Siao Mates Sep 14

Tottenham 0 Everton 1. It's going to be a long season for Spurs.


Jose Mourinho, after the opening match loss at home to Everton, made public that the team was not physical enough and not strong enough. It felt very much like the second season of the Amazon documentary, All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur.


As the documentary showed us, he’s already spent 10 months of telling the team to be mentally stronger. Clearly, it’s not working. Apart from two clear chances in the first half, this was a Spurs devoid of ideas and the tactical nuance to pry apart a well-organised Evertonian side.


It’s all well and good to tell players, you must win the second ball. Frankly, the problem is a lot deeper than just the mindset. The problem with the Spurs team, and this stemmed from even the pre-Mourinho days, is that they don’t have the basics down pat. 


WATCH: Lucas Moura demands better from Spurs


It’s like they are checking off boxes. So they are supposed to close down opponents quickly, but so often, you see the Spurs players go in too tight and get easily turned. So they have done what they were asked to do, which is press, but the press is often ineffective because no one taught them how to press.


Similarly, while James Rodriguez and Richarlison can trap a 50-yard pass dead, Lucas Moura and Dele Alli often struggled with bringing the ball down to their feet. That one or two yards that the ball moved away from them was often the difference between being able to go past a marker and allowing them time to close Spurs down as the players took an extra touch to get the ball under control. 


Or that through ball that is a few centimeters behind the on-rushing teammate. Or how, off-the-ball, our players don’t seem to lose their markers so that whenever the ball arrives, they seem to have an opponent on their backs. Or how Harry Kane doesn’t ever seem to get ahead of the defence to meet the cross.


It’s the basics of technique and tactics that the Spurs players haven’t improved, and to be honest, it makes Spurs games these days very difficult to watch. 


So to save those who missed the match last night the pain of watching a rerun, here’s my very short match report.


Line-up: A very strong Spurs side with new boys Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Matt Doherty straight into the line-up. Still no Tanguy Ndombele as Winks is preferred as Hojbjerg’s partner in midfield, and some lingering question marks as to whether Eric Dier should be Toby Alderweireld’s new partner. But otherwise, as strong a side as Spurs can put out given Giovani Lo Celso’s injury.


It’s also matched by Everton’s new-look line-up, as the Toffees’ starting team looks as strong as it has been in a decade. 


16th min: Richarlison misses sitter

It’s been all possession by Everton, and Ben Davies makes a horror of a backpass which Richarlison outpaces Alderweireld to the wayward pass, sprints pass the aging Belgian, homes in on goal and goes round a sprawling Hugo Lloris and somehow scoops the ball past the open net. Spurs survive a brain fart moment by Davies.


24th min: 1st clear chance for Kane. Or Son. Can’t tell.

Son Heung Min takes the ball on the left, cuts inside and curls a cross-shot that evades a lunging Kane, a scrambling Jordan Pickford, as well as the right upright. Is this a sign of Spurs coming to life?


25th min: Alli crosses to no one

Another great chance as Kane sets Dele Alli free on the right and with options in the box, Alli sends a half-hearted low cross into the sea of blue. Everton clear easily.


26th min: Spurs pile on the pressure!

Seamus Coleman makes two defensive headers in quick succession, the first from Matt Doherty’s cross and then from yet another Son curler. After 20 minutes of sleepiness, Spurs suddenly look like they have woken up. I’m getting hopeful.


33rd min: Pickford denies Alli. Kane fumes

Spurs counter with Son. Kane runs into the channel but Son doesn’t pass to him. Instead, he finds Alli on the right and his shot is pushed over by Pickford. Kane looks at Son and rightly questions why he didn’t pass to him instead. Spurs getting closer.


37th min: James almost relive World Cup glory

There’s life in Everton yet. Abdoulaye Doucoure steals the ball from Winks and gives it to James, 25 yards from goal. His lovely left-footed shot goes just wide of the far post. It was enough to send Lloris diving at full stretch. 


42nd min: Doherty almost scores on debut!

Spurs’ best chance of the game! Doherty passes to Kane and continues his run into the box. Kane holds the ball up, turns and chips the ball right into the path of the right back. I jump to shout “goal” but Pickford blocks the half-volley. That sinking feeling that Spurs just lost the game hits me.  


46th min: Second half starts, Alli replaced by Moussa Sissoko

Well, Alli was not playing well for sure, but sending on Sissoko when Spurs already have Hojbjerg and Winks shoring up the midfield doesn’t seem to be a sign of a team looking to score. Sissoko looks to go to the right, but he’s not exactly the most attack-minded player to put there.


51st min: Spurs went back to sleep, James almost steals it

Sure enough, it’s been all Everton as Spurs look toothless in attack. Dominic Calvert-Lewin looks up from the left and steers the ball low to an unmarked James inside the box with Dier looking on. Thankfully, James miscues it and the ball goes wide. Signs are there that Everton are back in the game.


55th min: GOAL! And good night Spurs

Yup, it was coming. A free kick, taken out of position, floats across everyone and falls nicely for Calvert-Lewin to slip in between Alderweireld and Dier and power home a header. Spurs heads drop, though their belief went out of them since half-time, if I’m to be honest.


56th to 90th min: Spurs sulk to the end

The reaction to conceding a goal was for the Spurs players to turn into the incredible sulk. No one is taking charge, they’re just pumping long hopeful balls from the back and making it easy for Michael Keane and Yerry Mina to just head the ball back out. It’s almost as if once Everton sat back, Spurs had no idea what to do anymore.


Mourinho’s soak-and-strike tactics might have led Spurs to create the better chances in the first half, but it’s clear that the team is beginning to lose the ability to know what to do when they are given possession of the ball, like Everton did after scoring.


WATCH: Mourinho believes some of his players could have done more against Everton


Soak and strike might be a clever tactic against sides like Manchester City or Liverpool who have clearly superior players, but if Mourinho doesn’t work on improving the technique of Spurs’ players while on the ball, this will clearly be a very long season ahead as teams below Spurs, such as Leeds, are becoming more technically proficient than them. 




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