What marks this season out, is the lack of lack of consistency. One moment Spurs are beating the league leaders, the next they’re struggling against some of the lesser lights. I suppose this is what comes from transition.
Set on it’s own this defeat wasn’t so bad. We dominated possession and looked in control until a reckless challenge and a controversial refereeing decision energised a home side already desperate to impress their new boss. It was an unfortunate time to be facing Palace – there’s usually a honeymoon period for a new manager, made stronger when it’s the return of a prodigal son. The crowd and the players were fired up from the start.
In context, this was another lacklustre performance against a team towards the wrong end of the division, to set alongside Hull, Leicester and Burnley – this time Pochettino didn’t get away with it. After several fortunate wins, where Spurs have come back from a goal down to prevail 2-1, Alan Pardew turned the tables on the Argentine.
Missing the two stalwarts of the centre of his team, it was interesting to see who Pochettino would choose to deputise. With a surfeit of midfielders it is one of the curiosities of Spurs season that the team has come to rely on two youth team products who weren’t even in the conversation at the start of the year. The manager plumped for Dembele and Stambouli, hinting at who will be on their way out this transfer window.
The Belgian and the Frenchman have contrasting skill sets and weaknesses. Dembele languid, strong and skilful but lacking the dynamism Pochettino demands. Stambouli a blur of energy, diving in to tackles and racing round the pitch, with little regard for position or shape. The hope was they would compliment each other – would we end up with Dembele’s strength and skill and Stambouli’s energy, or perhaps the reverse?
Spurs began reasonably brightly and had the lion share of possession but chances were hard to come by. Both teams were to get one guilt edged opportunity in the first half. Neither took it.
Christian Eriksen failed to hook the ball home from six yards as Walker got behind the Palace defence. To be fair to him, the ball did come at him fast and slightly behind him.
Then Murray found himself free with only Lloris to beat. The Frenchman spread himself well to keep the score at 0-0. Rose was guilty of not tracking the forward’s run.
The second half began much brighter, with Harry Kane scoring his now customary goal. The flick that took the ball wide and made room for the shot, showed fantastic skill. Kane then threaded the ball through the defenders legs, past Speroni’s despairing dive.
The hard part done, it seemed Spurs would comfortably see out the match. That was until Stambouli’s moment of madness.
I’ve looked at the challenge many times, in slow motion and from several angles, and I still don’t know for sure if it was a penalty or not. My instinct is that it wasn’t and, if it was, it was certainly a soft one. But why slide challenge somebody in the area in that situation? Why give the referee the chance to make that decision?
The goal gave Palace renewed hope and from that point on they were on top. Soon after there was a shout for another penalty as Walker handled. He had his back turned to the ball, and it was outside the area anyway, but righteous indignation coursed through the Palace players. None more so than Punchoen who complained vociferously.
He was still buzzing when the chance fell to him to put Palace ahead. Eriksen lost the ball in a dangerous area. Zaha beat Walker all too easily. The ball broke to Puncheon and he gratefully blasted the ball into the Spurs net. Dembele and Capoue were far too slow to react and were never going to beat the fired up Palace man to the ball.
A late Kane shout for a penalty aside – which looked a good one – Tottenham laboured to create an equaliser. None was to come.
We mustn’t get too worked up over this result. Spurs have had a good run – a deal of fortune mixed in with some promising performances. The luck was always likely to turn at some point.
What it has done is highlight the limitations of our squad and some areas Pochettino needs to strengthen. There will be more ups and downs ahead but I still think we’re moving in the right direction.
Were Spurs unlucky? Did we miss our regular midfield? Let me know your opinions in the comments below.