Tottenham Hotspur have lost three matches in a row for the first time under Mauricio Pochettino. This losing streak has triggered a bit of an inquest into what exactly has gone wrong for Spurs recently.
Pochettino himself has now weighed in on his team’s most recent losses, but he sees some key differences between those performances against Liverpool and Inter Milan.
“If we put the ball in the air and we have to fight for it, we are going to lose,” Pochettino said. “The examples are clear. Every time the team kept possession and played in the way that we want to play, we were close to winning. We’re comfortable in possession and in the opposition half. That’s the team we have, the players we have, and how the squad is. It’s impossible to change that. To change that is to change your identity and it will be tough to win in a different way.”
This seems mostly agreeable. Spurs bread and butter is build-up on the ground, even if the occasional long ball between Toby Alderweireld and Dele Alli does work. But it wasn’t like they ran Inter off the pitch when they were playing the game they wanted to play. It was a better performance than Liverpool, but it was still lacking.
Poch then theorized that things would have been different against Liverpool if the squad had played like they did in Italy.
“If we played as we did at Inter against Liverpool, the result would be completely different. Maybe having in front of us Salah and Firmino, we respected them too much. But because we didn’t know Politano and Icardi, we didn’t feel that pressure that we felt against Liverpool. Liverpool allowed us to play from the beginning. They never pressed us high. We were so slow moving the ball — we made a lot of mistakes because we moved the ball so slowly. Inter forced us to play quickly because they pressed so high — and we made some mistakes. But always the team tried. It was an amazing example of building from the back. The problem against Inter was different: when we arrived in the offensive situation, in a position to accelerate the game, we reduced the pace.”
Again, a lot of what Pochettino is saying is true, but he’s leaving out one key thing. Part of the reason the pace reduced against Inter, when it needed to be accelerated, was because of the substitutions that we made. Harry Winks coming on for Erik Lamela had a negative effect on Spurs’ play as it then allowed Inter to have time on the ball and come directly at them in attack.
Lamela’s pressing was missed the second he stepped off the pitch and it would’ve been nice to hear Pochettino admit that.
It’s clear that Pochettino and the players are frustrated with results. Poch said the other day that the squad is “traumatized” after the defeats, so it’s safe to say there has been a different atmosphere at training since the Inter defeat.
Spurs will look to get back to their winning ways against Brighton on Saturday.