Spurs nil, nil draw away to Partizan Belgrade in their first game of the Europa League group stage had all the hallmarks of their European exploits of the recent past.
From the wrong team to the stodgy performance to the stodgy pitch to the missed chances to their missed chances to the strange substitutions to the scumbag behaviour in the crowd it all had the faint whiff of deja-vu about it.
Think Everton’s Roberto Martinez had the right idea with his team selection, playing his first XI. Yeah, I know situation is different, they were at home and Spurs away and Spurs have this awful record in the next league game after a Europa game, while Everton haven’t been in Europe for a few years.
But after the weekend disappointment of dropping points from a winning position and and the team only kept of the bottom of the league by Newcastle’s worse goal difference at home on Sunday a core of Pochettino’s first team, with maybe a sprinkling of new boys would have been preferable to this rag tag who played like they’d never seen each other before for a lot of the game.
Get a good result here with the core of those that’ll play on Sunday, get back on track, momentum for the league game.
But while are happy at all the possession they overlook the fact very little was done with it and a number put in below average performances, well below average. Actually they could have been par performances for those particular players.
Very little done with that ball. No shots on target. Bar a few takes from corners the Partizan ‘keeper had very little if nothing to do, certainly no shots to save. And after Kane hit the post in the opening few seconds Spurs really only had one more shot that was registered and that was off target.
Harry Kane somewhat looking like Adebayor. Always on his heels, never really anticipating anything or being in the right place or picking the right ball. Only thing missing was being offside.
Of the new boys both had their good bits and their bad bits. The bad bits for both started when one looked to his left the other to his right. Poor Stambouli had Bentaleb to his left, Fazio had Naughton. It can’t fill you with any confidence and it certainly didn’t help the team.
Bentaleb again spent all evening needlessly passing sideways and backwards, as yet again when he’s paired in the middle with the likes of Stambouli or Capoue there was no craft or guile coming from him. There’s just a void in that central area. Stambouli did his best to cover.
Naughton provides nothing either way. If a fullback can get forward, deliver crosses, create and assist his defensive frailties can be slightly overlooked. If he’s solid at the back a lack of forward play can be overlooked. If he provides neither, as Naughton, he just can’t be played. But at Spurs he is and if he hadn’t been sent off in the opening game he would probably be the starting right-back.
With Townsend cutting inside – and doing nothing but give the ball away – there’s plenty of room for Naughton to overlap. He only really did it once when Townsend chipped a ball over the top for him and he put a decent cross in. But it’s certainly not the rule.
Anyway, new boy, Fazio was there to cover Naughton’s defensive mistakes, as well as others. Seems a good bloke to have when the ball needs to be headed away – won 100% of his aerial duels – which is something Spurs kinda need, not bad with the ball at his feet if not the best in the tackle. Just made one mistake when he came under a ball into the box.
And Belgrade got the ball into the box on a number of occasions, a lot of them very dangerous and they are the ones that really should be disappointed with a goalless draw. Should have scored with a few really good chances.
Pochettino’s subs again were a bit baffling. Yes Soldado and Lamela were needed but why Bentaleb stayed on is beyond me, hopefully though it means he’ll be missing some Sunday. The only real skill shown by Spurs arrived with Lamela but after a bright start where it looked like he could be the difference maker again Spurs stopped giving him the ball. Somewhat typically.
As was the typical anti-Semitic banner in the Balkans. I did wonder if a number of the first team weren’t there because they were black, to save them from the abuse dished out by the locals when the England U21s were last in town. Especially Danny Rose who was on the end of it on and off the field on that occasion. No doubt some paltry slap on the wrist will follow, whereas any balls at UEFA and they’d be kicked out straight away and they might go some way to stopping this sort of thing. Never gonna happen is it?