And just like that, there endeth Tottenham Hotspur’s title chances.
To be fair, the chances were already pretty slim, but with Chelsea now 10 points clear of Spurs in second, and only 13 games remaining, it’s pretty safe to say that Tottenham will not be lifting the trophy and the end of this year.
In truth, Spurs have performed above expectations for a second season in a row so far, punching well above their weight. But Saturday’s defeat to Liverpool was like the Tottenham of old.
Defensively suicidal. Flash with no end product. Perennial runners up.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) February 12, 2017
When interviewed afterwards, Maurico Pochettino said this:
“For different reasons that we need to analyse, the team, collectively, didn’t show.
“It’s not about quality, because we have quality, it’s aggression to try to win the three points.
“We need to be clever, to be strong, to analyse, to find out why and change.”
🗣️ “We were poor” – Mauricio was honest in his assessment after this evening’s 2-0 defeat at Anfield. pic.twitter.com/wnTpIqmxvo
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) February 11, 2017
The Argentine is right about a couple of things. It’s true that the team didn’t show. He’s also right that Spurs need to analyse, find out why they lost, and change.
But Mauricio, here’s a couple of home truths:
1. To a certain extent, it IS about quality.
The sad truth is that Spurs’ squad is one of the weakest in the top six. Their first choice starting 11 is probably close to the best, but the severe lack of strength in depth has been telling this season. When Harry Kane hasn’t been fit or firing, Tottenham have struggled. When Jan Vertonghen has been out, Spurs have been unable to field an adequate replacement.
Until Tottenham can build a squad capable of performing well in all games, regardless of injuries or other issues, they are always going to struggle over the course of a whole season. It’s as simple as that.
2. Don’t rip up what’s working. Especially in an important match.
Perhaps the most sensible thing that Pochettino has done this season is switch to a 3-5-2 formation, with three centre backs, two marauding wingbacks and a solid, steely midfield.
And yet, against Liverpool, purely because Vertonghen was out, the Argentine chose to revert to a 4-2-3-1. And not just a 4-2-3-1. A 4-2-3-1 with Eric Dier in a centre back partnership.
Dier has shown himself to be adept at playing in a three, but has frequently looked all at sea when asked to play as one of two centre backs. Even the casual observer could see that this has been the case, but clearly Pochettino could not.
— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) February 14, 2017
Liverpool are one of the strongest attacking outfits in the league, and it would have made perfect sense to set up in a way that’s difficult to break down – namely, three at the back, with two screening midfielders.
As I said at the start, the title-chasing journey’s over for another year. But Pochettino could do with absorbing these two messages. Firstly: the squad needs strengthening. Secondly: Don’t change what’s proven to work.
— My Football Facts (@myfootballfacts) February 5, 2017