In what has become like a recurring bad dream, a rotated Tottenham Hotspur team could hardly bother against a ‘lesser’ opponent in a cup competition, and Spurs are out as a result.
Over the last 15 years since Tottenham Hotspur last won silverware, these losses have become quite predictable for Spurs. Whether it is losing to Colchester United on penalties, blowing a two-goal lead against Dinamo Zagreb, or falling to Middlesborough, these losses to teams Tottenham is supposed to be better than have become the norm. Thus, on the script on Wednesday evening in a dreary Sheffield, Spurs performed poorly, leading to another lamentable cup loss and another opportunity for silverware gone.
What went right for Tottenham in the loss to Sheffield?
There was not much that Spurs did well on Wednesday. The only thing seemingly right was the rotation of the squad, getting players like Harry Kane and Cristian Romero some much-needed rest. Of course, that rotation only seemed right because after the game started, the players involved seemed unbothered by the task.
Spurs never got out of first gear from start to finish, as the Blades looked like the team that wanted to advance and got what they wanted. We could complain about the lack of VAR and how maybe Sheffield should have played most of the match with 10 men, but that may not have even mattered given the effort on display from Spurs.
Giveaways are a big problem for Spurs
One of the biggest reasons Tottenham struggled to put pressure on Wes Foderingham in the Sheffield goal was that Spurs struggled to maintain possession. While the rainy conditions did not help, completing only 83% of their passes and losing possession 21 other times made it difficult for the team to get into any rhythm or flow with the ball.
The loss of possession was particularly acute with the front three. Son, Richarlison, and Lucas Moura were dispossessed or turned the ball over 14 of the 21 times. Heung-min Son was especially egregious, losing possession seven different times. Spurs’ inability to hold the ball in attack and keep possession meant the team could never pin Sheffield in deep defensively and dominate the match, as they should have.
Is it a lack of depth or desire with the team?
As a fan, the biggest issue is that this was not a situation where Sheffield was more talented. Eight of the Tottenham starting 11 are full-fledged international players. While there is a drop in ability between Kane and Richarlison, Richy did lead the line very well for Brazil in the World Cup. We could sit here and point fingers at ENIC, Daniel Levy, and the lack of spending, or Antonio Conte and the staff for a lack of preparation; however, that would be missing the problem.
The problem is that the eleven players who started did not give their best effort from start to finish, so Spurs lost. Worse, this is not the first time we have seen many of these same players do the same thing.
While those previous gaffs connecting to the current speak to the need to overhaul the team and point some fingers at management, management does not walk on the field and give less than 100% effort; the players did that against Sheffield.
While ENIC is not doing anything to help end this cup drought, at this point, it is obvious that neither are the players. Thus, another lamentable loss was far too predictable.