Tottenham 0 Swansea 0
A Champions League hangover. One of those cliched 'one of those' days. A parked bus in the shape of a 1-9 formation stopping all lilywhite slow moving traffic.
We need a new tactic. We need to start playing with little to no shape so away teams get confident and attack. Then we stop with the pretence and counter the moment they get cocky and wallop 'em. Let's face it, a very small % of sides in the Prem would turn up and attempt to do what Dortmund did. You could have super-glued the ball to the feet of the Swansea players and they'd have hacked their own legs off with an axe just to give possession back to us.
It was so frustrating, I'm beginning to think we should avoid qualifying for Europe so we don't have to suffer these low key aftermaths.
So what went wrong?
I'll be honest with you. If I wrote this article straight after the game it would be very different. It would be tinged with angst. We all know emotions run high and the result always *always* feel a lot worse when you're still processing it. A few hours and a few rums later, if you're anything like me, you end up embracing the philosophical. It really depends on how detached you allow yourself to get from the wider narrative and its context.
In isolation, the game was a disappointment. In context of the early season and trying to build up some momentum...it was still a disappointment. Same again if you consider we need to be breaking these teams down with considerable comfort if we're going to push on up (for us this would be for a title win - based on past progression). Thing is, we did just that all of last season. So don't listen to the lunatics in their asylum screaming we don't have a plan b. Sometimes we don't play very well and there's nothing more to it.
The question is, how can we avoid being so lacklustre?
The variables are different this time. There is no Wembley curse, however, the national stadium isn't White Hart Lane. After the Chelsea, Burnley and now the Swansea results we have a triple threat of learning curves that we have to digest and regurgitate in this new world. One win in three doesn't look good on paper even if it should have turned out better on the turf based on possession and chances.
On Saturday, we dominated. Absolutely. However, to use a boxing analogy, it's like winning every round on points but never hurting your opponent. In translation, absolutely dominating amounts to nothing if the opponent walks away with the same amount of points. This is the bit where the analogy falls apart. The fact is, we didn't knock 'em out.
There must be no more belly-aching. For coach and players, perhaps we can look towards turning these experiences into productive and positive lessons. I'm sure most would agree we'd be sitting pretty with more points if we were still sat in N17 but the reality is we're not. The transition is a tricky one. A game of inches, margins is the seasoned excuse for perhaps masking other deficiencies.
Like I've stated already, we weren't good enough on the day. No fluidity. Very slow with our build up. I'm not privy to why Mauricio Pochettino made the changes he did but then again, we often talk about how flexible we can be with selection. Still, the whole Son/Trippier/Sissoko rotation in the full-back/wing back positions didn't work. We missed Ben Davies. Serge should have retained his place. We could have done with Mousa Dembele or Harry Winks in amongst it half way through proceedings. We needed something to break the monotony.
To be fair, Swansea defended. That's basically all they did. Their drilled organisation and resilience made it extremely difficult for us to counter or play with pace because they just sat deep and waited. The gaffer made changes but he could have made them earlier. I guess had we been rewarded a penalty or one of the efforts on goal found its way into the net...hindsight innit. When Fernando Llorente made his appearance our deliveries into the box failed to assist him in any effective manner that would have resulted with success. Evidence of our synergy not working meaning the team failed to spark as one cohesive unit. The main crux we continue to have when we don't play well (and fail to muster up shrewd bastard like astuteness) is that we have no player to bail us out. Fernando might offer that outlet with more minutes on the pitch.
So in isolation or within the context of the season and prior ones, we once more lacked that decisive cutting edge. Can it be one of those days if it happens regularly? I guess one perspective would state it's an unresolved problem that isn't fixed because of _____ answers on a postcard. Is this the last tactical obstacle that Pochettino needs to defeat? Is it one that exists within his mindset? Is he over-thinking selections and over-complicating it? Or do we need to battle through the Wembley minefield until we are 100% comfortable with our surroundings? That might cost us but here we are, waiting for our new home to be built whilst we rent accommodation.
Then again what is your modern day definition of regular when Spurs were unbeaten all season long at the Lane last year and stuttered only on their travels and still finished 2nd? Tag back in the context and we had no such issues at the Lane. So arguably, he had whatever the problem is today boxed up all of last season. I feel like I needed to repeat this, hence the repetition. I hate to mention the 'W' word but not having that close contained noisy home to act as psychological encouragement and liberate us is obviously still an issue (even though THERE IS NO CURSE, RIGHT?)
Mostly everyone parked the bus last season and we found a way through. Away from home, we countered and tonked teams but it was still on our travels where we displayed weakness - depending on the opposing teams tactics or set up. Our off days were showcased in other stadiums up and down the country. So far this season, we're presenting the quirks in London. We have to quickly resolve this and retain a strong balance.
Maybe it's down to Poch rotating when it isn't necessary. It's fine to lose yourself in angst, projecting your despondency. We don't want him gone, he's the right man for the job - that's a certainty. No idea why I had to say that out loud. He doesn't have that killer instinct yet, much like his team. It's a graft. We're three seasons deep now and it's coming slowly but surely.
Just as a caveat to this, I tend to think about the goals scored by Kane, Son and Dele last season as a reminder of what we're capable of at full pelt. We're hardly broken. Don't be a melt and suggest we are.
If I get a moment or two I'll follow this up with more thoughts if they're worth sharing. We can sit here and chat about tactics and personnel but to be honest, sometimes I think we read way too much into something that can be summed up without microscopic postmortems.
Yeah, sure, we're missing Danny Rose. Having him and Serge on the opposite flank will change the dynamism of the team. I'd say we could even do with Erik Lamela simply because he could potentially offer us another option. Play the players in their rightful positions. No need to over complicate. Those final ten minutes or so was also a perfect platform for a untested talent such as Marcus Edwards. Me old mucker @WindyCOYS pointing out he could win a decision so blatant Mike Dean would gladly give us it. Talking of which, has Dean not been offered a new contract by Daniel Levy yet? Tut tut. Edwards though, rough round the edges, is perfect for days like the one we got when the more experienced 'game changers' fail to ignite.
Oh look. I'm neck deep in a postmortem.
In a nutshell then? It was meh. A concluding thought would concern how we need to be far more decisive in how we re-approach a game that isn't going the way we initially planned for it. Being reactive against Dortmund is one thing. They possess a dangerous quality. Swansea, with no disrespect to them, would be destroyed if they attempted to attack us. We can't keep failing to unlock such stubbornly built doors.
So for now Tottenham are staring into the abyss. Pochettino on the brink. West Ham away next (in the league). Ninety minutes to save this grand olde club from oblivion.