After our 5-0 win over Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday, I did think, while acknowledging that the opposition weren’t any great shakes, to say the least, it might – just might – be worth Pochettino considering playing the same starting eleven against Liverpool. Injury-permitting, of course, and we must assume, after a decent performance on Tuesday and the way he’s been used so far this season, that Lamela’s absence from the squad was due to injury. But I was pretty confident Pochettino wouldn’t be able to resist making changes; that just doesn’t seem to be the way he looks at things.
I expected him to fiddle with the defence and at least bring back Danny Rose, even though his form has been poor, and he duly obliged. What I didn’t expect, having seen an energetic performance from Ndombele, was to see him on the subs bench and Eriksen – a player whose brain, legs and heart seem to have been on strike for the best part of a year – start. Not just start, but be given a role on the right of midfield in an apparent attempt to counter the danger posed by the speedy overlapping Robertson!
Is there a Spurs fan out there, or any ex-pro pundit, or any other manager looking for a job, who believes that even an Eriksen on the top of his game, let alone an Eriksen who seems to plumb new depths every time he sets foot on a field in a Spurs shirt these days, is equipped for that role? No? So, just Pochettino, then? When you combine that stroke of tactical genius with another Winks performance that suggests we have all over-rated him and he may not quite have it to make it at the highest level and a Dele Alli who seems to have forgotten everything that once made him an interesting, even exciting prospect, and who neither tackles, holds the ball or busts a gut to get into scoring positions (remember 20-goal Alli of a few seasons ago, people?) and you have a recipe for disaster.
After our early goal, helped by a typical burst from the one midfielder who consistently puts in a shift, Sissoko, we endured a pummelling and made it to half-time courtesy of some heroic defending by the back four and some great goalkeeping. We knew that we couldn’t survive like that in the second half and I was begging Pochettino to take Eriksen off and put Ndombele on at half time. But, no.
OK, we could argue that, had Son scored instead of hitting the bar early in the second half, things could have been different. But, let’s face it, our record of holding on to two-goal leads isn’t exactly great is it? So, I beg to differ. Eventually we cracked, again because, as it had been doing throughout the game, the ball came straight back into our area after our midfielders failed to do anything with it.
As for the penalty, while Aurier will probably get a lot of stick for the naïve foul, I have a certain amount of sympathy. He had had a decent game until then against a dangerous forward. He wrestled with Mane and looked to have won the ball and be able to hack it to safety before Mane got his leg in and Aurier whacked the back of his leg. Clear foul? Maybe. But let’s put the boot on the other foot. Mane is about to strike for goal and Aurier sticks his leg across Mane’s without making contact, or even attempting to make contact, with the ball, and Mane clatters Aurier’s leg. How many times have we seen that also being called as a foul by the defender and a penalty given. But that’s history now, so no point bleating about it.
To finish with the negatives, we only began to play with any belief after the penalty and we had to chase the game, aided, I would suggest, by Ndombele coming on. With Eriksen and Alli still passengers, it was crying out for Moura to come on. And – another stroke of tactical genius from Poch here – he duly does, with a whole SIX minutes to turn the game around. Staggeringly, Eriksen stays on until the 88th minute and Alli until the end of the game. I presume that some supporters might have been surprised to see him walk off at the end, having not noticed he was playing at all.
Any positives? Goalkeeper’s performance definitely; I didn’t watch nervously wondering about what crass error was coming, as is all too often the case with Lloris and he made some great saves as well as showing solid handling. Back four , even Rose, who wasn’t caught out so much by simple balls over his head or one twos, as is the case when he plays further forward, did OK against a very strong attacking team, particularly when you consider how poorly our midfield protected the ball. Sissoko did his usual, reliable, solid stuff. Striker’s goal from Kane and Son did well until he faded late on. Ndombele added spark when he came on. That’s it.
Conclusion. I haven’t a clue what goes on in Pochettino’s head these days when he chooses a starting line-up, decides on tactics or makes substitutions. Any Spurs fan could tell him that neither Eriksen nor Alli deserve to be in a starting eleven based on their form for the last year or so. Ditto that, if you want a forward to influence a game, give him more than five fucking minutes, especially when you have so many on the field who clearly need a rocket up their arses. It’s not rocket science, Poch.
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