Tottenham Hotspur’s dropped points in the Premier League this season are starting to become predictable.
Old Mistakes Causing Tottenham Hotspur’s Dropped Points Conundrum
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Tottenham?
Tottenham Hotspur could be top of the Premier League right now but they sit sixth after dropping another two points in a game they should have won against Fulham.
Jose Mourinho is a born winner but Tottenham are fast becoming born draw specialists and it is all becoming very predictable. So why are Tottenham dropping points and what or who is the problem?
For a team that are set up to have less of the ball than their opponents, it is strange to watch how they defend set pieces, or rather, how they don’t. In the away league defeat to Liverpool, Spurs failed to defend a late corner and left with no points when they had chances to leave with all three. Against Leicester City at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Spurs lost 2-0 and set pieces were again their undoing.
Fulham profited from individual Tottenham errors as they came from behind to draw 1–1 on Wednesday. Davinson Sanchez failed to make a challenge on the left-wing and when Ivan Cavaleiro rose and headed home, neither Eric Dier nor Sergio Reguilon did enough to avert the danger. If a team is going to allow the opposition to keep attacking, giving away set pieces and wide positions you are unable to defend is either a self-destructive tactic or one that simply makes no sense at all.
On the Bench
When Tottenham played Fulham, they were meeting a team that was improving but in the bottom three of the Premier League. Spurs have a squad that any team in Europe would be quite happy with when it comes to attackers.
Gareth Bale, Harry Kane, Steven Bergwijn, Son Heung-min, Carlos Vinicius, Lucas Moura, Dele Alli. Not all have been fully fit or in the best of form at times but they are all players with proven ability and can cause any team problems defensively. Yet all too often, Mourinho sets up a team that just is not making the most of those players abilities and the Fulham game was a prime example of why the tactics and team selections are making fans and pundits scratch their heads in bewilderment.
The midfield for that game consisted of Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg, Tanguy N’Dombele, Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko. Full backs Sergio Reguilon and Serge Aurier were pushed higher up at times to give width, but it was a midfield lacking pace and creativity, with the exception being Hojbjerg.
Sissoko was on the right side and makes marauding runs but his control of the ball is often poor. N’Dombele has improved this season but he still doesn’t work hard enough and his creativity is not seen often enough. Harry Winks is a shadow of the player who not so long ago was a midfield maestro bossing a game against Real Madrid at Wembley Stadium. Rather than looking forward, he goes sideways or backwards.
On the bench were Bale, Moura, Alli, Lamela and Vinicius. Only Erik Lamela and Vinicius were brought on. Both good players but better than Bale and Alli? It is hard to argue that they are.
Dele Alli has been out of favour this season under Mourinho but when he started and put in a strong performance in the FA Cup against Marine, there was a feeling that he had played himself back into the managers’ plans. Marine may have been non-league opposition but Dele showed a positive attitude and was at the heart of all Spurs’ positive play.
Mourinho even said after the game: “I will not be surprised if next Wednesday (against Fulham) Dele is playing with us. I am really happy with his attitude in the game.”
Yet he left him on the bench when Spurs were crying out for creativity. Daniel Levy has said the player will not leave the club in the January transfer window but if he is not going to be played why is the manager holding back someone who can change games and create chances?
Bale came back to Spurs on loan from Real Madrid amid expectations of excitement and a world-class player returning to the Premier League. He has been full of smiles and even grabbed a couple of goals since his return but injuries have kept him out of games and he has spent a lot of time warming the bench. £200,000 a week is a very expensive bench warmer and Daniel Levy will be all too aware of that fact.
Whilst he may have lost some of his pace, he is still a strong player and leaving him on the bench against Fulham was odd. Erik Lamela came on instead and, for all the show of passion and heart, he has been a very expensive flop at Tottenham and does not change games. He collects yellow cards but changing games is not something he is proven to do. Gareth Bale has been changing games for over a decade.
What is Success for Tottenham Hotspur?
Mourinho has Tottenham in the final of the Carabao Cup where they will take on Manchester City for the chance to collect their first piece of silverware for 13 years. Mourinho will say that a victory in that final is the sign that he is turning Tottenham into winners. Tottenham Hotspur’s dropped points, all 12 of them, are a sign of a style of play, about not losing rather than winning.
A first trophy for Spurs in 13 years may be a sign of progress but a trophy and finishing outside of the top four would arguably be a step backwards from what Mauricio Pochettino achieved. The definition of success in football has undoubtedly changed over the years but the definition of progress has not and that has to be performing and achieving better than the previous season.
60,000 passionate Spurs fan want success but they also want to see attacking football. Whether they will accept Mourinho and his current way of playing when they return remains to be seen. If it brings titles and trophies they might just accept it at any cost. If it brings stagnation and a lack of attacking intent, they might just decide he is not the man for them.