 points should have been the minimum standard and all nine very much in play.
Whatever one wants to say about an attack that was off-kilter for virtually the entire 90 minutes, surely with one of the supposed top 20 players in the world on the pith things would have been different. This is not an easy judgment to make, for the Korean offers up so much when he does play and, after all, players miss three game stretches for lots of reasons. But it was his act of rashness that created most of the problems. Kane, Dele, Lucas, Lo Celso, et. al, were simply unable to solve them, as was their manager.
As for the game itself, the horrific defensive errors were kept singular, and for that we should give some thanks. Toby was the culprit today, beaten into the ground by one Ings shake and then the flourish of the goal was inevitable.
Aside from that they played decently if not all that well, because I’m not sure our Back Four is capable of a truly sublime performance any more. Gazzaniga’s curious decisions when procuring the ball after Southampton corners to kick it away either out of play or into impossible situations were troubling—we are always so tough on Lloris for his distribution, but surely just a pass or two ahead to a running outfielder would have been smarter. Not that the running outfielder would have made anything from it.
I suspect that there were at least 20-25 Spurs passes aimed at men either running into space, already free, or in very good position to mount an attack—and perhaps only two or three were delivered on target. Short, long, wide, ahead, behind, to a Saints defender—every missed ball in the book was shown as in a protracted video of how not to attack in football was being offered up by our lads. They all were at fault—Eriksen, Dele, Sissoko, Ndembele when he was out there, Lo Celso, Lamela (who at least was aggressive when he came on), Sessegnon, Aurier, Lucas—the entire lot.
Is all we have left this season Schadenfrude? The thought that if United win tonight at the Emirates, and further consign us to a Europa League position if we are lucky, Them might be in a protracted relegation fight with about 8-9 sides only four points from danger. It’s the only scrap we have.
The goals of Jose’s first month have disappeared. Now it’s try to mount a cup challenge—see if we can get by Leipzig—and hope Kane is not out too long. I don’t know if we will ever see the attack force we once boasted. Ndombele’s groin issues are vexing—Jose must have his head spinning wondering how he fixes the central midfield. We can hope Eriksen leaves and someone arrives in January. We know multiple new defenders are needed and that they almost certainly won’t arrive until the summer.
And Poch is getting R + R in the sun somewhere. Good for him.
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