It was a day to forget for Tottenham Hotspur, who dropped not only the opening match of the season, but their first home match as well, losing 1-0 to Everton on Sunday. Spurs looked listless and exhausted by the end of the match, and lacked any sort of spark that could’ve seen them complete the comeback to at least earn a draw.
Afterwards, Spurs manager Jose Mourinho did not mince words in his post-match press conference, saying he wasn’t happy with the squad that took the pitch today in North London
“I didn’t like my team. [I] believe until their goal the game was there. Until their goal in spite of they had good control of the ball they didn’t create apart from one bad pass from Ben Davies that almost gave a chance to Richarlison.
“In the first half we were the team that created the best two chances and two really beautiful situations with Kane and Doherty and Son and Dele Alli. In the second half after their goal we were poor and in my opinion we were not physically strong, no intensity and the team lacks in this moment many players’ physical condition.
“Of course from that goal they were more dangerous and had a couple of very good chances from the left and attacking the spaces inside. They were closer to scoring the second goal than we were to the equaliser.”
That sounds pretty bad! It is pretty bad. Tottenham looked not only toothless, but exhausted by the end. It wasn’t by any means a good performance by Spurs against Everton, and Mourinho certainly wasn’t trying to prove anyone otherwise.
Mourinho however did try and take the pressure off his players by blaming a lack of training time, especially with the international break, and also confirmed the rumors that Spurs had some players (besides Harry Kane) who were out of training because of quarantine for exposure to COVID-19. But he didn’t let his players off the hook entirely.
“Look Harry Kane trained with us once. Just once. One day. Moussa Sissoko just a couple. I’m not going player by player but for different reasons our players they didn’t have that proper pre-season.
“We had cases of positive COVID-19. Of course we have the right to say which players they were, but we had players with positive COVID. We had other players in quarantine due to proximity with the positive players. We had a player in quarantine [Kane] because he was on holiday in a country that England demands quarantine.
“We had a national team couple of weeks, many of the players went with their national teams so the pre-season was a difficult one for many of the players. I couldn’t expect them to be sharp, intense, agile, I couldn’t expect that but I was expecting much more individually and collectively.
However, Mourinho’s explanation kind of glosses over his own decisions in this match, the biggest being the choice to take off Dele at halftime and replace him with Moussa Sissoko. Mourinho said the decision to take off Dele was a tactical decision.
“Yep [it was tactical], there were playing with only one player in front of the defenders. Gomes and Doucoure were pressing higher on Winks and Hojbjerg. Lots of space, very easy to play around for Allan in this area there.
“I felt we needed more creation there. Lucas was one of the players who for me was physically better because he was one of the guys who had a very good pre-season. He was one who was showing me capable to create and win duels in there so we decided to change Lucas for that position.”
It didn’t work — Spurs looked limp in the second half and conceded the match’s only goal in the 50th minute, and Mourinho seemed to acknowledge the tactical error by bringing in Steven Bergwijn for Harry Winks after the goal.
There’s nothing to be done about the lack of a preseason, but Mourinho said that there are enough competitive fixtures — the next one being Thursday night in Bulgaria against Lokomotiv Plovdiv in a Europa League qualifier — that he will use those opportunities to give “preseason minutes” to the out of form players.
“The players who didn’t have pre-season, we don’t have now the possibility to give them a pre-season but we have a lot of matches now to play consecutively and we have to use these matches, not just to win them and the knockout ones are obviously decisive ones with everything decided in 120 minutes or even penalties, and try to use this to improve the form of some players because some of them were really in trouble.
“You can look to [Matt] Doherty, a player who is normally in incredible condition. He didn’t have pre-season. He went direct from holidays to national team matches. No pre-season at all. Direct and not one single training session, direct from holidays to national team and he played two consecutive matches and today he was not Matt Doherty like he normally is. So these are the things that we knew could happen to us.”
Tottenham’s next match is the Europa League qualifier at Lokomotiv Plovdiv this coming Thursday, followed by a trip to Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday.