It was Tottenham’s first clean sheet on the road since January, but it was still a massive disappointment.
Spurs went to the Vitality Stadium to face lowly Bournemouth and could only come away with a scoreless draw in what was another boring, toothless display. Jose Mourinho’s side didn’t allow any goals, but they also couldn’t even manage a single shot on target against a team that is likely to be relegated from the Premier League.
The Champions League is well and truly gone now, and even Europa League qualification is looking like a tough ask for this outfit.
Once again, Mourinho kept Tanguy Ndombele out of the lineup, despite a congested run of fixtures and a matchup against arguably the worst team in the Premier League. With Eric Dier suspended, Jan Vertonghen came into defense to partner his old friend Toby Alderweireld. Dele Alli missed out again with a hamstring issue, with Erik Lamela and Steven Bergwijn playing behind Harry Kane, and with Son Heung-Min on the bench.
To be frank, it was an atrocious opening half, especially from a Spurs’ point of view.
The only real chance of the frame for the visitors came on a corner kick. Kane was pushed in the back by Josh King, but VAR didn’t think it had been enough of an error to warrant a penalty after the fact.
It looked to be a clear shove that deserved a penalty. Still, that doesn’t excuse the Tottenham effort afterwards.
After the no-call, the 19th place team in the Premier League took charge. The Cherries controlled possession as Spurs oddly sat back to counter against a team that is in relegation form.
On 21 minutes, Bournemouth had a dangerous free kick that was only cleared by Kane’s crucial header in his own box. Eddie Howe’s side have scored the most set pieces in England’s top flight this season. The Cherries were probably a bit unlucky that none of those dead-ball opportunities resulted in a goal.
Tottenham’s first shot of the game didn’t come until the 44th minute, when Lamela decided to have a speculative pop from outside the box. There was almost a complete lack of penetration down the middle for Spurs. Their forays forward really only came down the right through Serge Aurier, whose crossing wasn’t anywhere near good enough to force an opening.
The home side almost opened the scoring just before the break when Junior Stanislas forced a diving save out of Hugo Lloris.
Clearly, Mourinho didn’t like what he saw, as he made two changes to start the second half. Ndombele finally got his chance, replacing Giovani Lo Celso, and Son came on for Steven Bergwijn.
The start to the second frame was disjointed, and there was a significant delay after former Spurs man Adam Smith took the worst of a collision with Ben Davies. He appeared to be knocked unconscious and had to be stretchered from the pitch.
Play was slow again when things finally got back underway. Ndombele showed good movement on the ball, but still Tottenham couldn’t connect enough passes in the final third.
Things continued to get slightly better for Spurs. Lamela had a headed chance after a good bit of passing, but his effort was wide of Aaron Ramsdale’s goal.
Lucas Moura came on for Moussa Sissoko as Mourinho tried to galvanize the Tottenham attack. The team’s desperation upped a bit, but still no goal came. All Lucas produced was another incredibly wasteful performance.
The Cherries appeared to have scored the game’s first goal right on 90 minutes. Callum Wilson’s overhead kick went into the net, but it had come off the hand of King on its way. VAR quickly took the goal off the scoreboard.
The contest then went into a whopping 12 minutes of stoppage time. Again, the home side almost took the lead. Harry Wilson was played in on goal, but Lloris did superbly to get off his line and smother the substitute’s attempt.
There were a few late scrambles in the box, but it wasn’t to be for either club. The match ended scoreless, with both sets of players likely not satisfied by the result.
It’s well past time for Jose Mourinho to face criticism for what he is doing at Tottenham Hotspur. This performance, especially in the first half, was cowardly. Bournemouth have been horrendous lately, but Spurs sat back in the opening period like they were afraid to attack the Cherries on anything that wasn’t a counter-attack. Make no mistake, that’s not on the players. That’s on Mourinho.
The introduction of Tanguy Ndombele changed things in a positive way, but it wasn’t enough. Ndombele should have started, and it was a peculiar choice for Steven Bergwijn and Giovani Lo Celso to be the players sacrificed for Mourinho’s subs. Had those two still been on the pitch late when Spurs showed desperation, the game might have ended with three points coming back to North London.
Surely Ndombele’s performance has warranted further playing time. He was one of the few players actually trying to do positive things going forward. Lamela and Lucas were poor, Son was quiet, and Kane continued to not really look like his old self. Managerial issues aside, these are probably also reasons to worry.
This Sunday’s North London Derby was supposed to be the first one in the new stadium. Judging by Spurs’ performance in this game, it might be a good thing that there aren’t any fans forced to attend what could be an ugly showing. This Arsenal team is questionable defensively, but they are still scoring a lot of goals. A beat down from such a heated rival would be an all-around disaster.