Since Tottenham’s defeat at Manchester City, the focus of attention has been on the manager. The players part in the defeat, both individually and as a team, has mostly been passed over as none of them played well. It’s not as simple as that and the players must take their share of the responsibility for an unacceptable performance and defeat at the Etihad Stadium.
The blame for the loss to City has been laid at the feet of Andre Villas-Boas by fans and commentators alike. Certainly, there are aspects of the defeat and this season’s performances for which he must take his share of the responsibility but the players are not blameless.
AVB selected an experienced team containing 11 internationals players many of whom are anticipating their involvement in next summer’s World Cup finals. Those players have all suffered the difficulty of conceding an early goal away from home and should not have allowed it to impact on their individual performances or as a team in the way that it did on Sunday. Even after conceding in such an unexpected way, the players should have been galvanised in their determination to make amends. As the goals continued to go in, many accepted defeat without a fight – not what is expected from experienced, international players.
Experienced players know that they need to be ‘up for the game’ from the opening moments but the Spurs players were too casual right from the kick-off which led to their problems, being pushed back towards their own goal and put under immediate pressure. They knew that City are a good team and that they would have to be at their best and most efficient to have any chance of getting a result.
The goal conceded reminded me of the way Spurs gifted Arsenal a second goal straight from the kick-off a few years ago – too casual and not motivated or prepared to ensure they gave nothing away.
City are a good team with exceptional players, especially Aguero, but the Spurs players have played against them before both for club and country, so knew what they were facing. As City’s domination increased through the match so the Spurs players’ lack of professional pride became more apparent. They didn’t cover back, they didn’t look to support each other and when City counter-attacked they were too slow in getting back into defensive positions. A team of professional players with no pride doesn’t augur well for the coming months. It wasn’t a one off, they lost to Newcastle and they conceded three at home to West Ham who haven’t won in 5 league games since then.
The players need to look at themselves over all of those performances. It’s easy for them to let the manager take all the flack.
Playing for the Team
Where has the ‘I’ll play anywhere in the team, as long as I’m playing’ attitude gone? Jan Vertonghen plays left back for Belgium. As Danny Rose is injured, AVB has played him in that position this season, as he had to do last year. Vertonghen has made it clear he doesn’t want to play at left back and everyone would agree that he is a better central defender and should be playing in that position.
Tottenham’s problem is that they didn’t sign a left back in the summer. The prolonged absence of Rose has made the situation worse but ‘for the team’ Vertonghen should be giving his all at left back. That, however, does not appear to be the case. It is clear from his demeanour on the pitch that he allowing his dislike of playing at left back to affect his game, which is very unfortunate from such a talented footballer.
World Cup Distraction
After the World Cup qualifiers, I questioned whether the finals in Brazil would be a distraction to the players over the coming months. The answer should of course be in the negative but there have been too many comments attributed to Tottenham players concerning their possible participation in next summer’s tournament. Mousa Dembele, Jermain Defoe and Andros Townsend have regularly been quoted on this subject. Perhaps they should focus on the job in hand where they are paid excessive amounts by Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.
The manager selects and prepares the team but once the whistle blows, there’s little he can do if the players’ attitude, endeavour and commitment are lacking. Questions can and have been asked about decisions AVB has made but the players have to accept their responsibility too for the shambles that took place in Manchester on Sunday.