Spurs limped their way to a 0-0 draw on Saturday against Crystal Palace at White Hart Lane, their fourth match in a week and a half. Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, in post-match comments on Spurs' website, pointed to the fixture congestion as a contributing factor in the draw.
"I'm disappointed and frustrated but at the end I think the result is fair," said Mauricio.
"We created some chances but it was difficult. Crystal Palace are a physical team and we're not fresh, we had a lack of creativity up front and it wasn't easy for us.
"I'm disappointed with the result because here, we always want to get the three points. This was a good chance for us to get three points but it was difficult.
"We've played four games in nine games, had one day less (to prepare) after Chelsea. This is the schedule and we have to accept it but it's reality."
Anyone who watched the match would've noticed that Tottenham's players seemed to run out of steam midway through the second half. It's no wonder. After four matches in nine (actually ten) days – home to Partizan, Everton, at Chelsea, and home to Palace – you could see that several of Spurs' players didn't have the same amount of, well let's call it "oomph" that they usually do. A chart posted on /r/coys showed that besides Hugo Lloris, seven Spurs players played every minute of the past three matches on Spurs' schedule: Harry Kane, Jan Vertonghen, Federico Fazio, Nabil Bentaleb, Ben Davies, Christian Eriksen, and Harry Kane.
These seven players are, for all extents and purposes, the core of Tottenham's team. It's understandable why Mauricio Pochettino would want to use these players as much as possible against Everton and Chelsea, two of Spurs' more formidable opponents in their schedule. However, considering the obvious fatigue the players were showing against Palace, it is maybe a little surprising that more rotation wasn't used.
Hugo Lloris gets a pass as it's questionable as to whether goalkeepers suffer the same fatigue effects as outfield players. (The keepers might tell you otherwise, but I doubt it.) Davies, Eric Dier, Kane and Roberto Soldado likewise get passes because they are, at present, the only ones who can play their positions who are match fit. Kane and Soldado are our only two match-fit strikers, and they were also on a run of decent form. However, Pochettino had players such as Benjamin Stambouli, Younes Kaboul, Nacer Chadli, and Paulinho on the bench against Palace, and also opted not to use Mousa Dembele in the center of midfield to spell Ryan Mason or Nabil Bentaleb.
It may seem a little counterfactual to complain about a lack of rotation when Pochettino has been pilloried in the media earlier in the season for rotating his teams TOO much (with pundits claiming Poche didn't "know who his best 11 is"). In fairness, Tottenham Hotspur are significantly banged up right now, with several starters and role players dealing with knocks and long-term injuries.
Would rotation have made a difference? It's difficult to say. While Crystal Palace are near the bottom of the table, they are not a terrible side. Pochettino may have decided to let the core of his team try and ride through the fixture congestion, thinking that a tired first 11 is better than a rotated side. Likewise, Spurs didn't play well but it would be disingenuous to lay their performance solely at the tired feet of the players. Even so, fresh legs might have been the difference in what was overall a turgid and uninspired 90+ minutes of football. They scraped a point, but this was a match where three points were easily within Tottenham's grasp.
With eight days to prepare for a trip to Wales to face Swansea, Pochettino is likely hoping that a few of his injured players like Danny Rose, Emmanuel Adebayor, and Kyle Naughton will be back in contention for minutes or starting places. Rotation and rest for Spurs' will be desperately needed as they head into upcoming December fixture congestion, or their Christmas will be anything but merry.