So, here's how it feels.
We just lost a game with absolutely no arguments about validity. It was pretty painful, and there were very few bright spots. Ok, Holtby looked like it was breaking his heart and I believe that; Lennon and Chadli looked quite good and Lloris pulled off some good saves in amongst some terrible decisions, but beyond that basically to a man we were incredibly poor. It's probably the most demoralising defeat I've ever seen as a Spurs fan, and that includes City and previous Arsenal games. It was like scraping my eyes to see my club so badly humiliated.
Why did it happen?
Rose wasn't there, and Vertonghen wasn't there. Benny burnt his bridges and is playing mediocrely in the Championship. So, no left back. We played our not-great backup-right-back out of position on the left because we had nobody else. Naughton is a fucking terrible left back, and I would honestly rather that we played Townsend there or switched to a back three or brought Adam Smith or Ryan Fredericks or Zeki Fryers or fucking ANYONE but Naughton. His decision making under pressure is terrible, his positional sense isn't good enough and he's not quick enough to get out of trouble. He doesn't get forward and he can't defend well enough; he's a wasted space on the team-sheet at left back. But I don't blame AVB for this. It was very unlikely that we'd have our left back and deputy left back both injured, and for several months. It's bafflingly unlikely, and any third-choice left back is going to be a liability. So, that's going down to poor luck for me.
We were totally overrun in midfield, probably more painfully than anywhere. We were continually losing the ball in midfield, either by overambitious dribbles or poor quality passes. This is harder to explain in terms of the players who were out there; Paulinho and Dembele should play better than they did, and that was very irritating. Having said that, neither of them are defensive midfielders - we lost Sandro, probably our most important player in the centre, to lack of match fitness. We ended up with two attacking midfielders in the pivot and one in behind the striker. It was obviously not ideal. Our ball retention though was really very, very poor. As much as it's almost a running joke, Tom Carroll or Andrea Pirlo or some kind of passer in that midfield starts to look very important. Paulinho's sending off hurt us, but to be honest by that point it was processional and the only thing to take from it is that it makes it likely we will finally see Sandro-Dembele Eriksen or Sandro-Dembele Holtby. That's probably our most effective lineup.
One of the reasons we were unable to adequately replace Sandro is that our next-best defensive midfielder was out of position in central defence where our first, second and third choice central defenders are all out injured. That's not a lack of depth, that's a nuclear event and I don't for a second blame the management team. I still have faith in Kaboul, though I support the principle of holding out on a contract for him while he attempts a recovery from what could be a career ending injury. That aside, Jan and Vlad getting injured at the same time is very unlikely and frustrating. Against probably the best striker in the league, it was always likely to be exposed. Daws looked very vulnerable today, and it made me feel sad inside. I don't want to see that again; I think that probably we do need to think about getting a new centre back who better fits the system. That also covers us in the event that Kaboul doesn't recover.
I thought our attacking performance today was ok. Lennon and Chadli looked solid, and Soldado made some good runs. It was very disappointing not to see Ade (given his previous performances against Liverpool), but the guy's injured so you can't really blame anyone for that. I think Soldado over Defoe was the right call for this game, and I don't think any of our attacking players grossly underperformed. The difficulty was that they weren't seeing much of the ball because our defence was a horror show.
I know it's a difficult thing to talk about, and I'm not going to criticise many individual decisions, but some days you get "the rub of the green" with refereeing decisions and some days you don't. Today there were a number of contentious decisions, which majoritively went against Spurs, and at critical times. Soldado's disallowed goal, a couple of strong penalty shouts / shirt pulling in the box, the Paulinho red card, an offside goal being allowed and so on; individually you expect to lose some of these decisions, but when they all go against you it can have a negative effect on player mentality and obviously influence the outcome of the game. So, that's in there as a factor today.
So basically, I think it's important to have some context. We're playing here a side who are second in the league and who played a near-enough full-strength side. Sturridge is a miss, but putting Suarez against our fourth and fifth choice CBs with no anchoring midfielder was never going to cause them problems. They didn't have their first choice left-back (Jose Enrique) but again, not really a problem because they had their second and third choices available, and the rest of their defence was settled.
Once the lineups were announced, you depend on the performances of Capoue at CB, Naughton/Fryers at LB, Holtby in the pivot with no anchor and Paulinho/Dembele as holding midfielders at short notice. That's going to be a tough one any day.
We expect Sandro, Vlad and Rose back shortly, and in honesty I think those three returns totally change this team. Jan coming back a little later then strengthens us significantly and I think that's the team that should be judged. Any manager who waltzes in at this stage and sees our conversion regress to the mean and our injury crisis clear up can sit on the results and claim it was tactical wizardry, but the fact is that this is a rough patch for Spurs and it's expected to pass. It would be foolish to sack the Head Coach who has worked with the team and generated the system because of obviously transient problems.
I'm not panicking at all.