Spurs Have Individuals To Thank For A Point As The Going Gets Tough

Spurs had every reason to be optimistic as they went to Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League. With confidence high after good league form and that fine away win in Moscow, Pochettino was calling this a must-win game. Not really but it was a welcome statement of assertive intent.

We could have won it in the first half but by full-time we were hanging on grimly, grateful for a point but rocked back on our heels by our failure to take precious chances or defend as a team. Food for thought as MP plans for the stresses and strains of this seven game sequence culminating in Arsenal away. Two down, five to go, 3rd in the table and very much in a tight CL group but a few worries begin to niggle and chafe.

That we won a point was down to superlative individual defensive performances from Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose. Each of them made a fistful of outstanding tackles, interceptions and in Hugo’s case, saves, any one of which wold have be worthy of note in a match report. 3 tackles on the stretch from Rose plus a double block on the line, then later on Vertonghen heading away under huge pressure followed by two or three tackles deep in his area.

And Hugo. Low to his right three times, one outstanding save coming back across his goal, diving low to save a header with a strong right hand when you knew Hernandez was already half into his goal celebration. The ball rolled along the line but Hugo was still alert. Having blocked the ball, in the same movement as he continued to fall he enveloped his body around it. Safe in his embrace it didn’t cross the line.

Spurs progress this season has been founded on team play. We defend as a team, yet yesterday it seemed as if the midfield treated 4-1-4-1 literally. Wanyama as the only DM was excellent but he’s not supposed to do it all on his own. The full backs were exposed too frequently because of a lack of cover in front of them. This stretched the defence, especially after Leverkusen took hold of midfield after a canny half-time substitution. Too often Eriksen, Son and Lamela took the easy option of hanging around the edge of our box rather than getting their hands dirty with the risky business of defending danger areas.

It made for a grim last half an hour. It looked as if our hard work in taking control of the game in the first half would go to waste. Both teams play a pressing game, so a scratchy opening featured bunches of players descending on any opponent as soon as they had the ball. The Germans were more prepared to knock it long in those circumstances. Sometimes Spurs dazzled in the way they played the ball from back to front but these moments were matched by a couple of rank cock-ups, two clearances from Lloris in particular cranked up the pressure.

After a nondescript opening, Tottenham gradually got on top. We kept the ball better, won more tackles and had the best of the play. Wanyama was instrumental in bossing the middle, breaking up our opponents’ attacks and generally sorting them out. Trippier featured with his attacking play and searing crosses on the right. With Lamela over there and Eriksen drifting that way, we had an extra man often enough to look dangerous. Dele headed a great chance wide, Son had a rare shot blocked then Janssen hit the bar, Lamela’s follow up being tipped over the bar by the keeper.

At half-time, shaggy haired DM Baumgartlinger came on and did Wanyama’s job for Leverkusen. Spurs barely threatened over the next 45 minutes. Players took it in turns to give the ball away when all season we have looked so assured on the ball. Leverkusen made and missed a series of chances.

Never a good idea to read too much into a single game. However, it is concerning that Spurs did not adapt to the changing tide. They seemed fixed on an attacking mindset, a laudable approach but Europe is about having more than one string to your bow. Away from home, you will always have to absorb a period of pressure. The best sides learnt to roll with the punches. Sometimes this means retreating and covering up.

Also, missing chances is becoming a bit of a thing, not just in Europe. Janssen continues to look promising with his eye for goal, ability to hold the ball back to goal and good lateral movement, all of which means his link play with team-mates is accomplished for a newbie. He really needs one to go in.

Son seemed distant from proceedings last night. Maybe the occasion got to him, going back to his old club and not welcomed with open arms by everyone. Lamela did not have a good one while as the game went on Vertonghen was covering all over the box as Dier seemed uneasy. Sissoko made little effort to exert his experience on the game when he came on to do precisely that.

But a point, frankly not deserved. Wembley in a fortnight looms as a big night with much at stake for both sides.

 

4 thoughts on “Spurs Have Individuals To Thank For A Point As The Going Gets Tough

  1. Quite a frustrating night all in all. I was replaying an alternative match in my imagination today. Had we taken just one of those first half chances and hung in we’s be lauding a memorable night.

    In reality we didn’t score and hung on for the draw. This ‘not taking our chances’ is becoming a bit of a thing isn’t it. Hopefully the dam will break soon.

    Jansen is a good player who did well last night. I thought he was unlucky to be subbed. We seemed to lose our focus when he left the field.

    We were seriously impressive for the second half of the first 45 minutes but this was transformed into a defensive performance after break and one which wasn’t all plain sailing. There were some awful misplaced passes and poor clearances creating unnecessary pressure.

    This said, we are missing three is our key players and BL are a seriously good side. It is good for us to have to play teams like this for the reality check if nothing else.

    And in spite of the above moans we did hang on. Moments of individual brilliance saved us.

    A decent result but some resounding wins wouldn’t be too shabby.

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  2. Two people to thank, Alan for the comments and Hugo for his world class display. We were lucky to hang on but it’s the result that counts.
    The old Spurs would have lost that match but this team of ours has got character. We are in for a great season. Go you mighty Spurs!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The amount of these articles, I’m not getting a chance to reply on each 😉 Please keep it up, great reading.
    Your article on The Y Word was very thought provoking and interesting. Not being Jewish I’d be uncomfortable offering an opinion, I’d hate the chant to cause discomfort & maybe worse to our own fans or anyone at all for that matter. I also see the reverse argument of reclaiming the word and turning it into a positive, and this would probably be the view I side with; but that’s easy for me to say, isn’t it – I’m not the one being offended.
    WBA was really frustrating, so many shades of last season where we failed to finish teams off, but equally, conceeding with 9 minutes to go and still grabbing something from the game is encouraging. Ben Foster was excellent for them, he seems to save his best for facing Spurs. 1-1 keeps up our strange run of repeating last season’s results/outcomes almost exactly.
    Hopefully a 5-0 win at Bournemouth this week then!
    I too thought Janssen unfortunate to be subbed last night, he was doing well, though I suppose Poch hoped moving Son forward would see a repeat of the CSKA game. Definitely were a bit flakey in the second half and very lucky not to concede. We’ll need to improve but the commentator at one point discussed our collective CL experience, and there wasn’t much there. That view may only apply so long though, I don’t think it would be much of an excuse if we don’t qualify, the talent is definitely there, albeit some are injured.
    Early days, but given his age, price tag and experience, a decent impact against Monaco aside, I’ve yet to see what Sisouko brings to the party.
    Finally, I’m getting over to the return Leverkusen game at Wembley as a birthday present, and despite being old enough to know better, don’t mind admitting I’m excited as a puppy with two peckers at the prospect!
    Cheers, DB

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  4. Thanks Alan,

    I will start by saying that a draw away to a good side in the CL is a good one. The first half performance showed that Spurs are a very decent side at this level. I was a little disconcerted that we didn’t cope with their “simply” putting in a centre mid and moving Kampl out wide for a whole 45 mins.

    Am I wrong, or the only one, to be shouting launch it, don’t play your full back/central defender into all kinds of trouble with a short pass out to them because that’s how we play? I was surprised, as I have been on other occasions this season, that some players cannot see that a ball up the line or up to Janssen is a better option than messing about at the back when being prressed hard, at times.

    Nethertheless, we are well placed and having a good season. Home to Leverkusen is far from a gimme, though, they looked a better side than Monaco second half and will be super dangerous at Wembley

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