If Spurs are going to equal or better their Champions League exploits from last season they are going to need to repeat their second leg heroics from the Ajax tie. On the evidence of Wednesday night’s performance in the 0-1 home defeat against RB Leipzig, I’m not sure Spurs fans will be holding out much hope.
In a game of opinions, it is manager Jose Mourinho that is under the microscope from the media, pundits and fans alike. However, as we know the result doesn’t show the whole story.
Since the Portuguese head coach was appointed he has had to deal with Lamela, Sissoko, Lloris, Son and Kane all being sidelined with through injuries; with the possible exception of Lamela, this is the spine of the team.
Add to this the injury to Ben Davies in his first game against West Ham, and one thing is for sure, Mourinho certainly isn’t the ‘lucky one’.
It is perhaps ironic that Ben Davies, pivotal to Jose’s preferred formation, made the mistake that led to Timo Werner’s successful penalty kick. It was this set piece that was the difference between going into the second leg on level terms and trailing by the odd goal. Individual errors are really harming the side at the moment.
In my eyes, a nil-nil draw would have been a significant achievement against the Bundesliga contenders bearing in mind the fact that Spurs are without their only striker in Kane and their only make-shift striker in Son.
It seems to me that there are those in the media (including ex-players) and our fan base who are very quick to turn the blame onto our head coach. In spite of the injury list, he inherited a squad with more divisions than a GSCE maths paper and has narrowed the 12 point gap to Chelsea to just one point.
The recent unbeaten run has in the large part not been pretty but has contained some positive results. There is also evidence that Mourino is instilling a steelier underbelly.
Take Ronaldo out of Juventus, Messi out of Barcelona any two from Mane, Salah and Firmino out of Liverpool and then expect them to have the same attacking potency. It just won’t happen.
The night prior to our match Atletico Madrid, albeit with the luxury of a goal within the first four minutes against Liverpool survived the 90 minutes with 25% possession. This is hailed as a defence master class.
Jose tried to adapt his tactics to take into account the missing players and is labelled a ‘grumpy dinosaur’. Grumpy yes and I don’t blame him with the recent injuries. A dinosaur, I prefer to reserve judgement until he has the luxury of starting a game with his best players fit and also a full season to work with the players.
As you know I am very loathed to criticise Daniel Levy but we shouldn’t forget that we have now gone four full windows without signing striker. The message to the fans seems to be that there hasn’t been a viable option. It’s hurting us now.
The frustrating thing is that this could have been avoided had we offered Fernando Llorente a contract that was befitting of his contribution in our run to the final last year, rather than the insulting one that was forthcoming.
Onto the game itself and the Stadium looked resplendent, clearly built for ‘nights like these’.
However from the outset, the German side started like the proverbial train and but for a combination of the post and a save from man of the match Hugo Lloris, Spurs could have been behind within the first minute. Leipzig continued to have the better of the half with Spurs mainly relying on the counter attack. Bergjwijn and Moura worked tirelessly all evening but Spurs were never able to get forward in enough numbers to hurt their German counter parts.
Spurs would have been relieved to go into the break at 0-0. We were all looking for Mourinho to stir a reaction but in truth, there had been no real lack of effort – and tactically the Managers options are very limited.
On 55 minutes Ben Davies kung-fu kicked Konrad Laimer and a penalty kick was awarded. In truth he was marking three players so was up against it anyway! No VAR required.
Timo Werner coolly slotted in the resulting penalty and celebrated with an ironic cup of the ear.
It should be noted that Spurs supporters reacted brilliantly to the goal and really tried to lift the team. Not always easy when you are coming to terms with the disappointment of conceding.
Looking to get back in the tie, Mourinho made a double substitution on 63 minutes. Erik Lamela and Tanguy Ndombele replacing Gedson Fernandes and Dele Alli. Alli’s reaction to the substitution was either petulant or passionate depending on your standpoint, however I would suggest that his performance, as industrious as it was didn’t warrant the reaction. Also coming off the back of his social media faux pas, I would suggest he doesn’t notch up too many more black marks.
The substitution did provide some much-needed impetus and Lamela, in particular, added some aggression to the forward line and Spurs played the last 30 minutes largely on the front foot. However, the lack of a target man / out ball horribly illustrated on 70 minutes when a rare clean kill by Aurier deep in his own half only resulted in a hopeful punt up the field to an empty space.
Perhaps the best chance to equalise was a free kick on 72 minutes when Lo Celso came agonisingly close to finding the top corner. This came during a period of fouls in and around the Leipzig penalty area when incidentally Marcel Sabitzer was lucky not to receive a third booking of the game for launching the ball away!
While Mourinho is technically correct in that we are still in the tie my feeling is that the last 30 minutes was a metaphor for how the rest of the season ‘may’ pan out. Lots of effort and endeavour but a lack of cutting edge. This perhaps demonstrated by the plethora of missed chances against Aston Villa the weekend before.
There is the growing clamour for young Troy Parrot to be given a chance, but clearly, Mourinho (and let’s not forget Pochettino) don’t feel he is ready.
The tiring squad now make the daunting trip to Stamford Bridge, the scene of the original ‘parking of the bus’ in 2004 when Spurs under Santini at the time ground out a nil draw with, you’ve guessed it, Mourinho’s Chelsea.
Don’t expect anything other than another defensive / counter-attacking performance tomorrow. However, with state of the Spurs attacking options at the moment I’m not sure we can blame the manager. (In any case, he won’t change his beliefs and tactics just because the fans and media say so!)
Would we take a smash and grab one-nil tomorrow? Of course we would. COYS
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