Opinion: The anatomy of a mediocre squad

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Chelsea
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Since the Special One arrived we have lost to Liverpool, Bayern, Man United, Leipzig and Chelsea twice. Scored two goals in those six games. We’ll always have Olympiacos and City, I guess. To be fair to the manager in the prior regime we were losing to the likes of Newcastle and Brighton by the end.

But injuries aside—and how realistic is to expect even the one goal we did score without Kane, Son, Eriksen, Dele and with an attack force that has barely played together?—the flaws in this team are all too apparent. Mourinho has a damned if he does/doesn’t situation. He can decide to keep the game contained and play passively until his supposedly best defender allows Olivier Giroud to walk past him and the next thing you know the other Belgian is spinning like a top away from the Frenchman’s second effort and we are behind. Or he could have them play like they seem to do in the final 15 minutes these days—and maybe we’d all feel better, but the scoreline would likely end up 4-2 instead of 2-1, and no points would have been gained either.

Our defending—and this begins in the middle of the pitch—is simply substandard. Neither Belgian seems capable of a first-rate performance anymore. Davies and Tanganga on the wings are adequate; Sanchez is probably our best but what can one man do? And particularly when his midfielders are failing to mark or giving the ball away. Chelsea did what Leipzig did, pressed us almost into submission. I thought Lo Celso—aside from his fortunate escape from red for a stomp on Azpilicueta—and Ndombele were merely average yesterday; Winks was less than that until the final twenty minutes—I am developing a serious doubt as to whether this particular academy product is capable of sustaining quality play at this level. Oh how we miss Mousa Dembele! So our midfield was overrun for much of the first half and then again to start the second—and our defenders are simply always going to concede goals these days when possession is so tilted.

On attack Bergwijn was not surprisingly bullied a fair amount yesterday; Lucas cannot be effective as a hold-up player given his size, things got better once Aurier, Lamela and Dele arrived but the game was lost by then. This team bears no resemblance to the one that was a serious title threat in 2015-17; the rot is apparent and I would suspect at least two new defenders, if not three, must arrive in the summer for Spurs to have any chance at a trophy next season. And I’m not sure Harry Kane will wait that long—if he recovers in time for the Euros—and plays well—I would think his agent will begin to rustle around for a new home unless Levy is extremely proactive in terms of improvements.

As for Jose; yes, I would like to see more intent from the get-go in these big games. He doesn’t have the defence necessary to keep a game close—we were lucky much more than good in holding City off. Our only hope in the return fixture in Germany will be to light up their defence and probably also for a serious cup run or the dwindling chance at Top Four (I can’t see fifth being good enough for City is likely to tie up their mess in court long enough to play in the Champions League next season). But he is not the problem—let’s hope he can be part of the solution.

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