In a Europa League shocker, Royal Antwerp defeated Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 tonight, ending an unbeaten run of ten matches for Jose Mourinho’s side.
Tottenham made nine changes from the side that defeated Burnley 0-1 on Monday and struggled to click from the off. Antwerp scored on 29 minutes through Lior Refaelov following a suicidal mistake from Ben Davies, and despite making four changes at half-time – and introducing Harry Kane on 58 minutes – Tottenham simply couldn’t break the Belgian side down.
Here are 5 talking points from this disappointing loss for Tottenham.
#1 Did Tottenham’s changes cause them to struggle?
Much has been made thus far into 2020-21 of the depth of Tottenham’s squad, particularly following the recent transfer window. With so many fixtures to navigate during the current campaign, being able to give key men like Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min a rest, on paper at least, should be a good thing for Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho.
However, where chopping and changing his team worked last week during Tottenham’s win over LASK, it fell horribly flat here. Mourinho made a total of nine changes from the side that beat Burnley on Monday – retaining only Hugo Lloris and Ben Davies, who changed position – and it felt like the players simply didn’t gel.
On too many occasions in the first half, Tottenham looked disjointed, particularly in attack. Dele Alli, Gareth Bale, Steven Bergwijn and Carlos Vinicius all showed flashes of quality, but too many times found themselves with no options due to a seeming lack of understanding across the pitch.
Mourinho attempted to remedy this at half-time by introducing Son, Lucas Moura, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Erik Lamela – and later on, Harry Kane – but the five didn’t manage to turn Spurs’ deficit around.
Perhaps the lesson to be learned from this game is that making so many changes is always risky – and that Tottenham’s squad is still a work in progress when it comes to really gelling together.
#2 Davies’ mistake is the kind of thing Mourinho needs to iron out
While Tottenham have been phenomenal in attack this season – scoring a total of 32 goals across all competitions thus far – their defense has raised plenty of question marks. More worryingly, slack defending and individual errors have largely been to blame for the goals they’ve conceded.
That was again the case tonight, as Ben Davies dallied on the ball a little too much before being mugged by Antwerp’s Dieumerci Mbokani. Mbokani’s pass to set up Lior Refaelov’s goal was picture-perfect, but by that point Tottenham were simply caught too flat-footed to respond anyway.
The second half then saw another handful of silly mistakes – most notably a loose back-pass from Harry Winks – that could easily have handed Antwerp a bigger win than the 1-0 victory they came away with.
Tottenham do have plenty of talent in defense, and Davies is usually one of their more reliable players. However, if they really want to move up to the next level by challenging for the Premier League title or winning the Europa League, they need to iron out their silly mistakes as soon as possible.