Tottenham Hotspur’s week went from bad to worse as they were beaten 3-0 by Brighton and Hove Albion.
Spurs went into the game off the back of a 7-2 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League, and were expected to use this game to restart their campaign.
But the hosts took the lead after just three minutes, with Neil Maupay capitalising on a Hugo Lloris howler. Aaron Connolly added to the advantage after half an hour and then got a third for Brighton midway though the second half to add to Tottenham’s misery.
It was the first time Tottenham had lost to Brighton since April 1983 and only added to suggestions that Mauricio Pochettino could be close to leaving Spurs, taking the club as far as he can.
1. Pre-match criticisms
The last thing Pochettino would have needed following on from their thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich was personal criticism from his own players.
But, after the game, Moussa Sissoko hinted that Spurs’ collapse was due to Pochettino’s diamond tactics making the players tired far too quickly.
Further reports then emerged of the Spurs squad starting jokingly refer to Pochettino as “Big Brother” owing to him spending more time watching training sessions through CCTV footage than on the pitch itself. While friendly jokes are often the signs of camaraderie, the reported change in Pochettino’s training process is an interesting one. Is he becoming too bothered by Tottenham’s poor form?
2. Pochettino’s starting XI
A lot has been made in recent weeks about Pochettino’s current side not being too different from the team he utilised in the 2015/16 season – after he had shed the memories of Tim Sherwood’s squad. While a good team will work even if kept together for a long period of time, things do need to be freshened up.
Eight of Pochettino’s starters to face Brighton on Saturday were in the XI that drew 2-2 with Swansea City on October 4, 2015 – four years ago this weekend. The only differences were Moussa Sissoko, Tanguy Ndombele and Son Heung-min coming in for Kyle Walker, Nacer Chadli and Dele Alli – who was on the bench.
That Sissoko’s appearance in the game on Saturday came at right-back, shows some of the problems Pochettino is facing, with the Argentinian evidently not trusting Kyle Walker-Peters enough to replace the suspended Serge Aurier.
3. Defensive problems
Although Tottenham had conceded seven goals in midweek, not many would have expected them to capitulate as they did at the Amex. After all, this is a Brighton side that had failed to score in four of their past five games.
But just three minutes in Spurs were behind, and it was a goal completely of their own doing. First, Sissoko and Erik Lamela allowed Dan Burn far too much time and space on the ball to send an attempted cross into the box. It was overhit but on target, forcing Hugo Lloris to do something about it. Instead of settling for conceding a corner, Lloris tried to catch it but dropped the ball, allowing Maupay to open the scoring.
It was the 10th error leading to a goal that Lloris has made since the start of the 2016/17 Premier League season, with no player having made more in that timeframe. And the first time Brighton had taken the lead in a Premier League game against Spurs.
To make matters worse for Spurs Lloris fell awkwardly on his arm as a result of his attempted catch and had to be taken off on a stretcher with what appeared to be a horrific arm injury. The Frenchman was visibly in a lot of pain and had to be taken to A&E, though no new updates have arrived.
His replacement didn’t fare too much better. Although Paulo Gazzaniga did make a good initial save in the build up to Aaron Connolly’s first goal, he spilled his stop back to the feet of the teenager – putting Spurs two behind.
Brighton continued to get at Spurs when exploited poor defensive positioning for the third, with Connolly running behind Jan Vertonghen before capping a good performance with a fine finish.
4. Lack of reactions
This game was supposed to be all about Tottenham’s reaction to their defeat to Bayern Munich. In the days building up, Pochettino harked back to a 6-0 defeat as a player in Argentina from which his Newell’s Old Boys team bounced back to win the league.
But instead it only compounded the fears of Tottenham’s lack of mentality to react to big defeats. After going behind just three minutes in, Tottenham’s star players already looked to be dejected, with heads dropping across the pitch. Woes were added to when Brighton took a two-goal lead into half-time.
Pochettino reacted at the break by bringing on Harry Winks for Tanguy Ndombele and switching to a back-three and from the start of the second half there looked to be some more intensity from the Tottenham players. But they proved to be faux improvements, with Spurs shortly reverting back to the abject side that had conceded nine goals in a game and a half – resulting in Brighton grabbing a third.
Another attacking change game later in the second half with Lucas Moura coming on, but Spurs remained unable to get back into the match, continuing their poor runs.
It’s now 10 Premier League away games without a win for Tottenham since beating Fulham in January, while they have also failed to score in the second half of a Premier League match for the sixth time running.
5. Brighton fans taking the mick
Fans love to capitalise on opponents’ misfortunes and it’s not an uncommon sight.
But Pochettino and Spurs should feel particularly embarrassed by the chants coming from the Brighton support through Saturday’s game.
With Brighton 2-0 up after 32 minutes, chants of “We want seven” rang around the Amex, a nod to Tottenham’s thrashing by Bayern. This is from Brighton fans that had seen their team fail to score more than once in any on their last 15 Premier League home games. A team that hadn’t scored even managed seven in their opening seven games of the season.
Of course, they didn’t go on to score seven, stopping at three, but the taunts will not be easy to live down.
6. Lack of cohesion in attack
It wasn’t just Tottenham’s defence that was poor, the away side also looked meek in attack.
Shocked from going behind early, and well-countered by Brighton’s tactics, Tottenham managed to create just six chances on Saturday afternoon. Only against Manchester City (three) have they created fewer chances in the Premier League this season.
This translated to eight shots, three of which were on target, with Harry Kane managing just 23 touches of the ball – fewer than any player to start the game with the exception of Hugo Lloris.
7. Brighton not scared of Spurs
Yes, Tottenham were shockingly poor and have problems of their own, but some praise must go to Brighton for exploiting the weaknesses.
This was a Brighton team that were without a win at home in their past eight league games going into the game and yet to beat Tottenham in the Premier League.
Even with Tottenham in tatters, Graham Potter could have set his Brighton side up slightly more defensively, looking to soak up pressure and catch Spurs on the counter. But no, Brighton went for it from the off and were well deserving of their win.
This could be the kickstart Potter needs to keep Brighton in the Premier League.