Tottenham Hotspur suffered their first defeat, falling to Sporting Club Portugal on Tuesday night in Lisbon.
It may be Tottenham’s first defeat of the season, but the writing has been on the wall since their second Premier League game. Spurs have looked leggy, confused, and primarily repetitive in their direct but usually lacklustre football.
Wins have rightly papered over the cracks and have birthed an argument that this football is clinical and will get Tottenham results. This may still be the case, but their defeat in the Portuguese capital clearly alerts us that a change in tactics is necessary.
Two changes seem obvious at Tottenham at the moment
Antonio Conte focuses his attacks through the width of a wing-back system whilst deploying three centre-backs against every team. The patterns of play show the ball being moved out to Ivan Perisic and Emerson Royal countless times, but there’s one major flaw in the system at the moment, and that’s Emerson.
I’m not his biggest critic, and I do still feel that there is a player there, but I also believe that he shouldn’t be starting for Tottenham. Matt Doherty had hit form before his injury towards the end of last season, and whilst Emerson did step up in the last several games, Doherty or Djed Spence look to be the more compelling option over a player who’s not quite sure of his game, both defensively and offensively.
Dropping Son does make sense for Spurs at this point
Son Heung-Min has now gone 8 games without registering a goal. However, the real cause for concern with Son is his all-round game seems to be a few levels below what he’s achieved in previous seasons. The obvious answer suggests rotating him for Dejan Kulusevski, yet we’re not seeing this switch being made. Frustrating, to say the least.
Kulusevski brings a direct brand of football and even if he fails to contribute to goals and assists in a game, he’s capable of winning free kicks in dangerous areas and balancing the attacking line with Richarlison and Harry Kane.
Persevering with Son makes some sense due to his impressive record last season and his threatening ability. Nevertheless, running him through a terrible patch of form doesn’t seem beneficial, especially when Kulusevski has been playing well and Richarlison can play on the left in Son’s place.
Ultimately, Spurs’ defeat brought to bear the flaws in the current set-up, fortunately, answers exist to those flaws if Conte is willing to make a couple of changes.