Tottenham Hotspur’s FA Cup campaign came to a frustrating end with a penalty shootout loss to Norwich City at home. This was Tottenham’s second domestic penalty shootout loss of the season and this game had very similar qualities to the one against Rochdale many months ago. Mourinho surprised everyone by including both Vorm and Skipp in the starting eleven and giving Vertonghen the armband. But his decisions looked like they paid off when Spurs went up through Vertonghen early but was pegged back by Drmic in the 78th minute after Vorm’s horrendous mistake.
The hosts started really well and created chances through counters easily. Lo Celso had the best chance early, but his shot was stopped by Krul. In the 13th minute Spurs reaped the rewards of the early pressure as Vertonghen scored a bullet header from a beautifully delivered cross by Lo Celso. Skipp and Winks formed a good partnership in the midfield while Lo Celso pulled all the strings in a more advanced role. But the intensity soon wore off and Norwich pinned Spurs in their own half, finding it very easy to get past Spurs’ press and getting into dangerous areas. The First half ended without another goal, but not before Lucas wasted a great chance right at the death when he chose to shoot instead of passing to Alli after winning the ball back in the Norwich box.
The problems continued in the second half as Norwich upped their pressure and Spurs couldn’t find anything in the counter. Bergwijn and Lucas were both off the pace and Dele had a hard time holding up the ball. Norwich continued to look for the equalizer with Buendia, Cantwell and the full backs looking very dangerous. Just when the Spurs defence looked like they nullified the threat slightly, Vorm spilled an easy shot from outside the box and Drmic did not miss the easy opportunity.
This was the much-needed wake up call for Tottenham, just as against Wolves on Sunday. With the introductions of Lamela and Ndombele, the home side found it much easier to hold onto the ball and progress into the attacking third. The best chance of the match came late in the game as Aurier was unmarked at the back from a Lo Celso cross, but his effort was cleared off the line by Godfrey. The pressure was not enough to find the winner in regular time, so the teams were forced to play the 30 extra minutes.
Extra time was even more frustrating than the 90 minutes, as Norwich players looked dead on their feet but the quality and intensity from Tottenham were nowhere to be seen as the players wasted one promising chance after another.
After the extra time was over, there was an air of inevitability in the stadium as Tottenham looked doomed in the penalty shootout. Vorm’s save in the first penalties gave us a little bit of hope but that was quickly killed by an awful take from Lamela right after. From then on it was a painful watch, especially Parrott who finally got his chance but squandered it.
Tottenham’s trophy hopes for this season are now over and the Mourinho experiment looks like a disaster with every game. Unless there is a huge squad overhaul in the summer, next season might be in doubt as well. Hopefully, the manager will use the rest of the season to try and find the best system and players for his philosophy.
Michel Vorm – 4 – He gets an extra point for saving a penalty but that was a performance everyone saw coming as soon as they saw the Dutchman’s name on the team sheet. It was a huge surprise to see Gazzaniga not play even if his Wolves performance was not great but playing a 36-year-old whose last appearance was more than a year ago in a must-win game screamed disaster. He even foreshadowed his own mistake as he scared the fans with a spill from a long range effort in the first half. He did it again in the second half, but this time he wasn’t so lucky and cost his team the win.
Serge Aurier – 6 – An average performance from him though he was very unlucky not to score the winner. He was troubled by Cantwell at the back and he was so frustrating in attack, wasting chance after chance. He finished the match with 8 crosses attempted, zero completed. His energy was there and it was much needed, but his end product needs to be a lot better since he’s playing so far up the pitch.
Eric Dier – 8 – He had the opposite of his performance against Wolves last night. His stats don’t look that impressive apart from his 12(!) clearances, but he was very important in defence. He threw his body everywhere, kept the back line in check and was good in the air. He topped it off with a goal in the penalties, shame his performance was not enough.
Davinson Sanchez – 6 – The fact that he needs to babysit Aurier on the right is definitely causing problems in his game as he’s asked to do a lot more. Not only that, Aurier’s side of the defence sees a lot more threat from the opposition and he gets put in difficult positions. That being said, he did not have the worst game today but he had a hard time containing Buendia and Cantwell a few times, so he has a lot of room to improve on this.
Jan Vertonghen – 7 – Great game from the Belgian at left back, and this was exactly what he needed as his last appearance went terribly for him. He did a little bit of everything – defended well, carried the ball up the pitch and got involved in attacks, and scored his team’s only goal with a good header. He’s still a very useful squad player if he can produce these kinds of performances.
Oliver Skipp – 6 – It was a huge surprise to see the youngster starting today even though he has been hailed as an impressive prospect for years now. And he had himself a decent enough game, combining well with Winks in the midfield. He seems to be the better defensive player between the two, but his passing range and ability are clearly below Winks’ level. His defensive presence was badly needed today as well with the press not working, and he completed 3 tackles and 2 interceptions in 120 minutes last night.
Harry Winks – 6 – It wasn’t an exceptional performance from Winks but he’s starting to get more consistent, and that’s important to see. His game will shine more in a better functioning team where he’ll be able to play next to a good defensive midfielder, so we’ll have to wait until next year to see where his true level is. His passing today was solid, bringing his team up the pitch quickly, but he wasn’t able to get on the ball more to dictate things.
Giovani Lo Celso – 8 – I don’t know if he has any energy left to play again on Saturday, because he left everything he had on the pitch. He was once again the main creative spark for the team, this time in a more advanced role that seemed to suit him. He got his assist with his gorgeous cross to Vertonghen early in the game, and he should have scored even before that. The only problem with him in this game was his lack of pressing which was understandable since he was knackered, but unfortunately, that put his team under a lot of pressure.
Steven Bergwijn – 4 – Very poor game from the Dutchman who barely got on the ball tonight, though that’s mostly the fault of his teammates. He was asked to chase impossible balls in the 53 minutes he was on the pitch, and he looked like he was injured which would be devastating to see. His work rate was again impeccable, completing 2 tackles and winning all 4 ground duels he got into in the short time he was on.
Lucas Moura – 5 – Another good start, poor finish from the Brazillian who created chances early on for his team, but disappeared after the 30 minute mark. He had one of the best chances of the game as he won the ball in the Norwich box, but chose to shoot instead of squaring to Alli who would have had an empty net to aim for. He was also a victim of fatigue as he had to be subbed after 70 minutes due to cramps.
Dele Alli – 3 – Yes he had an abysmal game, but the reason was so clear to see. He has been playing game after game without getting any real rest, and he looks absolutely exhausted, both physically and mentally. He was supposed to lead the press in the medium block, but Norwich players got past him so easily. He was not much of a factor in the attacking end as well, and he was finally put out of his misery, in the extra time no less.
Gedson Fernandes – 8 – People will remember his horrible penalty miss, but he put in an amazing performance after replacing Bergwijn early in the second half. He was signed as a midfielder but played as an emergency left winger and he brought so much energy for his team. He was everywhere both in defence and attack, completing 3 tackles, winning 12(!) ground duels, attempting 9 dribbles and completing 7 of them, and taking 5 shots. I would absolutely start him on Saturday on the wing, giving one of Lucas or Bergwijn a much needed rest before the Champions League match.
Erik Lamela – 7 – Another player whose night was ruined by a terribly taken penalty, but his performance should also be praised. The energy he brings from the bench is so infectious, it’s amazing to see his team’s attitude change when he comes on. He did the usual Lamela things, completing 3 dribbles, getting into 8 duels, and completing 2 interceptions. He doesn’t have the fitness to be a starter anymore but he’s worth a squad spot for his 20 minutes cameos.
Tanguy Ndombele – 7 – Another short cameo, another unreal performance from the midfielder. He came on after the Norwich goal and the game completely changed after that. Tottenham kept possession, moved up the pitch, and created chances so much easier. 39 minutes is the longest he played for in a long while, so hopefully this is a sign of things to come.
Troy Parrott – 3 – After all the hype and anticipation, the Irishman finally got his opportunity and he looked absolutely hell-bent on making the most of it. But it looked like his fitness was good for only a 15 minute burst as he completely disappeared after that. It was great to see that he had the confidence to take a penalty in the shootout but his effort was saved. Hopefully that won’t affect his mentality and he can kick on from here.
Jose Mourinho – 7 – I was actually very impressed with Mourinho’s approach and decisions today, except for Vorm of course. Skipp played well, Dier and Vertonghen were great, and his subs all made some sort of impact on the game. The team created chances when they had the intensity, and his favorite 4-2-3-1 formation seemed to work really well. There are some problems which are out of his control though (or maybe not) that are hampering the progress of this team. Firstly, the squad is so unbalanced and problematic that Mourinho is pretty much trying to fit square pegs into round holes.
No one in the defence or midfield can play the ball out under pressure, no one in the attack can hold up the ball, and the midfielders are not ball winners, so any team from any level can give Spurs a game just by upping their intensity. That leads to the second most common problem in the Mourinho era, which was also a problem in the late Poch era. The intensity of the players vary so much from not only one game to another but from one 15 minute period in a game to another.
The team started off so well in the first 15-20 minutes, but disappeared completely for the next 20-25. Second half was the same story but in reverse. It is most likely from the lack of squad depth, but the fact that Mourinho couldn’t find any solutions to even slightly change this is very worrying.
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