Opinion: Tottenham have not hit rock bottom yet

Emerson Royal
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Take the emotion out if it. Compare the two sides—the talent level is not comparable. Two of the three goals which decided this game were created by a midfielder more creative than anyone Spurs have, or have had, but for a couple of years of vintage Christian Eriksen, a striker who is a proven goal scorer across multiple leagues and countries, and one of the two or three best players to ever play the game. And we have Kane, Lucas and Son—seriously you think we can possibly beat United these days? 

Ole could screw it up, but yesterday he didn’t. Shaw and Maguire were each booked, but in exchange for that aggressiveness, they didn’t make any major mistakes. Wan-Bissaka and Shaw are more dangerous on the wing than any of our two—certainly with Davies playing instead of Reguilon. McTominay and Fred do what Skipp and Hojbjerg do—plus they can actually provide some offensive impetus as Fred almost scored the opening goal. 

So we aren’t at their level. Nor can we do what either Palace or Brighton were able to do yesterday—hold Liverpool to a draw at Anfield, and beat City in Manchester. Truth is that we are somewhere between the 8th and 12th best team in the league. Nine goals in ten games doth not a European qualifier make. The Hammers are better; Leicester will be better, Brighton are better, And, yes, Arsenal are better. Let us battle it out with Everton, Palace and Villa to see who finishes in the top half of the league.

Nuno. I don’t know why he dropped Reguilon and Ndombele, I presume it was fitness concerns. If not, then I can’t defend his selection. But I also don’t think those two would have made an appreciable difference. Lo Celso was very active if not precise (and he was hardly the only offender)—would Tanguy have made that much difference given all the problems upfront? I thought it unfair that Lucas was subbed for Bergwijn—let’s get very real about our Dutch non-treat—he can’t play at this level. Can’t score, can’t create, can only use pace against certain opponents in certain games— this was not one of them. But if you want to shake up the lineup at that point, I’d have taken Kane or Lo Celso or even Son out. Pep subbed De Bruyne—De Bruyne!!—a goal behind and but for an inches offside decision, his replacement—John Stones—JOHN STONES—almost helped produce a goal within ten seconds of coming on. But it was obvious at the end that he had no ideas—he knows his team isn’t good enough. He knows his principal star doesn’t want to be here, and that that attitude may be infecting the rest of the team. He knows his depth is shaky to non-existent. He may lack both the motivational and tactical skills to make it better. And maybe he won’t want to stay much longer—but if he leaves, what then? Will Hojbjerg keep yelling at Kane to press harder?

The truth is Spurs played with some intensity. They pressed well, They brought the ball out of the back more consistently than in many other Nuno games. They found teammates in space. They defended well until Skipp made a colossal mistake and then the game was over. Until that mistake the difference in the game was that Fernandes and Ronaldo were capable of producing a brilliant goal—and Son and Kane—and yes I am isolating this discussion to them—were barely capable of even getting a shot off. The play of both was borderline abject—poor passing, poor possessions, poor finishing.  Think of the two times they each were open in space—the kind of situation that has produced so many goals in the past. Son was offside one time, but his finish was poor, skying over the net. The next time he slowed down too much or his touch betrayed him, enabling Wan-Bissaka to get back in time to deflect the shot. And Kane refused to go straight at goal, settling for a weak pass across the box toward Bergwijn. They aren’t top 20 players in the world. They aren’t top 20 players in the league. They are barely average. Whatever else you think about him, at least Jose got the best out of both for much of one season. 

I’m done with the double pivot. It isn’t just that Skipp made such a horrible error—or that the Dane was pretty anonymous. It’s that our attack can’t afford to have two players in midfield who rarely do a thing to assist it. Tanguy Ndombele and Gio Lo Celso should both play because what do we have to lose? Maybe there’s a way they can combine with the front three to actually split a defence and create real chances that star players might be able to finish. But frankly, I question whether Kane will get any better than this—the Hojbjerg scream v Burnley must be born of something pretty darn evident in training and behind the scenes. The problem now is his value is sinking every day. But City still want to win a title—they could have used himyesterdaywhen it all went to crap v Palace. Sell him in January. I think he’s a problem. This season is gone anyway—what’s the difference if it’s 8th or 13th? Play Sanchez as much as Dier and Romero—Romero created some scary situations yesrerday and Dier was pretty weak on at least two of the goals. They don’t have to play every game. As for Winks and Dele, I don’t have a good answer—either or both could be offloaded in January, but depth is hardly a strength of this squad right now. Who will play?

I’ll close with this. I would not have booed at halftime—they didn’t deserve it then. By the end, it’s hard not to react that way. Boo at Levy, Nuno, Kane, Dele, Winks, Son—the whole lot of them. We should be better. But we’re not gonna be very good for a long time to come. Get used to it. I wasn’t around for the 1990s and most of the 2000s—I guess I am seeing what it was like.

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  1. Blimey, suggesting we may never have had anyone in midfield as creative as Fernandes apart from 2 years of Eriksen! As you confess later, you haven’t followed them for long which is clear if you can’t even mention Glenn Hoddle or later stars such as Gazza and Modric.


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