Tottenham lost further ground on runaway Premier League leaders Arsenal following a humbling 2-0 home loss to Aston Villa this afternoon.
Antonio Conte’s men, who have failed to win any match they’ve played since returning from the World Cup break (one point from six available), subsequently find themselves sitting two points behind a resurgent fourth-place Manchester United with Liverpool breathing down their necks.
This latest setback means Spurs begin the new year with a 24.77% chance of making the Champions League spots, according to Opta’s probability tool. They are now at 16.57%.
“[Antonio Conte’s] contract is up at the end of the season,” former midfielder Robbie Mustoe said on punditry duty for NBC.
“If he doesn’t get in the top four, you know what he’s like… he blames other people and other things, money and everything else. It feels like this project is going to come to an end.
“I think we are in the real nitty gritty point right now. Can they find a way to get his real vision in play now or is it still going to be inconsistent?”
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) January 1, 2023
An immediate concern that needs addressing is Spurs’ meagre defence. For a seventh consecutive game, the Londoners conceded first, equalling their longest such run from September-November 2010. Even more damaging, they’ve now conceded two or more goals in seven consecutive league games for the first time since November 1988, a run of eight.
Hugo Lloris didn’t keep goal in the entertaining 2-2 draw at Brentford but on his return, the World Cup finalist didn’t cover himself in glory. Five minutes after the break he spilt Douglas Luiz’s shot from distance. Ollie Watkins pounced and put the ball on a plate for Emi Buendía to convert. It also continued an unwanted trend. Tottenham players have now made a combined five errors leading to opposition goals in this season’s competition, at least two more than any other side, with goalkeeper Lloris responsible for three of those five.
Watkins didn’t care as since the 2020/21 season he’s posted both the most goals (28) and assists (11) of any Villa player in the Premier League, and has been involved in 21 more goals than any other Villa player in that time. His importance to Villa’s cause must not be understated. Before kick-off, the Lilywhites were dealt a pre-match blow when influential forward Dejan Kulusevski sustained an injury in training.
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Kulusevski’s ankle knock came soon after Rodrigo Bentancur was ruled out for the visit of Villa with the 25-year-old undergoing an MRI scan in order to determine the seriousness of a thigh injury he picked up on international duty with Uruguay at the recent Qatar finals. Both were missed and despite Harry Kane starting his supporting act, minus Son Heung-Min, wasn’t the most inspiring.
Bryan Gil was handed a first Premier League start but he was unable to grab this opportunity and make himself undroppable though a lack of movement ahead of him didn’t help. “Gil has tried to drop into pockets of space but Tottenham haven’t got anyone to open the door,” Jamie Redknapp noted. Kane took a while to settle, his first touch coming more than 19 minutes deep into the game, before today, the latest England’s soon-to-be record goalscorer registered his first touch in a Premier League outing this season was six minutes and 55 seconds against Leeds.
Even so, Kane came the closest to breaking the deadlock before half-time. His goal-bound header via an Ivan Perisic cross was expertly cleared off the line by Ashley Young, that moment in the 39th minute was Spurs’ first real threat on goal. “Young sniffed the danger – brilliant from the veteran,” Don Goodman exclaimed on Sky Sports commentary.
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Normally the second 45 minutes has been Tottenham’s domain this season but not today as Villa picked up steam and capitalised on the unseriousness surrounding Conte’s team. Luiz, who saw his effort unkept by Lloris, ultimately got on the scoresheet to double the visitors’ lead.
“That’s an absolutely brilliant goal from Aston Villa. Great ball from McGinn, that was absolutely sublime. Forward passes into feet,” Mark Schwarzer said on BBC Radio 5 Live. “Douglas Luiz does really well. He is under pressure from the defender and then he just flicks it with the outside of the boot into the back of the net. Really good goal.”
With no power of recovery, no team has won more points from losing situations than Spurs this season, Villa secured back-to-back wins following the Premier League’s resumption. For their manager, Unai Emery, he becomes Villa’s first head coach since John Gregory in March 1998 to win both of his opening two away games. Emery is also unbeaten in all four of his Premier League meetings with Tottenham (eight points from 12 available).