This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Tottenham Hotspur laboured to a 1-1 draw with Watford on Saturday and, despite the point achieved, one has to draw the conclusion that this was a disastrous result.
Spurs went into the game following a much-needed international break that had come off the back of a thumping 7-2 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich and then an even more chastening 3-0 defeat by Brighton & Hove Albion.
Spurs last won on September 28, beating Southampton 2-1, but even that win came against the norm; of their last six games in all competitions, it is their only victory. That includes a Carabao Cup tie against Colchester United.
On Saturday, then, they had a perfect opportunity to pick up three points and start to move forward once again, playing the team bottom of the league and without a single victory to their name this season.
They couldn’t do it. In fact, they fell behind after just six minutes, as Abdoulaye Doucoure stole in to score.
It would take Spurs 80 minutes of huffing and puffing before they got back on level terms and even that carried with it a suspicion of handball; Dele Alli’s shoulder, or arm, depending on how you see it, helped him beat Ben Foster and fire into the back of the net.
The goal was not so much met with relief as a feeling of disbelief that Spurs were even in this predicament to begin with.
This Watford team did draw 2-2 with Arsenal but they also lost 8-0 to Manchester City. They were there for the taking and, yet, there feels there is something fundamentally wrong at Tottenham right now.
This has been written a lot, of course, but there were bizarre decisions all over the place. Son Heung-Min came on as a substitute at half-time and was genuinely exceptional when playing down the right flank, consistently worrying the Hornets defenders. Mauricio Pochettino must have seen this was working.
What did he do? He brought on Erik Lamela too, put him on the right, moved Son into the centre, and essentially curtailed the South Korea international’s involvement in the game. Tanguy Ndombele was benched from the outset. Christian Eriksen wasn’t even in the squad.
Pochettino also played Serge Aurier and Danny Rose from the outset, two full-backs who, for all the world, haven’t looked like Premier League players in over a year. Watford, ironically, were interested in signing Rose in the summer. At times, you could have been forgiven for thinking they actually had bought him so wayward was his performance.
Of course, it is difficult to chastise a club for taking a point from a home game but this was an encounter against a team that will be fighting relegation for the rest of the season and Spurs escaped with a draw.
This wasn’t particularly a batten-down-the-hatches approach from Quique Sanchez Flores’ men; they went for it. They had chances in the final third and only wayward finishing cost them. Had the ball fallen to Gerard Deulofeu instead of Daryl Jaanmat when the right-back burst into the box for a one-on-one, perhaps we would be dissecting another Spurs defeat. VAR also played a role, with Jan Vertonghen somehow getting away with a foul on Deulofeu in the box.
The problem now is that this was meant to be the easy result to allow Spurs to ease into a tough run of fixtures.
They play Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday in a must-win European encounter, before travelling to Merseyside two weekends running, playing Liverpool first and then Everton. After that? A daunting trip to Serbia. Jurgen Klopp’s men played Red Star away from home last season and were beaten 2-0.
On this evidence, it would not be a surprise to see Spurs struggle to get anything more than three points from those four games.
Even that seems a bit of a stretch; they cannot afford many more performances like this, particularly if they want to qualify for the Champions League yet again.
Time is running out for Pochettino to change it, to inject this side with new ideas and new life, and he will surely be feeling the heat.