Leverkusen – The Wake Up Call?

I had the weirdest dream about tonight’s match against Bayer Leverkusen. Eleven men wearing Spurs shirts and shorts ambled onto the Wembley pitch but it became very obvious from the first seconds that they had never played football before in their lives. Odd.

And then I woke up from the dream to wonder if I was still asleep and in a dream in which I woke up…

There is one thing upon which we will all agree: if Spurs play that way on Sunday, it will be utter carnage. Bayer are 10th in the Bundesliga and inconsistent to the point of being consistently so. Arsenal are in good form and capable of inflicting a thrashing in one of the two games each season we don’t want to lose.

I can think of no positives from last night, not one. No player stood out as having a good game and more than a few were appalling. From the opening seconds, we were nervous, making basic errors and unable to string more than half a pass together.

The seconds after kick-off set the tone with Bayer pressing and forcing mistakes when none were warranted. This had the hallmarks of a team overawed by their surroundings. No player will admit it but playing at Wembley has got inside their heads and must be confined to a one-season experiment. It’s great that more fans get to see it but what you rather? That or making the knockout stages? I’ll take the latter every time.

I started the last paragraph slating Kyle Walker and he was awful last night, his worst game for quite some time but no-one escapes censure. Defeat should have been by a greater margin and we couldn’t have complained. That’s not to say we didn’t miss chances. You know it’s not going to be your evening when Christian Eriksen shoots straight at the ‘keeper with the whole of the goal to aim at.

Mauricio Pochettino said he was ’embarrassed’; humiliated might be a better word to choose.

The second half started more promisingly than the first, more energy and purpose as if the players actually took notice of the manager’s words. It didn’t last, the same mistakes quickly crept back into play. This was the nadir of recent weeks by a long way.

Incredibly, the stats show we had more possession than Bayer, significantly so. It underlines that it isn’t how much you have the ball but what you do with it that matters more. The Germans looked more threatening than us even if most of their moves broke down when they reached the area.

At times, their passing was as bad as ours but it felt as if they might create a genuine opening every time they had the ball. And when the goal came, it felt inevitable. Statuesque defending, poor marking and an inability to play the offside trap properly all condemned us to defeat when Kampl scored.

It means defeat in Monaco – assuming Bayer beat CSKA – will condemn us to the Europa League. Before that is the trip to Arsenal. Three days to get the players house in order and a sparkling performance – you owe us that.

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