After Tottenham Hotspur’s scoreless draw against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Champions League yesterday in Germany, the mood of the fanbase has taken a decidedly sour turn. That this frustrating result comes on the heels of an equally frustrating North London Derby loss last weekend is certainly part of why Spurs fans are grumbling.
Tottenham’s players and its coaching staff are certainly aware of it. Antonio Conte took the unusual step before the match of obliquely referencing fans concerns over formation and player performance. In the wake of yesterday’s 0-0 result, it was Sonny’s turn.
Son had kind of a Jekyll & Hyde match, playing quite well in the first half and nearly creating two assist for Harry Kane, but seemed to disappear in the second 45 minutes as the entire team struggled to generate offense. In comments to the media after the match, Son acknowledged that the team can play better, but also suggested that things maybe aren’t as bad as what social media is making it out to be.
“This [criticism] is outside our squad and talking is something we can’t control. As a great group, we have to stick together through these tough games. I think these criticisms are because expectations are higher, so we need to be thinking that way, the positive way. We know we can do much better, but there are still so many games this season. We need to do much better than we did last night, but I’m still believing that we can.
“I think we should have scored two or three goals, because we had good chances for Harry and me. This is really frustrating. We know we just need half-chances, but [the ball] doesn’t go [in], and this has happened in a few away games. It’s not what I want, but it’s always tough in the Champions League and there’s never easy chances to score. We’re human and there’s still improvement [to come]. It’s really frustrating, but we have to move on to better things.”
In his own post-match press conference, Antonio Conte gave his own appraisal of Tottenham’s performance, and he implied he was satisfied with a Champions League point in a hostile away stadium.
“I think the performance was a good performance tonight. It’s not easy to play in this stadium in this atmosphere with a lot of noise around you but at the same time from the start we put a lot of pressure, we tried to be aggressive in every zone of the pitch. Then at the same time I didn’t think we risked a lot, taking big risks. We created chances to score, but if I have to find a situation that we need to improve on after this game for sure we need to be more clinical.
“Today we had the chances to score and you know very well that football is simple, to win you have to score otherwise if we are lucky, if we are good, you get a draw. I think today for the big effort we did with the whole team maybe we deserved much, much more.
“Today I think the performance gave me great confidence. We coped with a difficult atmosphere to play here in the right way with great personality. I think that it’s important for us to understand that play at home or away it has to be the same way. The personality maybe when you stay away has to be stronger. Tonight in this aspect I’m really happy because I had a great response from my players”
Sonny’s cheerful demeanor runs counter to the fact that he’s a fierce competitor, and very likely his own biggest critic. It might be my imagination, but it seems like Son bristled, ever so slightly, at the idea that Spurs aren’t putting forth enough effort or simply aren’t good enough to be successful this season.
“I just look at us as a team but obviously, individually, I always want to do better. I’ve never been happy with my performance, because I always want to do better things, amazing things, but it doesn’t always happen like that. I’m always watching my games to see what I can improve.
“Look, this season is long, I’m working really hard to help the team, so it’s not an issue, these two games, because we had tough games. Sometimes you have tough games and sometimes amazing games. It’s all in your mind and so we need to move on.
“Last season, nobody believed we’d be in the Champions League. The gaffer always wants more, more, more, and I want to follow his way, or you know what’s coming. If we don’t follow him, you know you’ll struggle. There is no option, because he’s a winner and I think this is what we do: sacrifice and do the hard things.”
Spurs fans won’t have long to wait to see if the club can rebound. Tottenham are just starting a grueling month of fixture congestion, and that march towards the World Cup continues with a trip to face a Brighton & Hove Albion side that, despite losing their manager to Chelsea, is playing exceptional football and is in fourth place, three points behind Spurs. Tottenham also get another crack at Eintracht Frankfurt in the Champions League, this time at home, one week from today.