Welp. Tottenham Hotspur went to Elland Road with a tough match against an experienced manager in Marcelo Bielsa... and played right into their hands. Leeds pressed Spurs from the opening kick, disrupted midfield, and Tottenham couldn’t find a way to really counter it. Spurs had a Harry Kane goal called back for offside but never really mustered the offense they wanted, and fell 3-1 away to Leeds.
There’s a lot to unpack from this match. Here are my immediate reactions.
- Leeds are a good team. They play with a high press and disrupt the midfield. If only we had a midfielder who was known to be press-resistant and adept at progressing the ball centrally...
- OK, we finally saw Tanguy, but too late for it really to make a difference. At least Winks didn’t play?
- Ryan Mason got the tactics wrong from the very beginning today. Ironically, Spurs would’ve been better off with Mourinho’s tactics — they beat Leeds 3-0 in the first match doing just that! Instead, Leeds pressed Spurs into oblivion and they never could really get going.
- Mason’s subs weren’t terrible — you can argue that Dele is only 60-65’ fit, Lamela is a midfield disruptor and Lucas is direct and offensively minded — but it wasn’t enough to overcome tactics that basically played into Bielsa’s hands. Bielsa basically handed Mason his lunch.
- Some good: Dele was OUTSTANDING today. The best player on Spurs’ side. Fantastic in the press, making good runs, passing well. He needs to start every remaining match.
- Some bad: Eric Dier was AWFUL. Let the cross drift across the face of goal for Leeds’ first, lost Bamford for Leeds’ second, and played Leeds onside for their third. I’ve wanted to defend him lately. I can’t today.
- I’m trying not to get too bent out of shape by that VAR call. It is what it is, and the way VAR is used for offside will always have that ambiguity in place so long as they draw the stupid lines like that. But man, that’s two goals in two games called back for having a toenail offside. This time, who knows whether that would’ve changed the match.
- Spurs’ Champions League hopes are pretty much dead now. That’s fine, it was a long-shot anyway and you can’t say they’ve deserved it this season. There’s still a chance they can finish in a Europa League place and that’d feel like a win at this point.