Spurs suffered a disappointing 1-0 loss in Turkey in the Europa League. They still progress from the group but now face a tougher draw in the first knockout round. We could meet some of the seeded teams that have dropped out of the Champions League, including Andre Villas Boas’ Zenit Saint Petersburg, which would be an intriguing match up.
The performance was actually not too bad but a series of misses from Roberto Soldado and mistakes at the back saw Tottenham lose their first group game in the competition since 2011, an 18 match unbeaten run.
We dominated in the first half and should have gone in at the break with a lead – Soldado was most culpable. The performance level dropped after half time and we were vulnerable to Besiktas on the break. It was maybe lucky that Demba Ba was unavailable through injury.
Probably the best news of the night was a return to competitive action for Kyle Walker. He made a couple of nice runs early on but looked a little rusty. He will need some time after such a long layoff but, at his best, is by far the most capable fullback at the club. Maybe he can supply the threat out wide we sorely need.
Kaboul’s mistake led to the goal. On this showing, Pochettino should stick with Fazio and Vertonghen this weekend. They seem to be developing a reasonable partnership after a rocky start. I wonder if the manager is regretting his choice of captain right now.
Surprisingly, Paulinho impressed me (apart from his woeful corners). He played a couple of nice through balls and gave us some energy in midfield. In fact, he had more touches and passes (75) than any other player on the pitch, despite being substituted in the 69th minute. He was also the top tackler for Spurs (4). I have pretty much given up on the Brazilian but maybe, just maybe, there’s something there.
Stambouli also had a promising first half. He certainly gets stuck in. It’s interesting that he still hasn’t started in the Premier League. My only concern is that I wonder about his positional discipline – he sometimes resembles a defensive minded version of Lewis Holtby.
At half-time Les Ferdinand was in the ITV studio. Normally I’m not our erstwhile coach’s biggest fan but his comments on Dembele were very interesting. Ferdinand echoed many Spurs fans, saying how frustrating the Belgian was to coach. Apparently the staff used to tell him that with his talent, he would be the next one on their way to Real Madrid – I’m not sure if this is the best way to motivate our players!
He went on to describe how Dembele beats a player with ease, but then invariably let them back in and ends up passing the ball five metres sideways. Apparently the coaching staff kept telling him to play more through balls but he just wouldn’t. It’s a shame because with a plethora of lightweight midfielders, we could use his power in the centre at the moment.
Were Spurs unlucky to lose? Does it matter we didn’t win the group? Let me know your opinions in the comments below.