Tottenham Hotspur’s long wait for a trophy goes on after they were eliminated from the Carabao Cup semi-finals by Chelsea on Thursday evening.
Spurs took a 1-0 lead into the game, but a combination of a thin squad and some lackadaisical defending led to Mauricio Pochettino’s men surrendering their lead and being forced to endure the agony of a penalty shootout.
Eric Dier, fresh from making a quite terrible mistake in the regulation 90 minutes, was the first to miss in the shootout before Lucas Moura saw his effort saved – the former should now be dropped by Pochettino as another cup tie looms this weekend.
It should be said that Dier was rushed back to the starting XI after undergoing an appendectomy that ruled him out of nine games in all competitions.
A cruel twist of fate saw Harry Winks left as the only senior midfielder for the 2-1 win over Fulham last weekend, and it always appeared certain that Dier would be installed for the clash with Chelsea.
He has repeatedly shown that he has the passion for these kinds of games; he became something of a cult hero after the Battle of the Bridge, when the two sides drew 2-2 and Spurs were shown nine yellow cards.
Yet, as a player, Dier is severely limited and lacks the basic tactical discipline needed to anchor a midfield that moves as one in a high press.
Per WhoScored, Dier recorded the lowest rating of any of Spurs’ outfield starters against Chelsea, a meagre 5.8, and it is not difficult to see why; overall, he made just one tackle and conceded the free-kick that led to the Blues’ second goal.
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Having been pulled out of position, he was drawn into a needless challenge in Chelsea’s half and the Blues took the resulting free-kick quickly. Eden Hazard subsequently sauntered into space unchallenged and picked out Pedro who, aware of the overlap, fed Cesar Azpilicueta. The Spaniard fired a ball across and there Hazard was to poke home.
The 38-cap international was on the edge of the box by the time the ball hit the back of the net, showing little want nor need to track back as fast as possible.
And his performance, inadequate in almost every department, was capped by a penalty that soared over the crossbar and into the Stamford Bridge crowd. Dier, of course, scored the winning spot-kick in the World Cup when England overcame Colombia, drilling an effort low into the corner past David Ospina. So, naturally, this time around he attempted to hit the top corner.
Victor Wanyama is back in training and should be selected as soon as it is suitable to do so.
The Kenya international is a better player than Dier, both positionally and physically, and offers the brawn so lacking from Spurs’ midfield.
Dier, indeed, is something of a halfway house of a midfielder. He is not the destroyer that he seems to think he is, and he also lacks the technical ability to play as a quarterback, spraying balls left and right.
Wanyama has the attributes of both and is also quicker than the largely immobile Dier.
A game against Crystal Palace this weekend in the FA Cup is something of a banana skin, with Roy Hodgson’s men always able to raise their game for major opponents. Pochettino should drop Dier to ensure Spurs don’t slip on it.