Mistakes Doom Tottenham Against Bright and Hungry Leicester

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 20: Serge Aurier of Tottenham Hotspur fouls Wesley Fofana of Leicester City leading to a penalty after a VAR check. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 20: Serge Aurier of Tottenham Hotspur fouls Wesley Fofana of Leicester City leading to a penalty after a VAR check. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) /

What seemed to be answers for Tottenham Hotspur a few weeks ago have become questions as defensive mistakes doomed Spurs who fell to Leicester City.

Tottenham Hotspur sat back and let Leicester City play with the ball for most of the first half and ultimately paid the price. A stupid Serge Aurier foul giving away a terrible penalty shifted the game and left Spurs again looking in the mirror for answers. A team that looked like it could score anytime it had the ball a few weeks ago looked lifeless and devoid of ideas offensively for most of the day. So, what happened in the 0-2 loss to Leicester City?

Out of Focus from the Off

Tottenham came out and looked like they wanted to do something early, well in the first five minutes anyway.  Tottenham had two free kicks in the first three minutes as Tanguy Ndombele was getting on the ball in the midfield and finding ways to get the ball to Harry Kane.

After the first free kick just missed Son at the back post and likewise the second set piece led to nothing Spurs were going to really play today. It seemed Spurs were starting off lively and well, then things started going south at the five-minute mark and it started with someone you would not expect it too, Pierre Højbjerg.

Spurs Foul-a-thon

Pierre Højbjerg was defending James Maddison a good 30-35 yards from goal with Maddison facing his own goal. This is where the stupidity of the day began as Højbjerg put a late foot in and down goes Maddison like a dead weight and Craig Pawson blows the whistle.

The call was the first of 15 fouls on Spurs on the day. Almost all of which were lazy, poor decisions by the players, which cost Spurs possession and put pressure on the defense time and again. From Højbjerg’s dumb foul to start on Maddison, to Aurier giving away the game, and on to Winks getting yet another stupid yellow card, Spurs were lazy defensively and got what they deserved for it.

Spurs Had Some Opportunities

Tottenham did have a couple half chances but could not make Leicester pay as the first half continued. On 15 minutes Heung-Min Son had the ball on the left in the box after he was played in by Kane. However, instead of shooting he tried to slot the ball back-post to Tanguy Ndombele who could not reach the ball and the chance went by.

Tottenham had a free kick of their own at 33 minutes, but Kane’s shot deflected off Johnny Evans elbow and harmlessly to Kasper Schmeichel. I am not sure if VAR looked at the play or not, but Evans clearly stuck his elbow out, but nothing was given and the game went on.

Kane had another chance at 40 minutes but could not connect on his header well enough to get something on target. The game was back and forth without Hugo Lloris really being troubled, until the game would change at the stroke of halftime with yet another dumb Spurs foul.

Game Changing Moment

Tottenham where defending in their own end and trying to get the ball out, when Serge Aurier ran into the back of Wesley Fofana. Fofana is a big defender who should not go over so easily, but it was dumb play by Aurier on the corner of the box, with the player facing away from goal. It was about as far away from a goal scoring opportunity as a penalty kick could be, yet that was what VAR awarded – and correctly.

Of course, Jamie Vardy dispatched the team’s 8th penalty goal this season and Leicester took the lead into the half. Maybe it was deserved, but not really, as Leicester only had 4 total shots in the first half, including the penalty. We knew before the match Leicester would be looking for a penalty, Spurs should have known that too.

Despite having a bit more possession, outside of the opportunities Spurs were gifting the Foxes, Leicester was not going to score. But as has been the case all season for Leicester, they got a fortunate call at a fortunate time and the game was turned in that moment.

Tottenham Lose Man and Match

Tottenham Hotspur had lost the game only five minutes into the second half, before the own goal from Toby Alderweireld sealed Spurs fate. We give José Mourinho a lot of rope here at HotspurHQ, but he made an inexplicably horrible decision in taking off Tanguy Ndombele at half-time for Gareth Bale instead of Giovani Lo Celso.

Lo Celso was a complete passenger in the first half doing absolutely nothing. Tanguy Ndombele on the other hand was not great, but he was adding pressure defensively and was picking up the ball in the middle of the park and moving it around. Regardless of why, Mourinho decided to stick with Lo Celso and pull Ndombele.

This move completely backfired as moments into the second half, Lo Celso was on the ground clutching his hamstring and had to be pulled off just 4 minutes in for Lucas Moura. Now Spurs had an attack consisting of three wingers and Harry Kane. Despite having a bigger bench Tottenham were still short of what they needed, when they knew Leicester were strong up the middle.

Without a recognized attacking midfielder, Tottenham had no impetus in their attack and never even got a sniff of goal in the second half.  Spurs could have played Leicester for three days and likely would not have scored. However, Leicester were able to make something out of nothing on the other end and seal the match.

Defend the Man and the Ball

The second goal for Leicester City was a lesson in abject defending from Tottenham Hotspur and they deserved to concede the own goal. On the play Leicester only had two players in the attack and Tottenham had five players back defensively. Three Spurs were on the left and two were on the right.

The three Tottenham defenders on the left just kept backing up and watching James Justin freely dribble with the ball. Whereas Spurs were in the grill of players like Kevin De Bruyne when they had the ball in dangerous positions like this, some 30 yards from goal, all three Spurs stood their watching as Justin had all day to pick out his cross.

On the other side of the field, Alderweireld and Sissoko were watching too, as Vardy was able to attack the ball between the two helpless defenders and then headed the ball into Toby and it bounced into the goal. Game, set, match as Spurs were listless on the other end and now were down two, without giving up a single real clear-cut chance on goal.

Tottenham Lost It More than Leicester Won it

If you take away the penalty kick, Leicester only had 3 shots on goal the entire game and none were close to scoring. However, you do not defend a simple play where people are back, and you give up stupid penalties and this is what you get. Leicester had turned two plays of nothing into two goals and Spurs were making a mess of things on the other end.

For a team that was in first place at the beginning of the week to likely be outside the top four come boxing day is just inexcusable. I watch many Tottenham games multiple times, even in defeat, unfortunately Spurs could not pay me to watch that poor showing again. Now with only 1 win in the last five Premier League matches and two straight defeats, Tottenham have more questions than answers and the only place they can look is at themselves.

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