Post-CL / Pre-Chelsea Thoughts

  • So that was it.  Making our return six years since we exited the Champion’s League after being brushed aside by Real Madrid, we have been booted out before the kids have even settled on what they want for Christmas.  After such a build-up and the excitement over filling Wembley, it has been a damp squib with just one win in five games.
  • What this does show is what a one-off the 2010/11 campaign was; it can take years for a team to adapt to this level and perform the way that they’re capable of in other competitions. Look at Man City who eventually reached the final four last season after a number of years of falling early, and that’s with unlimited money.
  • The main problem I had with Spurs has been the lack of energy and drive that was so evident last season; tactics and formations are all fine to discuss but if a player doesn’t reach the ball first, or make the right pass, then you have problems.  The effort and work rate have to be the starting point for any successful team, and in each Champions League game, we have been found wanting in this department.

  • I don’t want to hear about any Wembley “hoodoo”.  The fears that we would lose our home advantage did indeed come to pass, and while we had more space to attack, we also had more space to defend, and teams found it easier to pick us off and evade our pressing.  We are going to be playing on a bigger pitch and in front of a 60,000 attendance in the very near future; it is something that the team are going to have to get used to, and in the long-term, maybe playing our Europa League games at Wembley too will turn out to be a good thing.
  • Talking of  the Europa League, you wonder what type of line-ups we will see there. Team selection suggests that the Premier League may be the main focus for the club; if we’re not playing our strongest team in a must-win Champions League game, then there’s a fair chance we will see similar in the stepdown competition.  Like anyone, I’d love to see us winning a trophy, especially a European one.  However I’d also expect players like Wimmer, Davies, and Trippier to be good enough to help us do that.  We’re not going to be able to compete on a number of fronts with just the same eleven players, although at least when the injuries clear up we may finally have more consistency each week.
  • The only player to come out with credit from this is Hugo Lloris, who has saved us from getting even more of a hiding than we deserved.  While he hasn’t always been on point with his short passes from the back, he still has less flaws than any other goalkeeper in the world.
  • The full backs are so vital in our team and apart from Rose, none have impressed in Europe.  Walker looked completely spooked in the Leverkusen game at Wembley, while I could put up with Trippier’s well known habit of switching off at times if he was attacking and delivering the crosses that he’s well capable of; instead we barely saw him on the ball in Monaco’s half.
  • Moussa Sissoko deserves a paragraph all to himself; he gave a “performance” for the ages against Monaco at Wembley, and has done nothing in his short time on the field since.  However we have no choice but to persevere.  He cost 30 millions pounds and is earning £94,000 a week; unless someone (Chinese Super League?) is willing to help us recoup most of that transfer fee AND pay similar wages, he isn’t going anywhere.  The only positive I can see is that he has shown he can perform at times, for Newcastle and France, so how do we get displays like that from him consistently?  The same applies to Vincent Janssen, although at least it looks like he’s trying, which is a start.  Sissoko hasn’t even done that, but he’ll have chances to rectify this terrible opening impression he’s made on us.  Let’s hope he takes advantage of it.
  • A big part of our (usual) defensive prowess is that our defence isn’t put under consistent pressure; we win the ball in higher areas.  That was lacking and it was taking just one pass for opponents to break through onto our back four.  Even with Alderweireld and Vertonghen in the team, we’re still going to concede chances and goals if we give them that amount of work to do, as we saw in the Monaco game at Wembley.
  • So now it’s time to focus on the Premier League and we couldn’t have asked for a tougher fixture, historically at least.  With no win at Stamford Bridge in 26 years, and after losing a two goal lead last season that played a big part in the ceasing of our title chase, you know that this is a game that Pochettino has been thinking about since last summer.  Has he come up with something since then that can give us an edge over Chelsea?  How will he deal with their 3-4-3 set-up that has blown away a number of opponents recently?
  • A win may be a big ask but if they perform well and can grab a point at least then that’ll help to rebuild relationships with supporters.  Of course we’re probably all getting sick of seeing so many stalemates, but it’s drawing games against teams like West Brom and Leicester that are the problem, not draws with rivals like Liverpool, Arsenal, or potentially here.  I expect an all-action, committed (while still under control) display, and let’s just hope that it leads to what could be a defining win.
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About Darren Walsh

Founder and Editor of atottenhamman.wordpress.com; a blog covering all aspects of Tottenham Hotspur with opinion pieces and match analysis.
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