FEATURE: Spurs 1 Chelsea 2. Wembley, wages and mutiny.
The Wembley EPL debut loss is a tough one to take, but Pochettino has far greater challenges to face this season than a few extra meters on a football pitch.
Marcos Alonso sank Spurs on their Wembley EPL debut as Hugo Lloris continued to provide evidence that perhaps his best is behind him. Both clubs have suffered a summer of speculation and turmoil, with player and transfer issues causing unwanted distractions during their pre-season preparations.
Spurs, until the recent c.£40m signing of Davinson Sanchez, had not made any moves for incoming players in the market this summer. While Chelsea had sold Matic to direct title rivals Man Untied, and the drama around Diego Costa has continued to roll on.
On Sunday, we were witness to a tight and well balanced game of football. Chelsea going ahead first with a classy Alonso free kick, something we are fast becoming used to seeing.
Spurs then equalised from a clever Eriksen free kick as Michy Batshuayi elegantly and skilfully glanced the ball off his head and into his own net.
Spurs, while looking in the ascendency, then conceded the winner as Alonso slotted an ambitious wide effort under Hugo Lloris. Whether Lloris was trying to show of some new break dance moves, or whether the wiring in his brain malfunctioned briefly is as yet unclear, what is clear is that it was a calamitous goalkeeping error that cost Tottenham the match.
It could be easy to look at this result from a Spurs fans perspective and start panicking. We can’t win at Wembley! We haven’t signed enough players! There is a mutiny! We couldn’t even beat a depleted Chelsea!
But in reality, this game was lost by a Hugo Lloris error. Chelsea, although looking dangerous on the counter attack, didn’t look like they were going to win the game until Alonso squeezed home the second – and what a player Alonso is becoming. Wembley was no excuse for Spurs, the size of the pitch, the atmosphere, rubbish! Hugo lost that game.
However, Spurs fans should still be a little concerned by their prospects for this season.
Both clubs have had player issues to contend with this summer. For Chelsea it has been the unnecessary debacle around Diego Costa’s attempt to secure a move away from Stamford Bridge.
He has demanded that he will only move to Atletico Madrid and will not play for Chelsea. But while he is in Brazil, it seems Conte is happy to let him rot. The Godfather is playing a mind over matter game with Costa. Conte doesn’t mind and Costa doesn’t matter.
Meanwhile at Spurs, Danny Rose decided that it was his moral duty to protest the £60k per week wages he was being paid. I wonder whether or not it has crossed his mind that the idea of him complaining about earning 2X the UK’s average annual income in one week was never going to sit well.
However, does he have a point? No. He does not. Danny Rose has not played a competitive game of football for nearly a year. Danny Rose has played 2 good seasons of football in his entire professional career, thanks to the tutelage of Mauricio Pochettino. Danny Rose has never won a major honour. Danny Rose has only made 12 appearances for England at the age of 27. Put simply, Danny Rose is worth £60k per week. Done, let’s move on. And that seemed to be the line that Pochettino has toed.
Frustrated and upset, seeing an old friend earning double his wage and playing back up in the north. Rose has apologised and moved on. But has the rest of the team?
The Sun (pinch of salt time) claimed that Rose walked into the Tottenham dressing room to a standing ovation. To be frank, the chances of that are about as high as me ever walking into the Tottenham dressing room. Imagine Harry Kane and Jan Vertonghen applauding such an act of unprofessionalism. Don’t think so.
However there are definitely players who have half an eye on a move away. And that is a major concern for Tottenham.
Toby Alderweireld will not sign a new contract at the moment, one of the best CB’s in world football who frankly should be playing at the very highest level. He knows it, Spurs know it, everyone knows it. The signing of Sanchez is arguably evidence of Spurs preparing for his eventual departure.
Meanwhile Eric Dier and Christian Eriksen are two key players who are also looking to potentially move on. Dier really isn’t as great a player as he thinks he is. Man United’s signing of Matic all but ended the possibility of him moving away this summer. But with defensive midfielders in short supply, and Spurs one of the few sides well stocked in that department, Dier is definitely looking for a future elsewhere.
Eriksen has said on multiple occasions that his ambition is to play at the very highest level. It is likely, considering the rate of progression he has made recently, that he will be wanting to play at that level before Spurs can ever get to it, and therefore he too will be looking elsewhere. Namely Barcelona, who will soon be looking to sign their Iniesta replacement. Eriksen is the perfect fit.
What does this mean for Spurs this season though? Despite the calm and calculated manner of Mauricio Pochettino’s press conferences, Spurs have an issue in the changing room. While Chelsea’s most disruptive problem is currently on the other side of the world sunbathing in Brazil. Spurs have players no longer 100% committed to the cause coming into training every day.
When a player’s head is turned it is humanly impossible to perform to the 100% level of commitment that you expect from them as a fan. Wembley is not the issue for Spurs this year. Their issue, and Pochettino’s great challenge, is going to be to motivate a group of players in which seeds of doubt have begun to grow. How Pochettino handles this – with new signings perhaps to spark some new energy into the team – is going to be the key factor in Spurs’ campaign this season.
Written by Chris Wyles