What a season. We play poorly against our toughest league opponents away, boss everybody else. We play terrific against big name European clubs—home and away. And then at Wembley we lose the plot—again and again—vs the pedestrian Premier League clubs. The latest installment was all too familiar. The early goal by Salomon Rondon was created by a foolish Dele Alli mistake. Davinson Sanchez marked Rondon well but fell victim, surprisingly, to the other’s superior strength and the flick to the opposite corner was delivered simultaneously with the shoulder shove, and the game’s narrative was established.
It took Spurs a good half hour to finally begin to develop some offensive cohesion and actually send some decent shots at Ben Foster, who was stalling all game in response. Heung-Min Son was the most spritely of our forwards by far, down the left wing. When the team kept sputtering early after the break, with all of the trio of Kane-Dele-Eriksen not in synch, the Dane with a particularly ineffectual performance, Poch had to try something. I assumed Dembele and Llorente would come on, perhaps for Eriksen and Dier, and they did but Poch felt Winks was not providing enough forward movement and that Dier could take Vertonghen’s role in a back four (the back three having been abandoned mid first half), leaving Dembele to press forward with five in front.
It finally paid off with a good takeaway by Trippier, fed to Dele and then a perfect cross that Kane flicked by Foster. For the next five or six minutes, Spurs were crashing into Baggie bodies and seemed certain to get the winner—but the nine men back formation held, the storm broke, and it was actually West Brom who had two opportunities at the death to win, first from Robson-Kanu and then a cross that a tired Rondon simply couldn’t reach for a simple tap-in.
I suspect this won’t be the last disappointment at Wembley in this type of game against this type of opponent this season. The squad is not yet deep enough for our best to stay fresh with all the midweek fixtures (shifting to league games rather than Europe over the next month) and the reserves are not yet trusted or accomplished enough to win on their own. The title chase is over, of course—now Spurs must, in the midst of what could yet be a glorious run through Europe, settle into a do or die fight with Arsenal and Liverpool for Top Four, and then hope to make a trophy run in the FA Cup, no matter how much Poch denies that it matters.
There isn’t any one thing or player to blame. The goal was a great individual effort after a Spurs mistake. It set the tone for the type of game that is Spurs’ Achilles Heel. The forwards were either knackered or a bit out-of-sorts or both. We got the point we deserved, but not the three that a better and stronger side would have forced. Europe is our salvation, but as in 2011 we must not allow an exciting run on the continent to become a one-off.
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