Sunday’s disappointing loss to West Brom left me with an overwhelming sense of deja-vu. Like so many times at home in recent years, against supposedly inferior opposition we struggled.
It’s become the blueprint for taking points at White Hart Lane. Sit back and defend, stay compact and play on the counter attack. I’ve seen it over and over again and it was frustrating enough the first time.
Pochettino was supposed to change all that of course, but it’s far too early to expect him to have dispelled a malaise that’s affected the team from the days of Redknapp. Results are important but what’s more important to me is enjoying the football and being proud of the team. On that score last weeks draw at Sunderland, though equally frustrating in it’s own way, was a much more acceptable performance.
All ten outfield starters from our midweek Europa League exertions were left out of the first eleven, so excuses about tiredness don’t hold up. In fact several players I would like to see start in the league didn’t even make the squad – new signings Fazio and Stambouli notably amongst them.
Jan Vertonghen, probably our most gifted defender, found himself on the bench. This left Chiriches partnering Kaboul for the second league game running. I can see the Romanian’s undoubted talents – 97% pass accuracy and a team leading 6 interceptions look good on paper – but at present he is too raw and accident prone. West Brom’s forwards, particularly the excellent Berahino, ran Chiriches ragged.
After the barnstorming win over QPR and the promising if ultimately disappointing performance against Sunderland, this looked like a different team. The passing was ponderous, the movement was poor. In his post match interview, Pochettino – looking as frustrated as anyone – complained that we played too slowly. Movement and quick passes are the only way to beat a team set up to defend.
Eriksen was probably the pick of our attacking players, which isn’t saying a lot. He played some good through balls and crosses that almost came off. On one occasion Adebayor was nearly through but for a lucky touch by the defender, another time the big striker mistimed his header after a fantastic cross from the Dane.
West Brom had far less possession (37%) than Tottenham but looked more likely to break the deadlock. When they hit the ball long on the counter attack, they always threatened. However when the goal eventually came it was by a much simpler route.
The visitors had looked dangerous from set pieces throughout the match and it was a corner that was Spurs’ undoing. There was nothing particularly clever about it. James Morrison got free of his marker in the six yard box for an easy header. With our tallest defenders covering West Brom’s centre backs, it looked like he was Lamela’s man. To allow somebody a free header, so close to goal, direct from a corner is unforgivable and something Pochettino will surely work on on the training ground this week.
West Brom deserve a lot of credit. Irvine got his tactics right, switching from a 4-4-1-1 to a 4-2-3-1, copying our formation. The visitors packed the centre of the field denying Spurs space and hit the ball long using their pace on the counter. Berahino, Sessegnon and Morrison were exciting going forward but maybe more importantly the centre backs, Lescott and Dawson (not that one!), had a great game.
The substitutions of Paulinho and Soldado didn’t seem to help much and if there is a criticism of our manager, it’s whether he has a plan B. West Brom had successfully stifled Spurs in the centre of the pitch and we didn’t seem to get the ball wide often enough. Inverted wingers are fine but the fullbacks need to get forward and provide width. I would have been tempted to tell Chadli and Lamela to swap sides and try to get behind the opposition fullbacks.
I have faith in Pochettino and I’m confident he can sort out these problems but it looks like it’s going to take time. The QPR game was a false dawn. Looking on the bright side, at least we’re not Manchester United!
Was this a bad Spurs performance or a good West Brom one? Was Pochettino at fault or the players? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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