Misery seems to be the only thing that unites at Tottenham, where things have gone very sour pretty quickly. Is anyone enjoying this?
After their best ever start to a Premier League season, some tipped Tottenham to be in the title race. Yes, they were playing terribly, but that’s the sign of a champion, is it not – winning while being sh*t? Not on this occasion. Spurs aren’t now winning and playing better, they’re losing and playing worse.
After 16 very long minutes of ‘action’ at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, during which a Matt Doherty nutmeg was the one and only highlight, the fans sang a couple of verses of ‘Come On, You Spurs’ to break the deathly silence. It took another four minutes for Harry Kane to get his first touch of the ball. Tottenham are a tough watch.
There just doesn’t seem to be a lot going on, most of the time. They don’t really press, they don’t really run in behind, any link-up between the forwards is slow, or predictable, or both. It’s as though the players need reminding that the 60,000 people in the stadium are actually paying to watch them. It’s baffling as it is that they’re even choosing to.
The only bits of entertainment from Spurs came courtesy of Ivan Perisic (that is if you find getting into a crossing position and then crossing it as exciting) and Cristian Romero, who either smashes into an opponent unnecessarily, or makes someone look a bit daft by being at least a brainwave ahead of everyone else.
Kane is barely involved. Bryan Gil still plays as though he’s only just strapped his big boy boots on. Yves Bissouma looks like he’s being let out for yard time from Azkaban, such is the soullessness of his football compared to his Brighton days. But the dearth of excitement is most evident, and disheartening, in the demise of Son Heung-min.
Son has scored in two of his 20 games for Tottenham this season – a hat-trick from the bench against Leicester and a brace against Eintracht Frankfurt – and also failed to find the net for South Korea at the World Cup. It’s been quite the departure for the Golden Boot winner of last season.
Having never got the credit he’s deserved for being so consistently brilliant, the 30-year-old remains consistent, insofar as you can now predict poor touches, overhit passes and a stunning lack of threat when in possession never seen before in his seven years at Spurs. He tore off his facemask having given the ball away to the loudest cheers of the first half, with the fans presumably hoping the real Son was hidden underneath. But there was no sign. And with Dejan Kulusevski and Richarlison both out, Conte had literally no attacking option to replace him.
Unai Emery and Aston Villa will no doubt be praised to the rafters for an away win over a Champions League side. And they were fine. They defended as a team, Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey did a good job of running the channels and relieving pressure, Boubacar Kamara and Douglas Luiz were excellent. But is also didn’t feel like it was all that difficult to beat Tottenham, or at the least avoid losing to them.
And perhaps we should avoid lavishing praise upon a team filled with very good players who didn’t try anything in particular to win a game of football that was there for the taking. Villa, like Spurs, played uninventive, boring football for the most part. But they won, so this will instead be billed as a a ‘solid’, ‘functional’ display, and they only beat what was put in front of them, which was next to nothing.
Luiz’s first touch and finish from John McGinn’s pass for Villa’s second goal was by far the best phase of football in the game. It could have been the best phase in a much better game, so far was it above the rest of the drudgery endured.
Spurs showed no sign of getting back into the game at 2-0. There appeared to be no method for doing so and it didn’t look as though they particularly cared that there wasn’t. Does anyone even know what a good Tottenham performance would look like? It doesn’t feel like they have it in them.
Antonio Conte had the look of a manager resigned to the sack on the touchline after the game, and you’ve got to wonder whether we’re nearing a point where that would be best for everyone. For Conte, who will never receive the funds he needs to win the title. For the players, who look as though they’re hating every minute of this. For the fans, who would rather fall short playing fun football than this turgid nonsense.
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