A FEW years ago, just being in the UEFA Champions League would have been enough for Tottenham, but now, several seasons into “project Pochettino”, there is a certain expectation that Spurs can “do things” in the competition.
They’re in a tough group that also includes Barcelona and PSV Eindhoven, as well as this week’s opponents, Inter Milan. Tottenham’s defeat in the San Siro may prove to be very costly, underlining the team’s current form and also a certain naivety around team selection.
Not that Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino would agree with that sentiment. After his team had capitulated in the dying seconds of the game, when questioned about the players that didn’t start the game, he commented: “You disrespect the players that tonight showed better qualities than the opponent.”
Journalists asked him if the result might have been different if Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld had played. “When my decision is to play with 11, you must respect my decision, because I am the manager.”
He told ESPN that the Inter game was Spurs’ best performance since the start of the season and that he had 25 players to select from. There has been criticism that the likes of Lucas Moura, arguably Tottenham’s best player this season, was not in the starting eleven.
The Guardian said Pochettino had cut a frustrated figure on the touchline, but the problems may be more than a 2-1 defeat in Milan. The Independent reported: “Spurs have shown many of the hallmarks of a team on the slide. Losing leads. Conceding late goals. Brittle at set-pieces.” The Inter defeat was their third consecutive loss, coming after defeats against Watford and Liverpool.
Pochettino proclaimed before the Inter game that his team was not realistic contenders in any single competition this season. Pundits point to the stream of changes that the Argentinian has made already this season and that his approach prevents consistency.
The Standard asked, after Tottenham’s home defeat at the hands of Liverpool, if Tottenham’s moment has passed. “After three years of improvement, Mauricio Pochettino’s team look stale…no one stands still in football. If you are not going forward, then you are moving backwards. Spurs have stalled.”
The Standard added that the lack of activity in the transfer market in the summer is looking inexcusable. “The commitment to the new stadium means money is tight, but Spurs should have learnt the lesson of Arsenal’s move to the Emirates. A modern arena is important, but no club with serious ambitions can afford to skimp on transfers.”
But their former player, Robbie Keane, said in The Express that the club was trying to add to the squad in the transfer window. “There have been a few moans that they didn’t make a signing over the summer, but they tried to sign four players. Teams were overpricing players. If they can buy a couple of players in January, which I’m sure they will, they can have a good season.”
Some sections of the media are calling it a “mini-crisis” at Tottenham, but it is still early days. Nevertheless, The Daily Telegraph described the current situation as “Pochettino’s toughest Spurs challenge.”
Sources: The Guardian, Independent, Daily Telegraph, BBC, ESPN, Express, Evening Standard.