Two clear-cut penalties, Kane off the bar, 25 shots, total possession, and it all adds up to the most frustrating draw in this or any season this evening v Swansea.
The referee aspect of this comes first, and maybe it’s a bank shot payback for the good fortune on Wednesday. But the handball (the first handball—which underscores how horribly unlucky Spurs were that we must clarify which one) was not debatable. The arm out, the ball strikes the hand. Open and shut. The decision re: Aurier was harder to detect but also clear. He was tripped going for the ball in the box.
As for our attack, the criticisms are obvious. Pochettino elected to give Ben Davies the day off and attempt to play Son at left wing. As he did last May on the same turf v Chelsea. It didn’t work this time, either. Spurs incessantly attempted to break the Swans down the left wing in the first half, only to enter some Vertonghen-Son-Dele cul-de-sac of failure nearly every time. Son almost recreated the Dortmund opener but Fabianski was good then as he was a couple of other times when he needed to be. The proof that the experiment failed came after the break when Trippier was shifted to left wing and Sissoko was placed further ahead on the right, ultimately being replaced by Aurier.
Both Dele and Eriksen fluffed chances throughout the game. Dele in particular was lacking that one pass, possession, move needed to break him or somebody free in the middle. He resorted to a few futile low percentage shot attempts or one v four dribbles, with predictable results. I can’t for the life of me understand why the best free kick chance in the first half, maybe the entire game, was taken by Eric Dier rather than Eriksen. Without Dembele we were left with the likes of Dier, Alderweireld and Vertonghen attempting runs to shed Swansea defenders and open up the penalty area. It wasn’t happening.
Kane did all he could but the best chance—courtesy of Sissoko—he struck inches high and off the bar. Llorente’s late arrival changed nothing. By midpoint in the second half I realised that the goal—if it were to come—would not be the product of a cross or a corner—it would take somebody making a run and cutting through the Swansea lines. Both the buildup to Kane’s miss and the two plays that should have been deemed penalties were just that. It just wasn’t our day.
I should say for about the fifth time that we need Danny Rose. And Erik Lamela, for that matter. Ben Davies can’t play every game, and even when he does, he lacks the pace to do both jobs on the left wing: get around the defence, and then get back to defend against the counter. And Lamela with his pressing and verve simply provides a different look than the sometimes stale alternative the likes of Son, Eriksen and Dele provide.
Watching City undress Watford today—and remembering the preseason game in Nashville—makes me thing we are some distance away from being a true title contender. Hang it on Mike Dean, but it shouldn’t have come down to that against a side unwilling to even try to win the game.
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