After the carnage of Monday’s Dad Derby™, there was one final task before yet another international break: this time, a tricky away match against Wolverhampton Wanderers. The break probably couldn’t have come soon enough for Spurs, with a squad somewhat in disarray, especially in the defensive unit which consisted mostly of Eric Dier and duct tape.
There were four enforced changes from the Chelsea fixture: Eric Dier, Ben Davies, and Emerson Royal all started in the backline, while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg stepped into the huge creative void left vacant by the injured James Maddison.
For a little while, it looked like it was business as usual for Spurs. Ange-ball appeared to still be in full effect, and Spurs took an early lead through Welsh international and new signing Brennan Johnson. A crossfield ball found Dejan Kulusevski, who found Pedro Porro on the overlap after working his way into the box. The Spaniard’s pass across the six-yard box was sharp, and found Johnson, who had made an excellent late run, for a tap-in and his first Tottenham goal.
Wolves weren’t taking this lying down, however, and were aggressive in both their press and their offensive play. Spurs wilted a touch under pressure but managed to hold firm initially, helped by a couple of excellent Vicario saves and a wasteful Wolves attack. A flurry of corners and free kicks ended the half as Tottenham took a one goal lead into the break.
Spurs struggled to attain any semblance of control in the second half, unable to retain possession and Wolves started to create even better chances. Matheus Cunha was found totally open on a quick break after Eric Dier was caught upfield, but was only able to spoon his shot over; and a deflected shot following a set piece found Hee-Chan Hwang in acres of space, with the Korean managing somehow to shoot wide of the post.
Ange Postecoglou made some changes in an effort to regain the ascendancy, and Pape Matar Sarr was the first to make way, Postecoglou bringing in Rodrigo Bentancur for a bit more control. Soon more changes followed, as Giovani Lo Celso and Bryan Gil came on for Johnson and Yves Bissouma, the Argentine with a late chance to put Spurs two up that was only just tipped over the bar by Jose Sa.
The changes were to no avail, however, as Wolves struck twice late. For their first, a ball from Cunha into Pablo Sarabia caught the defense in no-man’s land, with Sarabia controlling well before volleying past Vicario, who could do nothing to stop the strike. With the scores even, the Lilywhites tried to up the tempo and push forward for a winner, but that counted against them as poor passing from deep turned possession over to Wolves once more. Pablo Sarabia drove down the right wing and played an inch-perfect ball into the box to Mario Lemina, who Eric Dier had allowed to waltz past. Lemina swept home, and Wolves took the three points late with a 2-1 win.
- Well, that’s not a great way to go into the international break.
- Wolves deserved this win. They created chance after chance, while outside of the first few minutes Spurs created absolutely nothing.
- One of the big problems from Spurs was their midfield. Sarr was actually the one playing the Maddison role, but he really struggled and the cohesion in midfield just wasn’t there. Wolves put them under huge amounts of pressure and routinely won possession in the middle third.
- The midfield struggles also impacted the attack as well; when Maddison is playing, there’s always an extra threat around the box and an ability to keep the pressure on that was non-existent today. Instead, Spurs were continually forced to recycle possession, and attackers were often isolated.
- The midfield did look much better once Lo Celso came on, and he really should have started. Sure, the goals came after the changes, but they came following a period where Spurs looked better than they had since the opening minutes. With Maddison out, that extra technical ability and passing is a must, and he has to start vs Villa.
- The goals came late for Wolves, but it was really just a matter of time. They spurned a couple of good chances earlier, and Dier and Davies were forced multiple times into last ditch tackles and blocks. Dier especially switched off late, and it’s hard not to think that with our starting defense we don’t concede those goals.
- Add Yves Bissouma to the list of players scratched for the Villa fixture after the break. He picked up another (extremely soft) yellow and will be suspended.
- I am not enjoying my lunch.