Spurs Champions League woes are not stadium related

by Vass Koni

With two defeats in our Champions League "home" games, Vass Koni looks back at Wednesday game and gives his thoughts on why its going wrong at Wembley.

Still fuming after a pitiful display in the Champions League? Yes, me too. Fans have travelled from far and wide to partake in the Champions League adventure – hashtag Spurs At Wembley. Tweets from fans setting off from as far as California to attend, showing how far the stardust travelled. And I thought I was travelling far making a 250 mile round trip from the Midlands.

After a below par performance against Monaco, we were hoping to put that behind us and put it right against Bayer Leverkusen. It is too easy though to blame it on the stadium, and it is far too easy to blame it on “plastic” fans. I really loathe this last term. Who determines whether one fan is better than another? And who is to say that the fan coming to one game isn’t as loud as the fan that attends a full season? Taking this moral high ground benefits no one. There are thousands of fans that over the years have been priced out of the game and they are finally being provided with a way of seeing their team play live. This should be celebrated not castigated. Not used as a stick to beat people with so that regular attendees at White Hart Lane can sit smugly back and say “it’s their fault, they don’t get it”.

Playing at Wembley may be a “factor” but it is not the defining reason as to why the performances have suffered.

There will be some that are tourists. Hey ho. It happens. But there were 85,500 people at Wembley on Wednesday evening and the reason they were there was Tottenham Hotspur.

As for the stadium itself being to blame? OK it is much harder to get songs to bounce around the ground. It is huge, and you don’t have opposing fans in equal number to bounce the atmosphere to and fro between two halves of the stadium. But I tell you what, White Hart Lane has been just as quiet. The recent home game against Leicester for example was equally muted, and that is because whilst we as fans look to get behind our team, we always look for a spark from the players to get us going. It’s symbiotic. It needs synergy.

Sadly in two games at Wembley stadium the players have shown nothing worth crowing about. Atmosphere created at the start of each game has quickly been extinguished as we get more and more frustrated by what we are seeing on the pitch. There was a ten minute spell after the first Spurs substitution last night when we built up a head of steam and the fans responded. Then as play again became erratic the moment was lost, half time came and we couldn’t build the momentum.

Granted the pitch is bigger, but Pochettino has an equal size training surface at Hotspur Way. Perhaps the players are nervous? Why would they be? They are playing in front of 85,000 of their own fans at the home of football. Many play there for the national team. If that stadium isn’t a motivator then there must be something wrong.

Playing at Wembley may be a “factor” but it is not the defining reason as to why the performances have suffered. The issues lie, as Pochettino said in his post match press conference last night, “inside the players”. When your goalkeeping captain and two centre-backs are turning over possession with alarming regularity from the first minute and it sets a pattern for the rest of the game. When passes are not finding team-mates, you then stay on the back foot. When a team turns over possession as often as we did last night then they are fighting an uphill battle. The team needed a leader. It needed composure and it needed quickness of thought and movement. It needs players that make good decisions and all I personally saw last night were a raft of bad decisions being made all over the pitch.

It is easy to blame new signings too. Sissoko in particular has come in for a lot of stick, as has Janssen. This is no defence as the whole team were poor, but who of the “established” players on the field last night stepped up to help these new players? Or at any time in recent games for that matter?

It is true that Spurs have been without probably their five best performers from last season at various stages this season. And on Wednesday we were without Kane, Alderweireld, Lamela, Rose and Dembele (who got subbed early). Any team will struggle when players of this ilk are not available. Add to that the alarming lack of form of Christian Eriksen and the relative anonymity of Dele Alli and Heung Min Son and is it any wonder the team is dysfunctional?

The team needed a leader. It needed composure and it needed quickness of thought and movement.

Spurs have not had a good game since beating Man City on October 2nd. Perhaps the international break came at the wrong time, perhaps it was bad luck (as at WBA) or the injuries. Perhaps it was indeed Pochettino making wrong tactical choices or team selection, but he like our players is still learning too. And this is the biggest test that they have had to face for 18 months. It is our biggest test as fans also.

We cannot dismiss what has gone on before. And whether some are now looking at last season as an aberration because other teams around us failed or otherwise, there can be no denying that this team has improved many times over from the one of a few years ago. And at this time of year there can be no better moniker than “lest we forget”.

I personally don’t think it is the fault of the stadium or the “plastics”, or Sissoko even (as if one player can be at fault for all our ills). But we like a scapegoat at Spurs. We just have to accept that we are in a really bad period of form. There is no magic recipe. We have to ride it out (yes fans too). But it’s down to Pochettino. And it’s down to the players. They need to overcome. And as much as it is annoying a lot of us to see this alarming dip in form. We have to hope that they overcome quickly.

Author

Vass Koni

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