#3 What can we make of Mourinho’s half-time changes?
When Tottenham fell behind before half-time and failed to find an equalizer, it was pretty clear that boss Jose Mourinho was not happy. We soon found out what his response was, as he hooked Giovani Lo Celso, Dele Alli, Steven Bergwijn and Carlos Vinicius at half-time in favor of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Erik Lamela, Son Heung Min and Lucas Moura.
So what can we make of these substitutions? Was this just a case of Mourinho being desperate to avoid Tottenham slumping to a disappointing loss? Or can we look further into things, as the press undoubtedly will tomorrow morning?
It’s honestly hard to say. None of the four men substituted had an absolute stinker tonight. Tottenham’s issue – as was mentioned earlier – seemed to be more around their link-up play more than anything else, and in fact Alli and Vinicius both showed some flashes of quality.
The likelihood is that – like when Eric Dier was substituted before half-time in last season’s win over Olympiacos – Mourinho simply felt like he needed to make changes before it was too late. If that’s the case, then none of the four substituted players have anything to worry about.
But if there is something deeper going on, it should be a worry for Tottenham – and probably for Alli most of all. An incident like this will no doubt add fuel to the fire in terms of the reports of his Tottenham career perhaps being over.
#4 Antwerp defended marvelously
For as poor as Tottenham were tonight, it must be said that Royal Antwerp put in a performance to be proud of. Not only did they create enough chances to have won this game by a stronger score than 1-0, but they also defended brilliantly.
Former Leicester defender Richie de Laet, in particular, was excellent, throwing in several last-ditch tackles to prevent goalscoring opportunities. A block from Carlos Vinicius in the first half was perhaps his best moment, but when Tottenham poured on the pressure in the second half, he was a rock.
His defensive partners Jeremy Gelin and Abdoulaye Seck were also fantastic, both being willing to put their bodies on the line to stop Tottenham from scoring – even if Seck threw in more than one highly questionable challenge.
Higher up the pitch, meanwhile, Dieumerci Mbokani, Koji Miyoshi and Simen Juklerod were also brilliant, constantly pressuring Tottenham’s defense and never giving them room to breathe.
Antwerp now have six points on the board, and given that this group also contains LASK – who were poor against Spurs last week – and Ludogorets, the Belgian side should hold every hope of making it into the knockout stages of the Europa League.
#5 Will Tottenham regret introducing Harry Kane?
When Tottenham signed Carlos Vinicius in last month’s transfer window, the idea was that the Brazilian striker would take the pressure off Harry Kane and allow the England captain to miss some games, giving him some much-needed rest.
However, when the chips were down tonight and Tottenham were 1-0 down, Jose Mourinho couldn’t resist introducing his star man. Kane couldn’t find a way through Royal Antwerp’s defense despite being on the pitch for well over half an hour, but will his appearance here be something Mourinho lives to regret?
Sure, the England talisman came off the pitch tonight no worse for wear. In fact, it’d be hard to recall any kind of physical challenge he was involved in. But at the end of the day, the minutes all add up – and who’s to say that his exertion here won’t cause an injury later down the line?
The truth is that even with tonight’s loss, Tottenham should qualify for the knockout stages of this competition with ease. With that in mind, perhaps Mourinho should’ve resisted the urge to deploy Kane, leaving him much fresher for the more important Premier League matches that will be coming up very soon.