This was not how it as supposed to be. Tim Sherwood returned to White Hart Lane and left with three valuable points in Villa’s bid for Premier League survival, while Mauricio Pochettino was left regretting another missed opportunity.
In his brief but turbulent reign at Tottenham, Sherwood alienated players and fans. His teams often seemed a collection of individuals without an identity. Despite his obvious flaws – and there were many – he did manage to get some impressive results by putting his faith in Emmanuel Adebayor and setting the team up to supply him. For Emmanuel Adebayor read Christian Benteke.
It was Benteke’s 35th minute header that broke the deadlock. It came out of the blue after a promising start for the home team. Spurs had controlled possession without really creating any clear cut chances. Danny Rose had come closest as he burst into the area. The left back passed up the chance to shoot early, his extra touch taking him wide, making the save easier for Guzman in the Villa goal.
Ten minutes later it could have been two, as Agbonlahor exposed Spurs high line, running through on goal, cutting inside with Fazio all at sea. His shot struck the inside of the post.
Whilst disappointing, Spurs first half performance showed some promise. Without really clicking we were a little unlucky to go in behind. It felt like we had the beating of Villa and I was optimistic. Unfortunately the second half was a damp squib.
Spurs were the more technically gifted side but Villa had more energy and bite. We were trying to pick our way through the centre with little passes but once we got near goal we invariably found ourselves running into a Villa player.
Kane was given no space, a defender constantly on his back. Eriksen, so often the spark, looked laboured as he kept running into a wall of claret.
Villa were set up in a diamond, a formation Pochettino has struggled to deal with in the past. In defence they were aggressive and compact, going forward they attacked down the flanks, using Benteke’s size or the pace of Agbonlahor.
Spurs’ makeshift defence struggled at times, especially on the right where Chiriches had a far less convincing game than at Burnley.
As time wore on Spurs chances became less frequent, while Villa started wasting time. Vorm made a great save when Delph should have sealed it. Despite Carlos Sanchez’s late sending off – after a wild lunge at Rose – Villa held on.
The numbers suggest we were a little unfortunate. Spurs out-shot Villa 14 to 10 and had 58% possession. However, a telling statistic is Villa’s 31 tackles to our 19 – a sign of the visitor’s extra aggression.
So where does this defeat leave us? The Champions League places were already gone. Pochettino getting out-thought by Sherwood is hard to take but it’s only one game and there’s a big difference between rousing players for a relegation fight and having a clear vision for the future. I’m still confident we made the right decision last summer.
Were Villa lucky to win or were they the better side? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.