Ok, the wolves are howling. Jose set us up to play too defensive—we should have killed the game—this is what why Spurs won’t win the league. Poppycock. The reason Spurs won’t win the league, if that is to be our fate, is that our players are simply not the match of Liverpool or perhaps Chelsea.
Yesterday they weren’t good enough on the whole. What happened for the first 35 minutes of the second half is that one team kept pressing for a goal, and the other was unable to keep the ball, create a dangerous counter-attack, or unclog a midfield and defence that Roy Hodgson is famous for establishing. And if the players, not the manager, thought we can simply keep them out then this was a damn good lesson to them that in this league that attitude will sometimes fail you. So Hugo was surprised and coughed up a free kick and Schlupp was in the right place at the right time. Eventually something like that was going to happen—for Benteke, Zaha, Schlupp and Eze all had chances where on a different day they might have scored. And to be fair so did Kane, Ndombele and Dier with Guiata the better of the two keepers, having made perhaps a worse mistake for our only goal. A draw was a fair result, and we will have to play much better than this to get another on Wednesday.
As for the specifics, I don’t know how hard to come down on Lloris. It may be that he simply didn’t see the ball until the last split second, in which case he was never going to catch it and Schlupp was at the right place at the right time. Or he was anticipating having to react to a glancing header in which case his error is a bit worse. The central defence was fine, but Eric Dier had yet another game where he made two or three horrific passes that flipped possession and added to the stress. His free kick at the end was nearly brilliant, so he must have shown that skill in practice. Reguilon was also fine but was clearly operating on instructions not to try to round his defender and over-commit down the left flank.
Aurier coped fairly well with Zaha for the most part—the problems came more from failures in midfield and upfront than bad actions among the back four. Ndombele was far from his best—two pretty poor giveaways in the first half, and again, he was responsible for some of the disjointed attempts to play the ball out and establish control. Yet on another day he might have scored a couple of goals, being robbed once by Guiata. I would give only fair to middling grades to Hojbjerg and Sissoko—they defended fairly well but at some point they have to get the ball forward and help out some pressure on the opposition. I thought Bergwijn was average at best—perhaps his most anonymous game in a while, and the same for Son, who simply never found the space against a big and surprisingly quick Palace defence. Kane was superb—he got the one, and could have had one or two more but for the keeper.
Chelsea lost to Everton, Liverpool drew at Fulham, the two Manchester sides were soporific—it is a long season and there will be few gimmes in this league this season. I expect a much better performance on Wednesday, whether we are able to get a result or not. This one gets chalked up as missed opportunity, for sure, but also a lesson in how fine the margins are—if you let another team boss you for a half-hour or longer, eventually you will pay for it.
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