New year, same old Tottenham. Tottenham Hotspur hosted 12th-place Aston Villa, and put paid to supporter hopes that they might have turned over a new leaf after the end of 2022. Tottenham conceded two goals in the second half to Villa, the tenth straight match in which they’ve conceded first. But this time, they couldn’t engineer a comeback. Spurs didn’t generate much offense of their own, and fell on their collective faces. The final score was 0-2 to the visitors; Emi Buendia and Douglas Luiz scored for Villa.
Antonio Conte opted to make a couple of changes from last week’s Boxing Day draw against Brentford, but none bigger than Bryan Gil starting in the attacking band with Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min, in place of Dejan Kulusevski, who was not in the side at all. Alasdair Gold reported that Kulusevski missed the match due to “a slight muscle injury” but that Spurs were hoping he wouldn’t miss more than this match.
In addition, Eric Dier moved to the bench after a somewhat calamitous last match, with World Cup winner Cuti Romero returning to the starting lineup alongside Clement Lenglet and Ben Davies. Matt Doherty kept his place at right wingback alongside Ivan Perisic, and with Rodrigo Bentancur still injured, the midfield pivot remained as a pairing of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Yves Bissouma. Hugo Lloris returned to his place in goal for Tottenham.
It was pretty bad! Here are some match notes. Notably, I deleted a bunch of the more ragey ones before posting.
- Best moment of the first half was watching Sonny get torched defensively, then rip his mask off in frustration and chuck it to an assistant coach on the sidelines.
- I’m not usually a “blame the refs” guy but the match official let Villa foul Spurs players with impunity without calls. I’m thinking particularly of the foul on Doherty at the edge of the box in the first half but there were several others. Meanwhile, all three of Spurs’ CBs were on yellows by the end of the first half.
- The main takeaway from this match is Spurs really need a creative passer in midfielder. Kane serves that role, but he’s also the player most likely to get shots. You know who Spurs could really use? Giovani Lo Celso.
- That said, Spurs really started to come into their own in the last part of the first half. They missed the creativity, but were still a lot more dangerous in and around the box than earlier. That danger didn’t lead to anything close to chances or shots, though.
- Villa’s goal... my goodness. Hard not to pin all of that on Hugo spilling the initial shot. It was a tricky short hop ball and those can be difficult to deal with, but it’s still pretty routine and Hugo just blew it.
- Villa’s second was arguably even worse. Bissouma, who had another shocker, completely loses track of his man, and the the pass to Douglas Luiz was very good.
- There’s a lot of suck to quantify from this match, but Kane and Son were again pretty poor. Their regression, particularly Son’s, is maybe the story of this season, if you also include the awful injury crises Spurs have endured.
- I have no idea what Bryan Gil does. He’s not an outlet, he doesn’t pass well, he doesn’t have end product. He just... runs around and looks Spanish.
- At least we got to see Pape Sarr, Oliver Skipp, and Djed Spence play in an actual Premier League match. That was cool.
- This isn’t working. None of it is. Conte’s tactics, the players at his disposal, the bench, the recruitment. None of it is working and I’m not sure what can be done. But watching this team today I’m starting to think I might be ready to blow it up this summer, even if it means a year or so in the wilderness.