Tottenham were lucky to leave Bournemouth with something positive
VAR has not been kind of late to Tottenham Hotspur, what short memories we fans have, as technically it was just last season VAR helped deliver Spurs past Manchester City. But in reality that was last year and this year, Tottenham are still trying to reach Europe and these VAR decisions have hurt. Whether it was one of the multiple goals reversed for offsides that cannot be seen by the naked eye or a phantom handball in super-slow-motion VAR has not been kind to Spurs this season and that is what matters.
On Thursday on the south coast of England VAR failed Spurs early – once again – and then did its job in an obvious situation late to save Tottenham a point. In truth, Tottenham Hotspur did not deserve to win, although a loss would have done hem wrong. With no official shots on goal in the match, it is hard to claim Spurs deserved more than the point they left with. What happened and where did things go wrong for Tottenham Hotspur against relegation bound AFC Bournemouth?
In some ways, it had to feel a bit like Deja vu for anyone on the Tottenham Hotspur sideline. Although not the same situation or call, there was just too much in common for it to not feel a bit strange or even vindictive to a Hotspur fan. The fate of a Tottenham goal or scoring opportunity was in the hands of the 5th official, the eye-in-the-sky, VAR super referee.
In this instance, it was clear from replays and frankly in real-time that Joshua King had pushed over Harry Kane with two hands as Kane went for the ball. King made zero attempts to go for the ball, hit Kane with extended arms, and was not in a natural football position. However, NBCSports leads one to believe Jan Vertonghen tripped Kane so the pushing foul did not matter. Way to tow the company line – just like with Sheffield – Kyle.
This was not the first time this season Harry Kane had been tackled in the box only for VAR to not make the call. For the beautiful game to ignore obvious and intentional fouls and resort to crop lines to call offsides by frames is completely ruining the game. Sure bad calls happen in real-time by real people, I can live with humans making mistakes in real-time without the benefit of slow-motion video – but seeing humans with technology repeatedly make calls based on belief rather than definitive evidence draws the legitimacy of the league into question.
Yes, at the 90th minute when a player clearly handled a ball on the way to goal VAR got one right. There was no guessing if the ball hit the hand or the player was fouled. It was a CLEAR AND OBVIOUS mistake or oversight, which VAR was intended for. Until VAR goes back to clear and obvious and stops re-refereeing games, we are left with nothing but complain and question motives.
All that VAR complaining aside, let me be real Tottenham Hotspur in no way deserved to win this match. That presumed shot on target for Harry Kane for the penalty that never was would have been one more than the team managed on target for the day. Then again, when Manchester United has troubling scoring Bruno Fernandes from the spot is a good way to get them started, but that is a different story and, on this day, Tottenham hurt themselves as much as Bournemouth did.
Spurs Set up to Fail
If ever there was a team set up to attack it was this Bournemouth squad. Despite the fact, Spurs were putrid Bournemouth – outside the aforementioned VAR decision and one opportunity – did not do anything more managing only two shots on target.
Completing only 184 passes on less than 70% this Bournemouth team was there for the taking throughout and Spurs were devoid of anything really.
Despite 40 lobs or passes into the box – 12 corners and 28 crosses – AND winning 29 aerial duels compared to Bournemouth’s 16, not one resulted in an effort at the net.
62 longs ball, 9 shots, over 80% passing completed, so why does this not result in more? The first issue is the formation. How against a team as poor as Bournemouth are you conservative enough to play with essentially six defensive players?
While two holding midfielders makes sense if you only have 3 backs, but when you play with a back four against a team as limp as Bournemouth with two defensive midfielders is asking to fail. Add in the extra work the wingbacks had to do covering for clearly past their primer Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld and the back six and Lloris provided zero forward progress on the day.
Toby can still ping a ball from time to time, however, without some real cover next to him, there is just too much help required from Aurier providing help. On this day Serge had his own hands full with the speedy Junior Stanislas on the wing, not to mention helping cover on King and Callum Wilson. While Jan and Toby were great two years ago, they are fodder for young legs today. There was a reason Harry Kane led the team in clearances today.
Just as Serge spent more time helping on defense, so too did Ben Davies, who completely lost his aggressiveness following a terrible collision with former Spur Adam Smith. Smith was stretchered off on the play and Davies just was not the same.
Besides a defensive approach, Spurs went back to inverted wingers crowding the middle and Erik Lamela again showed why we cannot sell him when you cannot play a decent pass outside a wide ball in the box. Add in Lo Celso and Bergwijn doing so little they were yanked at half-time and it was just a sorry performance from an un-balanced team that got exactly what they were set up for, a crappy performance.
With another opportunity to pass a rival in the standing gone and the North London Derby coming on Sunday, Spurs and Jose Mourinho better figure things out and fast or the stands might be empty for a different reason next season.