F365’s early loser: Shellshocked Spurs and another surrender

Date published: Saturday 5th October 2019 3:15 - Ian Watson

If the battering at the hand of Bayern Munich wasn’t the nadir of Mauricio Pochettino’s reign, Tottenham’s miserable defeat at Brighton must surely be.

Shipping seven at home in midweek was embarrassing, but this surrender to the Seagulls was even more shameful. When resilience was required at the AmEx, Spurs curled up into the foetal position and cried for mummy.

Take nothing away from Brighton. Graham Potter’s side were excellent in claiming only their second victory of the season and many more will surely follow should they maintain their new-found ruthlessness.

But Spurs were so poor, so spineless that the scoreline should carry an asterisk. Given their recent form and the humiliation on Tuesday, not much was asked or expected of the Spurs players. But they failed to meet even the barest minimum of standards while going down to yet another away defeat.

Pochettino stood scowling in his technical area while his players did likewise on the pitch. The Spurs supporters can forgive misplaced passes or failed dribbles, but the refusal to compete, tackle and run will be rather harder to stomach.

From minute one, Spurs appeared to be suffering a collective bout of PTSD. The events of minute two compounded it, with Hugo Lloris sustaining a horrible arm injury during the concession of Brighton’s opening goal. But the captain’s early error, losing his bearings under Pascal Gross’s cross, set the tone for a miserable afternoon for Tottenham.

Their mental fragility is a damning indictment of the Spurs players – and of its manager. Pochettino tried to effect his side by making four changes to the XI that started against Bayern but the selection and shape was doomed to fail while Spurs continued in their funk.

One of those changes, Eric Dier, offered one of the worst performances of this or any other Premier League season. The midfielder was making his first start of the season but rustiness is no excuse for a first half in which he invisible off the ball and catastrophically-poor on it.

Defensively, Spurs were a mess. The centre-backs, two in the first half and three in the second, were kept on a lead and taken for walkies by Neal Maupay and Aaron Connolly on his first Premier League start. Moussa Sissoko is not a right-back and it showed.

Tottenham’s forward line was no better. It took them 43 minutes to mount an attack worthy of being labelled as such and only at 3-0 down with the game and all hope long-since gone did they fashion any opportunities. Harry Kane missed his by blazing over the bar, while Son Heung-min just missed the ball.

Then there is Christian Eriksen. Amid all the speculation surrounding the playmaker, this was a bad time to offer arguably his worst performance in a Tottenham shirt. Eriksen looks like he has already checked out.

Similar can be said of Pochettino. All season, he has carried the air of a man who knows he should have followed through with his thinly-veiled threats to leave during the summer. The regret oozes off him.

Pochettino certainly hasn’t got the appetite for another rebuild of the like required at Spurs. No knees are being jerked here – this miserable week is the culmination of a steady decline over 2019, during which they have lost 12 Premier League matches. Not since January 20 have they won on the road. Their next away trip: Liverpool.

Whether Pochettino takes them to Merseyside, we shall see. The international break has arrived at a very convenient time for Daniel Levy to squeeze the trigger.

Ian Watson

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