After four matches in just ten days, Tottenham Hotspur finally hit a bump in the road on Saturday against Wolves. After Harry Kane opened the scoring with a wonderful long-range goal in the first half, Spurs conceded three goals in the second and fell to Wolves at Wembley by a final score of 3-1.
After the match, manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted in his post-match press conference that the brutal stretch of games may have finally had a toll on Spurs in their final match of 2018.
“Maybe, maybe [tiredness was a factor]. We conceded the first goal and in the last 20 minutes it was tough for the team to find energy to be competitive or to try to win the game. Of course we started to feel it a few minutes before we conceded which is why we were ready to add a fresh player like Oliver Skipp to help the team and we couldn’t because we conceded in the action before we were going to make the change. Yes I think the game was under control in the first half, maybe it was easier than we expected in the first half to dominate the game and to play so easily. They played so deep, chasing us and we didn’t concede one chance.
“But in the second half maybe we started to feel that the game was over and when you start to feel the game is over and you play in the way that you play, you start to decide in a wrong way. We started to play too many long balls and then is was difficult to recover the ball and to play more with your heart than your head and we started to expend a lot of energy. Then when you need the energy in the end you miss that. Very disappointed like the players but nothing to say. Some games can happen with this type of result and we need to move on and be sure that we are ready for the next game.”
Spurs did look dead on their feet for much of the second half, but Pochettino’s hands were a bit tied due to the ongoing injury crisis. With Erik Lamela out with an injury to his calf and a bunch of players like Eric Dier, Victor Wanyama, Moussa Dembele, and Jan Vertonghen nursing injuries of their own, Pochettino had precious few options on his bench that could change the match. His only substitution was Lucas Moura for a strangely ineffective Dele Alli.
Of course the media narrative is all about Spurs falling short after going second in the table for the first time this season. That particular narrative has become a well-used stick with which to beat Spurs whenever they slip up. Pochettino, for his sake, acknowledged that Spurs have to do better if they’re going to be true title contenders, but said he doesn’t listen to the haters.
“I don’t care about what the people say. I don’t care, I cannot control what happens around us. If you see my comment it’s always about being humble and to talk with respect about the position and the competition and other teams. We know very well because of the experience if you’re not 100 per cent in every single game in the Premier League it can happen. It’s not enough to play 60 or 70 minutes, you need to play 95 minutes at your best. Like today we dropped a little bit in our energy and focus and in the last 20 minutes we conceded three goals. That can happen.
“That can happen to us, it can happen to Wolves, to Liverpool, it can happen to Manchester City. That is why it’s so tough to win the Premier League, because you need to be consistent and today for us it’s a clear example that if we are not consistent enough, with not only good quality during the game, and the right energy, it’s difficult to compete for big things.”
The brutal fixture run comes to an end in three days when Spurs play at Cardiff on New Year’s Day.