A bad week got a lot worse as Spurs put in an awful team display to lose at home to Wigan after they were knocked out of the Capital Cup by Norwich earlier in the week. Kenny Palmer looks at where we went wrong and how external factors aren’t helping the club at present.
Tottenham deservedly slumped to their second home defeat in the league, in the process suffering back to back home defeats in the league for the first time since 2008, while also failing to score for the first time in thirty home league games in by far our worst performance of the season to a Wigan side that were superior in every department.
The Latics will not face more accommodating opposition this season as they did against Spurs on Saturday, who put in a truly abject performance.
Before the game Spurs found themselves somewhat incongruously sitting fourth in the league looking to consolidate a Champions League spot. In reality the position was somewhat flattering as four of the five wins Spurs have registered so for have been against teams currently occupying the bottom four in the Barclays Premier league, the forthcoming games against Manchester City and Arsenal will give a truer reflection where Spurs are at as a team.
Tottenham started the first half in similar undistinguished fashion to the previous home games; laboured and pedestrian in possession with no tempo in their play. Shorn of the injured Mousa Dembele once again and Gareth Bale having a quiet game Spurs were distinctly ordinary with the better quality football coming from Roberto Martinez’s Wigan. In a very short space of time Dembele has now become one of Spurs most important players. In the four games Spurs have started with the Belgium International they have won all four, in the six without him starting they have won only one, drawing two and losing three and one of those draws secured by his goal on his debut.
Losing Luka Modric to Real Madrid has left a big creative void as he was the heartbeat of the team with everything going through him! Tom Huddlestone who partnered Sandro in central midfield had a disappointing game playing for too deep with no urgency to his play. The midfield was further weakened when the Brazilian international went off injured and was replaced by the unconvincing Gylfi Sigurdsson. Sigurdsson was signed with the reputation of being a goal scoring midfielder but has so far failed to live up to that billing.
Villas- Boas’s three principal summer targets were Oscar, Mountinho and Willian, Daniel Levy signed none of them, any of the three would have filled the creative void missing from Spurs and it’s up to debate whether Clint Dempsey or Sigurdsson where even actually Villa-Boas signings!
Tottenham should have gone into the half time break two down with Arouna Kone and Shaun Maloney both missing glorious opportunities to put the Latics ahead as Brad Friedel pulled off two impressive saves. The half time whistle was greeted, depressingly, with the now all too familiar boos but in fairness to the crowd there was more wit, invention and imagination displayed by the fan who proposed to his girlfriend at the interval than anything displayed by the team.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first with Wigan inevitably taking the lead after some unconvincing goalkeeping from Friedel.
As Tottenham toiled without any real conviction to get back into the game, Villas-Boas incurred the wrath of the crowd, in what may be prove to be a watershed moment for the young Portuguese manager, with his bizarre decision to take off the team’s top scorer and only real goal threat Jermain Defoe and replace him with Emmanuel Adebayor, when the disappointing Clint Dempsey was the obvious candidate to hook.
Last season Harry Redknapp received pelters from fans when in a pivotal game in the chase for a top four place against Aston Villa when he took off Rafael Van Der Vaart and replaced him with Scott Parker leaving Defoe on the bench when the team needed to score. The Portuguese’s decision to replace the diminutive striker was just as puzzling and received a hostile and angry reaction from the crowd.
Up to now it’s fair to say a sizeable number of the White Hart Lane faithful have been ambivalent towards Villas Boas and have been prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt but that substitution has certainly opened up the first fissures in his relationship with the crowd.
With no real quality from the Spurs bench to affect the game Wigan closed out the game comfortably, the final whistle being greeted by more boos!
Ten league games under the stewardship of Villas Boas Tottenham are struggling for a defined identity when playing at home. The swashbuckling team of last season where the team had the courage to get on the ball and play some of the most attractive expansive football in the league has disappeared and morphed into a team characterised by conservativeness and timidity in their play. The team has evolved from a possession based team to a team more suited to playing on the counter attack reflected in the fact that in the majority of the games the Lilywhites have played this term they have had less possession than the opposition even against the likes of basement dwellers QPR!
The players have an immediate opportunity to produce a reaction to the abysmal Wigan performance as they host Maribor on Thursday in a crucial Europa League game. Anything less than a win and its highly unlikely Spurs will progress past the group stage of the competition.
The game is a perfect opportunity for the disgruntled Emmanuel Adebayor to start his first game for Spurs this season. Fully committed the Togolese international can make a big contribution to the team.
The Maribor game is also an opportunity for the home fans to produce a positive reaction towards the players. The support at the Lane has got progressively worse as the season has unfolded with the players picking up on the negativity.
I’ll leave the last word on the subject with Benoit Assou-Ekotto who tweeted after the game:
“Bad result today, But the season is not finish lol !all we need is to hear U! SUPPORT US IN GAME LOL”
Kenny ( @KennyPalmer on Twitter )