Tottenham Hotspur played Southampton to a 1-1 draw at St. Mary’s Stadium on Sunday with two of its best players out sick. Christian Eriksen and Hugo Lloris both miss the match with flu-like symptoms, which they apparently picked up while on the team’s training camp to Barcelona.
But apparently they weren’t the only ones. Mauricio Pochettino confirmed in a post-match interview that the illness has been affecting more than just two Tottenham players ahead of the match, but that it wasn’t the reason for Spurs’ poor performance.
Lloris and Eriksen are ill, were any other players affected by illness?
Yes, players were affected last week but that’s no excuse. Our performance wasn’t the best. We need to be focused now and try to improve because of course Southampton’s pitch didn’t help but we must do better, play better and if we want to be in the top four we need to improve and increase our level.
Had any of the players out there today been ill?
So it was a tough game for them, not feeling physically right?
Yes, but it is not an excuse. The draw is not because we were tired or had some problems.
Did they pick it up before you were away in Barcelona?
May I ask who else had it?
No, because they are ok. I am not giving to give names of course.
Pochettino didn’t say who the other affected players were, and right now we can only speculate. I really do have to wonder, however, whether Erik Lamela might have been one of them. When the lineups were released, fans were incredulous that Lamela, probably the second best creative midfielder on the team behind Eriksen, started on the bench in favor of Moussa Sissoko. Lamela didn’t come in until the 70th minute in relief of Son Heung-Min, which was curious. However, if Erik was still recovering from illness, it might explain why Poch decided not to play him until he felt like he had to.
I’m hesitant to use the illness to point to or excuse individual player performances, or to hand-wave away Spurs’ performance against Southampton. Poch is right that it’s not really an excuse. Spurs as a team were downright abysmal for much of the match, and this was one that they really should’ve won. However, a few players being under the weather certainly didn’t help, and might also explain Pochettino’s decision to start Sissoko ahead of Lamela. Either that, or we have to just come to the conclusion that Pochettino sees something in Sissoko that we don’t.
Dropping points makes it that much more difficult to qualify for top four, when Spurs’ next three league matches are home to United, at Liverpool, and home to Arsenal, but strong performances against those top six sides can really help Spurs get back into contention. And at least this bound of squad illness didn’t involve pre-match lasagna.