Tottenham returned to Premier League action after 101 days only to fail
Tottenham Hotspur were back in action and at times showed some of the promise and defensive nous that will be necessary to fight their way into a Champions League place. However, despite substitutes in his pocket, Jose Mourinho only made two changes and Spurs failed to hold the lead as a Bruno Fernandes penalty led to shared points. So how did the 13 players who took the pitch for Tottenham Hotspur perform?
Hugo Lloris – 9
Hugo Lloris was clearly the man of the match for Tottenham Hotspur, keeping Spurs in the game at multiple points in the match. A big save on Marcus Rashford kept things level early and he had an all-world save on Martial just before the United penalty. Unfortunately for Tottenham, the club needed a 10 performance from Lloris on the day as we went the wrong way on the game-tying penalty, leaving him with six instead of the needed 7 saves.
Serge Aurier – 7
Serge Aurier was a lot more good than bad on the day. Aurier got forward a few times and was able to put in a couple crosses. His most important contribution was winning the second ball that became the assist on Steven Bergwijn’s goal. Aurier did get dispossessed once but was covered by an all-world save from Lloris on a shot from Martial.
Davinson Sanchez – 7
Sanchez put in a solid shift overall but did not have much time on the ball with the least touches of the back four. Sanchez ran all over the field with both Martial and Rashford and did well to stay on his feet. Sanchez’ one ‘mistake’ on the day was a failed clearance on a Fernandes cross that fell right to Rashford’s feet. Luckily for Spurs and Sanchez, Lloris bested Rashford.
Eric Dier – 6.5
Eric Dier was the surprise starter on defense, but put on a good display until he did not. Unfortunately, for Dier and Spurs, Eric and his tired legs fell victim to Paul Pogba’s fresh legs, fleet feet, and willingness to go down on contact. The penalty was soft in any league, but the fact is Dier was clearly beaten, and if not beaten there is no foul. Dier had a big block on Martial near the goal line and played no-nonsense clear-first and ask questions later football for most of the match.
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Ben Davies – 6.5
Ben Davies had a mostly quiet afternoon as the left back. Davies had solid position for most of the day and did not make any major errors. Ben had a smart header clearance early and stuck his nose in on several occasions. Davies did not provide as much forward threat as Aurier but put in a shift.
Harry Winks – 7.5
Speaking of putting in a shift, Harry Winks did that for Spurs on the day. Winks quietly worked to find positions to get the ball, create space, and lay on a good pass.
The midfielder led Spurs with 55 pass attempts, 13 more than the next closest, demonstrating how much time Winks spent on the ball. Even his distribution was good, with more than 1/3 of his passes moving forward. A nice return for Winks.
Moussa Sissoko – 7.5
Following a four-month injury-imposed layoff, Moussa Sissoko should have been rusty. Instead, we saw much of what makes Sissoko so important for the team, a box-to-box midfielder that provides cover defensively and pressure offensively. In truth, Sissoko was not sharp by any means, but he was very active and had one HUGE play when he cut out a late Fernandes pass to Rashford with a desperate reach on 94 minutes. Clearly exhausted, Sissoko found it in him to make the play, that is what we want in the shirt!
Steven Bergwijn – 8
Steven Bergwijn probably was not the first name on the transfer list for most fans back in January, however, he continues to show why Mourinho and company sought the young Dutchman. Reminiscent of some of the Adama Traore plays we have seen this season, Bergwijn latched onto Aurier’s cleated pass forward and made United’s defense, particularly Harry Maguire, look like a bunch of rec leaguers. It took two touches for Bergwijn to dust two defenders and then one powerful shot to leave David de Gea with a moment to forget. Bergwijn is clearly a difference maker and his pace and power bring something unique for Tottenham to the Spurs attack.
Heung-Min Son – 7
Following a whirlwind of a break, Heung-Min Son was – along with Erik Lamela – the most active Spur on the day. Playing as a winger opposite Bergwijn in Mourinho’s 4-4-2, Son was really all over the pitch. The South Korean had more touches than anyone that was not a fullback – including one more than Winks. Sonny managed to get 4 shots off on the day and forced a terrific save out of de Gea off a Bergwijn cross. Like Sissoko, Son was not sharp, but you could see what he brings on his return from his own broken arm.
Erik Lamela – 7
Seven players had more touches than Erik Lamela, however, apart from Bergwijn’s goal, none had those touches in better positions than Erik Lamela. At times, particularly in the first half, it appeared that Lamela was bossing the game, as he harassed United defensively and continued to find space playing as a second striker off Harry Kane.
Lamela was able to pick up the ball in positions with the potential to really hurt United, but that was the problem, they were only potential. Lamela had four big chances to play the ball that would have broken Spurs through, and he missed on all four. So, it is a good news bad news situation, the good news is he was where he needed to be, the bad was the end product. Let’s hope that end product improves, as Spurs cannot afford for the worst passer on the pitch to be in the most important role.
Harry Kane – 5
In the player return that was likely most anticipated, Harry Kane was a bit more than rusty, particularly compared to Sissoko and Son. Over the last couple of seasons Kane’s activity level has dwindled, but today there was not enough movement for Kane to get involved. Part of what made Harry Kane so great when he first broke through with Spurs was his relentlessness, both on and off the ball. That same drive seems to be lacking and you add in a surgery and injury absence and you get what you get, which was not much. The striker only took one shot on the night, which was a tame effort off the wall on a later free-kick. If Tottenham are to make a run in the league for the Top Four, Harry Kane must find that drive and the net.
Gedson Fernandes – 6
Gedson Fernandes came on to replace Erik Lamela in the second striker role next to Harry Kane. On his first touch, Fernandes held the ball up well, took a couple dribbles, then was fouled.
Cannot ask for much more in terms of hold-up play from a substitute second striker. However, from there things kind of went downhill for Fernandes.
He was knocked off the ball too easily on a couple occasion, giving United chances to break. Fernandes has some promise but must be stronger to make it in England.
Giovanni Lo Celso – 6.5
Lo Celso did some of what Lo Celso normally does, which is pick up the ball in decent positions and get fouled.
Tottenham had two decent free kick opportunities during the last ten minutes and Lo Celso created them both. However, the Argentine tenacity defensively that really endears Lo Celso to the Tottenham faithful was not there in his cameo today. It was clear Lo Celso is struggling for fitness and may even be playing a big hurt still, neither of which bode well for Spurs.
Spurs Strategy and Coaching
Jose Mourinho – 6
At the end of the day, I was most disappointed in Jose Mourinho of all the Tottenham performances. Let’s face it Ole Gunnar Solskjaer out-coached Mourinho today. United were first to make a substitute and that turned the tide. After Mourinho countered, again United brought on more players and were able to tip the scales in their favor.
In the end, United used all 5 of their substitutes, when Tottenham did not even use the normal three allowed, let alone 5. While I know using 5 substitutes would have gone against the narrative Mourinho is creating, Ndombele, Sessegnon, and Alderweireld could have given 10 minutes of solid football when the team was clearly out of gas.
To get beat to both the first punch and at the coaching counterpunch was disappointing for me. I am a fan of Jose, but I expect more, even if the shots end up being blanks or misses, take the shots. If Tottenham is going to get back in the top four race, they need a little Mourinho magic.