Mauricio Pochettino claims his Tottenham squad is too thin to cope with the rigours of Champions League and Premier League football, as Spurs crashed out with a disappointing 2-1 defeat at Monaco. Though last night’s performance was extremely poor, with Hugo Lloris keeping the score down as Monaco slices through an understrength back four with ease, in truth this campaign was damaged at ‘home’.
Losses against Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen at Wembley left them with an awful lot to do. 10 points is usually enough to ensure safe passage to the knockout stages, and three home wins put you on the verge of qualification. Pochettino and Spurs have consistently refused to blame the ‘Wembley factor’ for their failings however, and yesterday the Argentinian pointed to the size of their squad:
“It is good for us to learn from this for the future if we are going to be in the Champions League next season and try to compete in that and the Premier League, maybe we need to make changes.
“It was a good challenge for us to show the real level. It’s true after two-and-a-half years we closed the gap between the top clubs. But to be competitive in the Champions League and Premier League we need to show more – and maybe to add real quality.”
It is always slightly grating to hear a manager complain ‘give me more players’ after a defeat, but to Pochettino’s credit he has always demonstrated an ability to get to work on the training pitch and maximise what is at his disposal. It is interesting that Leicester have sailed through while struggling in the league, whereas Spurs are unbeaten in the league but have been dumped out of the Champions League. In both cases, there has been difficulty marrying performance levels in both competitions.
With Saturday’s derby at Stamford Bridge coming up, an intriguing story in the Daily Mail promises to stoke tensions further. According to their report, Spurs are the one club to voice concerns about Chelsea coach Steve Holland performing a dual role as England assistant manager as well. Tottenham are concerned about the access he may have to their players fitness levels and that this could give Chelsea an unfair advantage. Holland assisted Gareth Southgate in his four games as interim boss, and could stay on if Southgate stays on permanently, which he is expected to do.
Finally, Spurs have been handed a blow ahead of the Chelsea game with Pochettino confirming that Toby Alderweireld remains absent with injury. Pochettino rested Jan Vertonghen last night because he will have to deputise for the suspended Danny Rose at full back, and Spurs looked very porous defensively without the Belgian pair. Tottenham are not a free scoring side at the best of times, and without that defensive solidity they look eminently beatable.
Featured image: All rights reserved by James Harris