Tottenham’s winless run sunk to new lows with the 1-0 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday night at Wembley.
In terms of performance, the Lilywhites reached Andre Villas-Boas levels – lack of creativity, shaky at the back, unable to put the simplest of passes together. It’s a Tottenham that has rarely been seen under Mauricio Pochettino, but he’s got his work cut out to sort it out.
Spurs fans need no reminding that a trip to Arsenal beckons on Sunday. What should normally be one of the highlights of the season is being met with trepidation, with the only real light at the end of the tunnel the possible return of Harry Kane and Toby Alderweireld.
If Pochettino was feeling a little giddy at the thought of being linked with Real Madrid earlier in the week, this result will have brought him back down to earth with a thump. Spurs have got problems.
5 – Eric Dier playing in defence instead of as a defensive midfielder has a huge impact. Last season, the England international’s presence further up the pitch was what allowed Kyle Walker and Danny Rose so much freedom. Walker made some good runs, but Ben Davies was no replacement for Rose. Spurs are fortunate that they’ve got a player as versatile as Dier to cover for Alderweireld, but he hasn’t been able to express himself like he did last season.
4 – Vincent Janssen doesn’t get into space. Time and again, when Dele Alli could have played the ball into him, he clung too tightly to a defender instead of breaking into the box. Not enough movement. If anything, it makes you appreciate how effective Kane is at losing his man. That’s now five games in a row that Spurs haven’t scored from open play.
3 – Christian Eriksen needs to be dropped. There’s not enough competition for his place, and he looks a shadow of the player he was. Unfortunately, Eriksen and Erik Lamela – who missed the game through injury – are often made into scapegoats, but Lamela does offer more going forward. Eriksen’s confidence looks at an all time low, and he’s rarely even beating the first man. To add to that, in the weekend’s draw with Leicester, he didn’t provide a single pass to Janssen.
2 – It looks as if other teams have sussed them out. Leverkusen didn’t allow them to play out from the back, which is always problematic given Hugo Lloris’ distribution anyway. This isn’t Borussia Dortmund or Bayern Munich, Leverkusen are not a top European side; tactically, though, they knew what Spurs would try and do, and stopped them from doing it.
1 – There is no Plan B. Pochettino is still learning as a manager, so it’s easy to forget he’s relatively inexperienced. As Spurs’ winless run continues, his substitutions aren’t changing things. However, it’s hardly the Argentinian’s fault; Daniel Levy hasn’t supplied him with enough ammunition on the bench, and Spurs are paying for their bizarre judgement in the transfer window. £25million for Georginio Wijnaldum was too much, £30million for Moussa Sissoko seemed a fair price.
A season that was supposedly all about building on the success of the last is in danger of becoming an anti-climax. The Champions League certainly isn’t the exciting rollercoaster of 6 years ago, with its wins in the San Siro and blustering attack of Gareth Bale and Rafa Van der Vaart. It may be nothing more than a poor run of form, but Pochettino can’t deny his side are losing ground in all competitions worryingly quickly.