2-1 to them
What an absurd evening. Despondently frustrating because it was more of the same that we've had to endure at Wembley but this time on our travels. Spurs outstanding away form has plummeted into an abyss. We had a lot of the ball and not a lot of decisive action in their penalty area. Our ruthless trait and suffocating tempo has abandoned us. We played bang average, some of our players looked dazed and confused and don't remind me of the glorious sitters.
wtf Tottenham? Where u at m8?
Having not sat down to write this directly after the game and having slept on it...looking back, when you consider how many times we got ourselves into goal scoring opportunities (cliche klaxon) on another day, we'd have won handsomely. Even if the performance lacked true assertion.
Dele (out of sorts) and Sissoko (technically not good enough) both should have scored in a first half where we conceded a textbook counter. Isn't that what we're meant to do? You could see their second goal coming, right at the death of the first half. The goal that won them all three points. After boxing them in for what felt like forever, they counter again, and Mahrez is given the freedom to cut in and curl it past Hugo. Criminally daft defending. Oh man, the defending. Have we really collapsed at the back because of Toby's absence? We've never displayed such fragility. Not for a long old time.
Eriksen and Llorente both had incredible chances in the second half. I remain baffled at the finishing, both firing their shots over the bar*. Horrendous from both players, in the context of really having to score because it was harder to miss. Christian looks utterly spent, physically and emotionally (even though he covered most of the turf trying to invent and influence).
(*edit: Eriksen was corner flag, not over the bar, my memory distorted the effort, probably hoped it was closer than it was).
Thankfully Harry Kane scored and gave us a little bit of belief towards the end thanks to Erik Lamela's return. The Argentine assisted almost immediately with a clever (simplistic) ball through to Kane who smacked it in. Composed intelligence. A little bit of finesse in amongst the untidy frantic desperation.
Rose stubbed his toes in the penalty box and fell over and Dele had one final attempt, both summing up our night perfectly. It was all way too apologetic.
It's crisis time.
I'm calling it a crisis, not because it is one but because the players have to react like we're having one. Years back, we had no crisis. We had inconsistency and mediocrity. Losing several games on the trot or failing to win more than one game in four or five was standard. Now, two defeats and a draw is defined to be miserable by all of us. It's a positive stance. These modern day standards we've set are there for a reason. To protect our momentum. We have to react.
Two defeats and a draw isn't good enough. The past ain't relevant today. Especially when we we have the capacity to do better. It takes upper tier concentration and conditioning to retain that momentum. If you wanted to be really insightful you could argue that we've slowly worked towards this limp form over several weeks. We haven't quite settled with a new consistent formula to match last seasons flying full-back template. Spurs are missing the heart of what we worked so hard to pump blood through. It's like we're trapped in this seasons transition and can't quite grasp the next variant of our identity. Style and substance is out of whack.
It's not petulance, wanting and demanding more. However, we also have to take the bad with the good and accept that everyone struggles and since our rebirth we've not truly struggled. Which is a great testament to what we've built. We've had harsh learning curves but nothing wholly detrimental to our longevity.
Unfortunately, we have to combat this unfamiliar landscape we find ourselves in, as ugly as it looks and feels. We're in the upside down, but we're accustomed to stranger things. This is Tottenham after-all.
We've been spoilt fam.
The players owe it to themselves, to us. Pochettino too has to consider his stubbornness with selection. Certain players need to be benched/rested. Others (Son) need to be more involved. We need to have more urgency at home and retain that accustomed calculated patience away. Daniel Levy, looking on, must also appreciate the reality we already know all too well. Signing bit part back up players like Llorente will hurt us more than help us over the course of the season. Signing players for £30M doesn't always work either.
I know, I'm contradicting myself here. When Spurs are winning games, especially games we are expected to struggle in (Champions League), I often cite that we do have the depth. And we do. When everyone is available. Wanyama is a massive miss. Toby equally so. We have to factor in the potential of losing key players. Although most of our first eleven is key. Kane especially is pivotal. The issue of fleshing out the squad is a historical hindrance that remains unresolved. Maybe if we stopped accepting our underdog status and moved up several grades? But that's a fiscal debate that I don't want to visit now because we're all well versed in Levynomics.
(Worth noting how super Spurs were against a struggling Dortmund and how exceptional our campaign in the CL has been. Top of the group of death. I'll revisit the CL after our final game when it's more apt and look back at our progress into the knock-out stages. There does appear to be a conscious prioritisation of that competition).
if you go back to the start, the first thing Poch did at the club was build from the back. He got us working as a unit, sorted out the defence. He got rid of everyone that wasn't fit for his philosophy. It was shambles on Tuesday evening. It felt like the early days, trying to work things out. This is now a test of character. Most of our players have enjoyed two seasons of pulsating form and now the going has got tough, do the tough get going or do they surrender?
Everyone has to dig deep. Such an obvious statement to make. But we do. This team has proven it can time and time again. We generated a hurricane of fighting spirit as we battled against the odds to contend in the upper echelons of the league.
Have some faith. I have faith. Football is faith.
Scapegoating isn't the same thing as being critical and honest. It's a fine line for some. I guess no different to the game of inches out on the pitch. Do what you need to do to process it, I can't stop you, but if the players give up as easily as some Spurs fans have, we're doomed.
Poch has to be accountable. I'm repeating myself. He's always accountable but with these two defeats and a draw accompanied by a lack of focused zest, questions have got to be asked and duly answered. Our desire lacks confidence. It lacks self-belief. This isn't us.
Having consolidated our identity over the past two seasons, we're looking like the pretenders to what we've come to know as contenders. No press, no pace. Yes, we could have scored and even won. The thing is, for all our possession, it was still so much effort. Even if we conspired to win, there is still something off-key with our application. There was no real sense of arrogant control. Spurs have had a habit of always knowing they would win any given game even from a losing position. Where's that magic gone? It's WHL isn't it. It's gone and so has some of our resolve.
We should be able to adapt.
There should be no excuse, regardless of the one about missing that extra something. Lamela is back and it's staggering that a player that has been out of action for 13 months after having two hip operations is now the beacon of hope we look towards for rejuvenation.
Regarding the suggestion that the Poch book should not have been released during the course of the season, are we really going to go there? Perhaps it should not have been written at this point in the gaffers tenure, even though it's mostly fluff (the controversy within its pages has pretty much been out in the open for some time, before publication). Remember this is the same set of players that have qualified top of their CL group. We have proven across several games that we can come together as a team so it makes no logical sense for the players to under-perform purposely to undermine the coach but do so with ultimate professional effort in Europe. Unless you're going to cry 'conspiracy' and suggest they're sticking themselves in the shop window.
Are we really going to suggest it's upset the apple cart? Considering what Poch has done for Spurs, the culture within the club and some of the reinvented players that owe him everything...I'd be astonished if that was the case. Maybe I'm being naive. We'll see in time. I just think some of us seek to find solace with the darkest of thoughts. We know we're not allowed nice things, so why not admit defeat now and let the negativity consume us all. That self-fulfilling prophecy is making an unwelcome cameo. You can f**k right off.
Is football this fragile that everything can unravel with such dramatic devastation, within less of a handful of games, having built up to something across three seasons? Don't answer that. Are the players out of form or are they not playing together because they're not playing for each other? Answer that.
What am I doing? What am I even writing?
We're going to have a big laugh about this in the coming weeks when we look back and remember how overly dramatic our post-analysis was. At least I bloody hope we do. I guess I need to process it by retaining a sense of balance. I could have waited an extra couple of days to write a blog and then simply kept it to one paragraph stating that we could have easily won the game and that the only real concern remains our form at Wembley. It's a bit of a dip, nothing more. No need for the endless narratives explaining our demise and the end of another false dawn.
I've got to step away from the melting pot.
Twitter was an abhorrent mess after the game ended. We all see the same thing differently. It's what makes football so great and also allows some of us to be introspective and attempt to accept alternative opinions. I've been corrupted regardless, entertaining some of the more colourful opinions.
Last season, we had a patch of games where we struggled to win and kept drawing. Some of our fans gave up and started to call out the players and the manager.
It's not in my nature to constantly knee-jerk with sense defying finality and give up so easily. I'm not built that way.
I'm now reliant on Tottenham proving it's not in their nature either.