Football Features

Why Spurs’ problems are too obvious for Dele Alli’s late Watford equaliser to mask

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 17:40, 19 October 2019

In a bizarre afternoon of football, sorry Spurs stole a 1-1 draw at home against Watford.

Spurs have been bad for a while now, so them struggling isn’t particularly a shock. Before today they had lost four of their last five including shock EFL Cup exit to Colchester. They got absolutely obliterated at home by Bayern Munich in the Champions League (despite playing reasonably well in the first half, to be honest) and their last game before the international break saw Brighton batter them on the south coast. Things were not going well.

But Watford at home is a perfect gimmie fixture. The Hornets are abysmal and haven’t won a game this season. Manchester City rebounded from their shock loss to Norwich by hammering five goals in 18 minutes (eight after 90). This was the ideal game to get over their recent woes, right? Harry Kane was coming off a fantastic result in Bulgaria where he showed his class as a captain and target man – surely at the very least he could power Spurs to a win?

No.

No he couldn’t.

Kane finished the match with just 28 touches, that’s only six more than goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga and less than every single starter for both sides. The Englishman had three shots but all were speculative and none hit the target. And despite his supreme creativity in Sofia, he made just 14 passes (less than all Spurs players bar sub Tanguy Ndombele) and created 0 chances.

How do you isolate a player as good as like Harry Kane? It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason how it happened, because it was a bit of everything. Kind of like how Spurs’ players are all just worse today for some reason. Everyone appears to have dropped several levels in terms of their output. The technique and athletic quality is still there, but something is missing.

They were dead on their feet after just six minutes, as a sweeping cross from the left inexplicably evaded all three centre-backs for Abdoulaye Doucouré to finish smartly. The Frenchman swept the ball into the back of the net and walked off celebrating joyously. Meanwhile the Spurs players just sort of looked at each other, wondering what the hell just happened.

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But hey, sometimes even the best side can slip up and let sloppy goals in. The thing is that those sides then rebound, take control, and win. Or at least they lay siege to the opponents goal. Spurs drew with Manchester City earlier this season and it was a game that City dominated from start to finish only to unluckily concede twice. No one had any illusions as to who was the better team that day.

Spurs managed to come back and draw with Watford. Dele Alli capitalised on some classic Ben Foster jitters to equalise for Mauricio Pochettino’s men – but no one came away from the game thinking Spurs were just unlucky and couldn’t find the finishing touch. No, the sensation was that Watford, the worst side in the league, were very unlucky to not have won.

After all, the Hornets led for most of the game and carried the majority of the threat in the game. Spurs were hanging on for dear life at times, and should have conceded a penalty when Jan Vertonghen brought down Gerard Deulofeu. Inexplicably the referee and VAR ruled it wasn’t a foul (similarly odd was the decision to allow Dele’s goal despite his handball) and Spurs stayed in touch.

So it was 1-1, and Spurs avoided a third straight defeat. But it’s still just the one win in the previous seven games, and moreover there’s no sign that things will improve. Spurs look like a side that is absolutely rotten to the core.

You know how Manchester United just look useless in attack and everyone knows it’s because they don’t have enough good attacking players? Well Spurs look just as disorganised, dishevelled and despondent as United and their attacking talents are illustrious in name and nature. So what the hell gives?

It’s clear that Mauricio Pochettino is struggling to motivate his players in the way he used to. This is because he and his players have all been at the club too long. Right now Spurs are like a body of still water that’s been left alone too long; the stagnant water is now covered by algae and flies and despite the obvious chance for life to thrive, nothing will happen unless a change can bring in some fresh water.

No amount of late equalisers can disguise the fact that Spurs are a club in deep, dangerous and deadly trouble. At this point with the transfer window slammed shut there doesn’t seem to be anything Mauricio Pochettino can do to arrest this decline beyond resign and let a new coach inject new energy into the team. Things have gotten that bad.

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