Spurs have been dealing with an injury crisis for a while, but Saturday’s lineup provided fresh disappointment with Nikola Karczewska only fit enough for the bench, along with only four other outfield players. Rehanne Skinner selected a fairly typical back four of Ale, Zadorsky, Bartrip, and Turner. Angharad James and Eveliina Summanen sat close to the defense in central midfield, flanked by Ash Neville and Celin Bizet on the wings. Ellie Brazil and Drew Spence capped things off in an attacking duo.
Presumably, we planned to leverage Drew’s passing range in combination with Ellie’s speediness and ability to beat a player on the run. We never got to see it. After just over a minute, Ellie was stretchered off after an awkward collision with City’s goalkeeper. Of course there’s a chance it was precautionary, but when you see a player with a history of serious knee injuries crying on a stretcher, you kind of have to assume the worst. It’s heartbreaking for Ellie, who just returned from a meniscus surgery she had in the spring, and a big blow for a squad that’s practically bleeding attacking players.
Jess Naz came on in Brazil’s place, a relatively like-for-like replacement. It hardly mattered, because the serious injury and the stoppage took the already meager wind out of Spurs’ sails. City looked dangerous in nearly every regard—able to beat our players one on one, play line-breaking passes around our midfield and defense, or swarm our players to snuff out attacks. On the rare occasions Spurs recouped the ball, we looked afraid, and like we had absolutely no attacking plan. That said, we managed to keep City out until nearly halftime, when Bunny Shaw escaped Eveliina and Ash to direct Alex Greenwood’s corner past Becky Spencer. If we had players I thought were any good in the air, I’d ask why we didn’t have them marking Bunny Shaw. Alas, we do not.
Spurs came out for the second half unchanged. For a moment, it seemed there’d been some halftime talk that had galvanized Spurs. But in a rare sleepy moment, Angharad James lingered on the ball for a second too long and succumbed to Bunny Shaw and Chloe Kelly’s pressure. Kelly coolly slotted Bunny toward goal and Bunny fired a shot into the bottom corner of the net. Angharad is probably having a miserable week watching that one back on the tapes. She had multiple teammates open for a pass, and absolutely did not need to give a player as good as Bunny Shaw even the inkling of a chance.
After that, Spurs had no way back in. City put the final nail in the coffin in the 75th minute, capitalizing on a disjointed moment between Jess Naz and Drew Spence. Lauren Hemp got the ball on the wing, turned Amy Turner inside out, and shot under Becky’s outstretched hand. It was not Amy’s finest moment, or Becky’s, but at that point, it hardly mattered.
Beautiful goal from Lauren Hemp yesterday that made it 3-0 for City Women against Tottenham.pic.twitter.com/s5WGQlJLXj— Alexis Monteith (@AlexisMonteith) October 23, 2022
It’s fruitless to pick apart individuals’ performances when we know City simply have a better, fitter squad. Yeah, Ash looked good as usual, Celin was brave and energetic, and Drew Spence picked out a few snazzy passes. But none of them were on the same page, so it didn’t make any difference. Jess Naz had an incredibly rough game—her body shape was off in receiving the ball, her decision making was suspect, and she seemed reluctant to press. It feels like she’s rehabbing an injury, or working to regain her confidence after one, and it’s absolutely not on her that Spurs’ don’t have enough squad depth to give her time to get there.
But let’s end on a positive note. Nikola Karczewska absolutely transformed the press for the five minutes she was on the pitch. I actually saw her exchange words with Jess about where she needed to be on the pitch, and where she should be running. Chioma Ubogagu got her first minutes post suspension, and while she definitely looked to be finding her feet, she had a lovely interchange with Eveliina that resulted in a dangerous-looking cross. If she can do stuff like that over the course of 90 minutes, it’ll go a long way toward filling in the gaps left by injury.
Folks, this game was not it. There were poor performances all across the pitch, some familiar demons in the form of injuries, final third decisions, and defending set pieces, but my main takeaway is how jealous I am that Man City have Bunny Shaw, Lauren Hemp, Deyna Castellanos, Chloe Kelley, Yui Hasegawa, Kerstin Kasparij… you get the point. Let’s look on to Brighton next week. I hope we win, because I’ve been saving up some good Halloween puns.