Tottenham once again embarrassed themselves by drawing with lower league opposition in the FA Cup when they were held by Rochdale this weekend. The 2-2 draw with the League One side followed last month’s 1-1 away at Newport of League Two, and in both instances Mauricio Pochettino fielded a pretty strong team. Firstly, it accentuates long-held fears about the weakness of this squad beyond the main starting 11. But does it also expose a worrying complacency against the smaller clubs that could hamper Spurs’ chances in the Premiership?
There are mitigating circumstances behind the 2-2 draw against a team plying their trade in the third tier of English football. Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose played at the back despite a lack of match fitness, leaving the defence a little exposed. The midfield was missing Mousa Dembele, who continues to dazzle, while Harry Kane and Dele Alli were left on the bench and Christian Eriksen was left out of the squad entirely. But it shows that the deputies – Fernando Llorente, Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks – are simply not up to scratch, nor is Juan Foyth at the back.
Against Newport last month, Spurs did not even have the excuse of fielding a weak team, because Kane, Dembele, Eric Dier and Jan Vertonghen – the spine of the first team – all started. Still they required a late strike from Kane to spare their blushes, and won the replay. Perhaps these players find it difficult to motivate themselves to take on such limited opposition, a sign that Spurs are well and truly among the game’s elite now.
Yet to be considered an elite team, Tottenham need trophies and silverware has thus far eluded Pochettino, Kane, Alli, Vertonghen and co. They have a glorious opportunity in the FA Cup, but they need to wake up and treat the competition seriously. They could make it through to the quarter-finals without having to face a Premiership or Championship side and that is a golden opportunity. Arsenal and Liverpool are already out, and Tottenham easily have enough class to see off Man City, Man Utd or Chelsea in the latter stages. You only have to look at the way they destroyed Man Utd at Wembley last month, and the convincing nature of their victory over Arsenal last weekend.
The result at Rochdale was all the stranger because it came on the back of some sensational performances: the win over Arsenal and a fantastic comeback to draw 2-2 away at Italian champions Juventus. Again, that could point to a lack of inspiration from Spurs after excelling in such high-profile games. But the squad is not huge, so they could do without all these replays. Kane had to come on and bail them out again, but he could have done with a rest. Spurs are still battling for a place in the top four of the Premiership, and are going great guns in Europe, but the FA Cup remains their best hope of a trophy this season.
Before placing some action make sure to check out BetOnline and you will see that Spurs are fourth favourites, behind City, Utd and Chelsea. They were battered at Man City, but if they were to face Pep Guardiola’s men at Wembley they could go in full of confidence. They struggled at the national stadium when it became their temporary home at the start of the season, but they have since settled in nicely and produced a great string of results in recent months. That gives them a clear advantage in the FA Cup as they would play the semi-final and final at Wembley, which would feel a bit like a home game.
Tottenham will face either Swansea or Sheff Wed in the quarters if they get past Rochdale in the replay, and they would be huge favourites to win that one. Then it would be Wembley, and they would be likely to face one of City, Utd and Chelsea as the big four avoided one another in the quarter-final draw. If Pochettino fielded his best 11, Spurs could beat any of them, of that there is no doubt. Perhaps Spurs are fourth favourites for this competition because they have not won a trophy for so long, while City, Utd and Chelsea players are accustomed to lifting silverware above their heads. Success breeds further success, and if Tottenham could win this cup it could open the floodgates. It could persuade the likes of Kane, Alli and Vertonghen to stay at the club, so it is imperative that they stop flopping against the smaller teamss.