Lack of depth, not Wem­b­ley, is Spurs’ prob­lem

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS - BY IAN HER­BERT

TOT­TEN­HAM HOTSPUR had just stunk the place out in Monaco and be­fore he climbed aboard the team coach Moussa Sis­soko wanted to talk about go­ing home, in more ways than one.

“It would be good for us to play at home… go­ing home would make it eas­ier for us,” he said, ar­tic­u­lat­ing a hope which is be­gin­ning to take hold that Spurs might be able to re­turn to White Hart Lane if, as seems likely, they find them­selves in the Europa League next spring.

The club are not ready to dis­cuss that idea, given that there will be no Europa League if CSKA Moscow do in two weeks what ev­ery other side have done when fac­ing Spurs at Wem­b­ley this sea­son: beat them.

The pro­tec­tive blan­ket of N17 is soon to be an ir­rel­e­vance in any case, given that Spurs will use the na­tional sta­dium next sea­son while work on their new ground takes place. The cold truth be­hind the club’s abrupt Euro­pean elim­i­na­tion af­ter a mere five games is that chal­leng­ing for both the Cham­pi­ons and Pre­mier leagues re­quires more depth than Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino has at his dis­posal.

It was hon­esty not an ex­cuse when he de­clared in the depths of Stade Louis II that “maybe we need to add more qual­ity in the squad.” The col­lec­tive of bright young English tal­ent can only take a side so far.

Spurs have lacked nous and lead­er­ship this au­tumn, in a com­pe­ti­tion which calls for both. “We have qual­ity, yes,” Po­chet­tino added. “To com­pete in Pre­mier League, yes but you could say we strug­gled a lit­tle bit. When you have prob­lem, in­juries, it is dif­fi­cult to be com­pet­i­tive.”

Some of the play­ers who de­liv­ered so much last sea­son are strug­gling to match that level: Eric Dier, Jan Ver­ton­gen, and Chris­tian Erik­sen. Some have strug­gled for fit­ness: Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Mousa Dem­bele. There is a thin­ness about the squad.

Po­chet­tino has some­thing to an­swer for in that re­spect. We’re still wait­ing to see a re­turn on the in­vest­ment he sanc­tioned this sum­mer, with nei­ther Sis­soko nor Vic­tor Wanyama quite the force many ex­pected and Vin­cent Janssen yet to score from open play. Need­less to say, Sis­soko did not agree with his man­ager’s as­sess­ment on the depth of the squad.

As play­ers have strug­gled, Po­chet­tino has fid­dled, em­ploy­ing yet an­other shift in sys­tem on the French Riviera. The ab­sence of Ver­ton­gen and Kyle Walker from the de­fen­sive struc­ture raised eye­brows, es­pe­cially when the cen­tral de­fen­sive re­place­ment Kevin Wim­mer looked vul­ner­a­ble, but nei­ther of the ab­sen­tees can say they have been re­li­able.

Po­chet­tino’s tac­tics were also open to ques­tion. He per­sisted in push­ing his wing-backs into ad­vanced po­si­tions, even when it was be­com­ing clear that Leonardo Jardim’s own over­lap­ping full-backs, Ben­jamin Mendy and Djib­ril Sidibe, were wreak­ing such havoc in the space left be­hind.

The fun­da­men­tal in­dis­ci­pline of con­ced­ing a goal 39 sec­onds af­ter scor­ing an equaliser also has noth­ing to do with re­sources, though what Harry Kane de­scribed as a “school­boy” er­ror should not ob­scure the big­ger pic­ture. Monaco evis­cer­ated Spurs.

Sis­soko is an­tic­i­pat­ing to­mor­row’s match at Stam­ford Bridge – the fix­ture that was so in­cen­di­ary last sea­son. “I watched it on TV and it was a very tough game. I saw the tack­les fly­ing in and it is go­ing to be an­other mas­sive game. All the play­ers will be up for it, do not worry. It will be an­other big bat­tle.”

But the quest for an­other top four fin­ish is point­less if the Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball it reaps is over by mid-Novem­ber.

Sis­soko said when he signed in the sum­mer that he had left New­cas­tle United for “Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball.”

This wasn’t quite what he had in mind. – The In­de­pen­dent

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