I didn’t think this team was capable of that. Didn’t see it coming. The minute we enter the rarified air of a title race our response is the worst half of the season. The entire team simply looked first complacent then tired then overmatched. Surely any chance at the title is gone, and now we must start to think about Cup success, the Top Four, and a deep Champions League run. But if any of that is to happen this squad has to ask itself some pretty hard questions.
What exactly happened today? The first half was predictable enough, with several good chances and the three left footed strikes producing a great save (from Eriksen), a close miss (from Son), and a terrific goal (from Kane). There was the nagging feeling that we should have done more, but surely the second half would produce the second goal and some comfort. And it was anything but. Wolves were organized extremely well on defence, we grew leggier and leggier with several uncharacteristically poor passes from the likes of Tripper, Kane and even Winks, and after Aldweireld headed several corner kicks or crosses out of danger, finally the breakthrough came with Sanchez and Sissoko failing to compete with Boly and Lloris a tad slow to react.
From there it was nothing less than a first-class disaster—perhaps Eriksen could have won a penalty but to be fair, after a clear dive from Kane just minutes before, he went down easily and the referee was in no mood to be generous. The subsequent break was all too simple for Wolves and while Jiminez’ shot had a slight deflection, Lloris simply didn’t move quick enough. After that one could sense the bubble had totally burst—we would not have any response—and Costa’s finisher just put a stamp on it all. The why will be overanalyzed I’m sure. To me it was a case of our front line being overworked—Dele was not at his best a week after injuring his hamstring to Pickford’s rash challenge; the others ran out of ideas and energy having all played just three days before. Kane in particular made several poor passes in the second half and Son had no more bursts to produce any real threat. Dele, Trippier and Winks all made poor passes or decisions that led to increasingly dangerous counter attacks from the visitors.
What does it mean to the big narrative? On one hand whatever chance there was of Levy supplementing this strike force in the January window seemingly has gone out that window; yet, ironically, the need for an attacker or two was exposed pretty dramatically today. We are back in a London fight for the top four—the experts who didn’t rate as true title contenders were right, much to my chagrin. And Pochettino has to redirect the efforts toward the two trophies still worth winning and the ambition of a deeper Champions League run. A clunker was coming—one hoped that we would have enough grit and quality not to make it too damaging in terms of the table.
This probably only enhances the United rumour mill—Poch is stuck in that no man’s land that fate and wages produce—good enough to contend, not good enough to win. Surely he is thinking tonight if I had the likes of Bernardo Silva, Sane, Martial, Rashford and Mata to come off the bench—and maybe a player or two I fancy even more—what could I do with it? The immediacy of our Spursiness is worrisome—it’s as if the players knew they weren’t quite the level of Liverpool and Man City and went about proving it straightaway. Now the real test of what may very well be the final five months of magic remains.
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