Opinion: Well organised, worked hard but not clinical enough

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

I expected worse. But for Japhet Tanganga, the post and a few strokes of good fortune it would have been much worse in the second half. But we grew into this game, and after the introduction of Lamela and particularly Lo Celso Spurs became the better side. Son missed a wide open goal, Lo Celso missed a tap-in, a few other chances went a glimmering. A point was all we would ever get, and we came inches away from getting it.

So there is more to be encouraged about than discouraged. I’d say much more but for failings by Danny Rose and Harry Winks, and the lack of the type of clinical play this team must demonstrate in the months ahead without its talisman. The manager set the game up perfectly. Keep close and then go for it in the final half-hour. Tanganga saved what could have been a crushing goal (remember Madrid?) in the second minute—he got turned around by Firmino just minutes later on a ball Winks bore responsibility for not preventing just minutes later for the only goal. All in all, though he showed effort and pace and something to build on. With one exception the rest of the defence played quite well—Sanchez in particular and Aurier when he had to get back. Danny Rose was an abomination with the ball, however—his decline over the past two years has been a sad sight. Too often he either lose possession or made a poorly-judged or designed pass to let someone else lose it.

As for the rest, Lucas was a force all game—his effort was extraordinary. Eriksen made a couple of very nice passes before being subbed out. Dele worked hard and his clinical shortcomings were not as noticeable as his South Korean teammate. Son has been poor ever since the Rudiger kick—he had one chance with a net beckoning and fired it five yards over the bar, and missed a couple of other good chances as well. The introduction of Lamela and Lo Celso bore instant results—the latter’s missed tap-in will haunt him and by all measure should have earned Spurs a point. Harry Winks is too wasteful and passive for my taste—he rarely asserted himself in the first half, and his best play in the second half came after he had lost the ball twice but kept on pushing to create a chance. So he has that going for him. Which is nice.

But this was the best team in the world we were playing. By formal title and on-field results. They don’t lose to anyone. The fact that we came this close to a result is much more positive than negative. In many ways it was the best performance for a Mourinho-led Spurs squad– and certainly much better than the Chelsea or Man United games. Perhaps the intensity will be difficult to repeat—and Boro on Tuesday will be the perfect chance for the squad to prove me wrong. But at least I saw the semblance of a quality team out there tonight. Top four may elude us because there are too may competitors in our range, particularly without Kane. 

But what I saw last night was the beginning of the future—Tanganga, Lo Celso—hoping for an end to Ndombele’s injury curse… and a Mourinho team that played Liverpool the only way it could, and almost got a result. Almost doesn’t count, it’s true—but do you want an AVB-style 5-0 beatdown? No game the rest of the season will be as hard as this one was—with the possible exception of when City come to town. I’m taking away encouragement.

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