The game against Everton sums up all that has been wrong with Spurs this season. We play well in fits and starts but not for a whole ninety minutes. More specifically we normally start well and we usually finish badly.
Apparently if the Premier League table were calculated from scores after eighty minutes we would be top. We have thrown away a massive number of points in the last ten minutes of games and that doesn’t even include wins such as those against Liverpool and Manchester United where we have been very lucky to hang on.
So what is going on? Is it fitness? AVB’s style of play is known for being tiring and possibly our players are exhausted come the end of the game. Factor in key players coming back from injuries (specifically Dembele) and some who haven’t had much match practice this season (e.g. Adebayor and Dempsey) and this could be part of the problem.
Another popular theory is that it is the fault of AVB’s substitutions and tactical tweaks. He often seems to make defensive changes late in games when we are winning that give away the initiative. Bringing on Livermore being a particular bugbear amongst fans.
Possibly but I’m not so sure. I think these changes are often made as a reaction to us already being on the back foot and looking vulnerable. A symptom of the problems rather than a cause.
Maybe it’s down to our particular vulnerabilities. Our wingers don’t provide great cover for our fullbacks and with Assou-Ekotto out and Walker struggling for form we are vulnerable on the flanks. Late in games, when desperately seeking goals, teams punish this. Both goals on Sunday came from crosses.
Personally I think it’s largely a matter of confidence. At the end of games we panic and don’t hold on to the ball. We are a relatively new team both in terms of some key players and the manager. Everyone started off nervously and once you let in one or two late goals it doesn’t help.
The frustrating thing is against Everton we looked pretty comfortable right up until a few minutes from the end. Certainly more so than in the game against Liverpool. Sigurdsson even hit the bar late on which would have sealed things.
AVB generally has made a good start to his Tottenham career but this is one thing he has to put right. Sorting out the team’s confidence after such a dispiriting loss is where he has to begin.