Spine matters

1
Toby Alderweireld

Well, it was fun for a while there after Lamela’s goal, but this outcome was predetermined. You can’t face one of the best teams in the world, featuring a rested star who may be the greatest to ever play the game, absent your two best attacking midfielders, your best holding midfielder, your best central defender, and with a goalkeeper making his first start in a month after the single worst incident of his professional—and perhaps personal—life and hope to win.

The how and the why was the story. A Lloris howler right out of the gate, and there isn’t much to say other than he had better have gotten those out of his system or Paulo Gazzaniga may take his job away. An otherworldly strike by Rakitic—the second to doom us in group Stage—but the defence was at fault for allowing the easy buildup and Wanyama made no effort to block the shot. And an attack that was fine until the final third, when despite many moments of effective pressing, things fizzled out time and time again as our fullbacks could not break free down the wing, and our two supposedly pacy forwards had no success breaking free from what is hardly a stellar Barca back four.

The second half had to be better, and after Lionel Messi twice clanged balls off the post, it was. Kane’s goal was deserved and further proof that he is beginning to discover his pre-injury form, and after Messi sliced us up again, only this time to easily beat Lloris, Lamela’s deserved reward for a night of all-around good play made it a game for nearly a quarter-hour. Lucas Moura had one golden chance to level, deflected away by a Bleugrana defender, and then enter Mousa Sissoko and the giveaway which was bound to follow found Messi wide open again for the
clincher.

So I’ll say what must be said. The pairing of Winks and Wanyama simply didn’t work—they each have virtues but bossing a midfield with the likes of Messi and Rakitic at work is beyond their capabilities. Trippier and Davies are our weaker choices in terms of defending on the flank. Aldeweireld and Sanchez don’t match Vertonghen’s overall play at this stage of both of their careers. If anyone was going to stop Messi amongst that sextet, it wasn’t going to be today. Sure one can argue but for a horrific Lloris error and a wonder strike from Rakitic, the first half could have been scoreless. But the game could just as easily have swung 4-0 before Kane ever found the scoresheet, such was Barca’s assured play in the middle and stemming from their talisman.
It had the feel of a Liverpool or Man City game c.2013-14—with the opposition running amok so much one wondered just how their final tally would go. To Spurs’ credit, Kane, Lamela and Lucas kept at it and produced a shout of a result. That may not be enough to save us from a Europa League fate this winter—but it was something. This team has to turn inward—to England and a looming new ground—and find its form and health before Top Four becomes as elusive as advancement in the Champions League. The spine was largely absent tonite—and without it, Spurs were easy pickings.

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Paul is a respected U.S. political pollster (Democrat) based in Madison, Wisconsin and Los Angeles. His love for Spurs began when the Premier League games started appearing regularly in the U.S. and an American lover of football had to choose a side. Bale, Rushdie, Adele, Shakespeare, the Spurs faithful, The Lane, etc. were all irresistible attractions and have made Maslin a Spur for life.

1 COMMENT

  1. What other choices did we have with 5 regular first squad players laid up. Agree that “Sissoko the clown”
    shouldn’t get near a Spurs shirt again let alone our new stadium. Christ if we end up in the Europa perhaps we might really try to win it.

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