Where to start? The bad news or the bad news? It’s a shame to have to have to be negative but this was a dreadful performance from Tottenham, and Stoke thoroughly deserved their win.
Spurs came into the game on a run of three victories but we hadn’t played well in the last two games and had ridden our luck in both. That couldn’t continue. Either we had to improve or we were eventually going to come unstuck. Unfortunately it was the latter.
Pochettino had finally given in to the calls for Kane to start and he went close early on with a header. Of course Spurs recent problems have not been confined to the strikers but there was a hope his positive attitude might help lift the malaise hovering over the squad.
As it was, the usual problems were there in spades.
The two Stoke goals were so simple. The first, from former Barcelona prodigy Bojan, was markedly similar to the third goal we conceded against Liverpool (from Alberto Moreno). Here the Spaniard picked the ball up near his own half and drove through midfield. No Spurs midfielder got close to challenging him. Fazio and Kaboul – neither particularly mobile – backed off, inviting the shot, and Stoke were ahead.
The second goal was a defensive disaster, very similar to the Villa goal from last week. Rose was caught out of position after a turnover. Diouf put a low ball into the box, where a completely unmarked Walters smashed home. The centre backs had gone missing, yards away from the Stoke player.
Interestingly Pochettino had picked Fazio and Kaboul against a pacy, mobile Stoke attack including Moses, Bojan and Diouf. He appeared to be expecting the Tony Pulis Stoke of old, or at least a start for Spurs old boy, Peter Crouch. Fazio is great in the air but two recent red cards testify to his lack of pace. Kaboul may have been quick once but injuries have taken their toll. It looked like a poor selection.
It would be unfair to lay all the blame on the defence. The midfield was not offering much cover and the whole team was guilty of giving Stoke too much time, not putting enough pressure on the ball. Pressing was supposed to be Pochettino’s trademark.
Capoue and Mason were guilty of not picking up midfield runners – the Bojan goal was just the most obvious example. It was noticeable that in the second half both got booked stopping opposition counter attacks. The manager had presumably had a word at half time.
Townsend was in the starting eleven after a promising appearance in the Europa league against Asteras. It was when he got out wide left that he did the damage against the Greeks, providing the width we’ve been lacking. Here he was anonymous on the right.
Eriksen was off the pace and lightweight, often beaten to the ball or muscled out. Stoke are still a physical team. Dembele came on at half time and, although I have not been a big fan of the Belgium midfielder recently, here his physical presence helped us hold on to possession better. He didn’t contribute a lot that was telling in the final third but at least we had more control.
Of course the game wasn’t just about Tottenham’s failings. Stoke played extremely well. Aggressive and strong off the ball, pacey and direct on it, they showed us what we were missing. However as the game wore on, Hughes’ side began to tire. They had put in a lot of effort and it seemed to be taking its toll. The memory of surrendering a two goal lead against West Ham last weekend can’t have helped their nerves.
Either way Spurs were handed a lifeline. It was Chadli who got the late goal again and in a strangely similar manner to last weekend. A cross missed everyone in the centre and the Belgian fired in from a very acute angle. A wonderful finish. His goal scoring has been one of the few high points this season.
The hope didn’t last long. Moses ran clear on goal. Naughton, lacking the pace to keep up with him, brought him down. The centre backs were nowhere to be seen, as usual, so he had to go. A fifth red of the season. Spurs lack of pressure on the ball, high line and slow defence is leaving defenders isolated.
So a very disappointing result that means we have lost four out of six at home in the league. Of our summer transfers, only Fazio made the starting eleven, and he didn’t exactly distinguish himself. Pochettino must be given money to make more telling signings in January.
Were there any positives from the game? How can Pochettino turn things round? Let me know in the comments below.