Outfoxed But Not Out Of It

Tottenham Hotspur 1 – 1 Leicester City

Four weeks ago, a vibrant and energetic Tottenham – without Harry Kane – beat Manchester City 2 – 0. Not just beat them, made them look ordinary. Since then, that Tottenham has been replaced by a lethargic and unimaginative Tottenham. Wherever the other one is hiding, returning to action this week against Bayer Leverkusen and Arsenal would be most appreciated.

Three consecutive draws have seen us drop to the fourth in the Premier League, three points behind Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool. Grim reading.

There were bright spots, positives to take from the performance. Vincent Janssen scored – from a penalty, what else? – for the first time, two games in a row; Dele Alli rattled the bar and forced a good save out of Schmeichel. He wasn’t the only one to do so but the efforts were from range rather than the delightful attacking displays of last season.

And that’s the concern. We’re lacking invention and a killer touch in front of goal. Both are needed, not one of the other. Too much of the attacking threat came from Walker on the right, begging the question where were the others when they were needed? And where is the depth on the bench? Can you honestly say that we can look at it and identify the spark, the catalyst? There’s a lot of Ant and Dec moments: “It could be you”; “It might be you”, but no-one I can definitely say, “It will be you” about.

There’s the problem. When a team like Leicester puts nine men behind the ball, strung across the pitch, we struggle to break them down. Their aerial ability almost renders crossing the ball more about playing percentages – hit and hope. Which leaves trying to play through them; we didn’t make the runs, lacked dynamism to make that work.

The first ball to Janssen or Son wasn’t always good but you accept that happens but to not support them properly is madness. Too often the forward was left isolated as others as they waited for something to happen, for someone to take the lead.

Leicester’s goal was entirely avoidable. Vardy broke at pace, squared for Musa to score. Simple, basic football, something we know to expect from them. They are a functional side and it was disappointing to concede in the way we did.

The words Poch used afterwards were telling:

We are still strong and unbeaten in the league, that is very important. It’s true we are fighting and it’s difficult to win games recently but the team showed it is strong enough.

“Strong”, “fighting”, “strong enough”; words of attrition. I like that the manager defends the players in public, it’s how it should be for the most part. Just occasionally, saying we aren’t good enough is an admission which can be cathartic.

He believes we deserved to win. On the first half, possibly, but in the second, I thought it was an even game. Ranieri apparently hasn’t lost to Tottenham in the Premier League in eleven matches which is a record I find staggering. And entirely believable based on this afternoon’s performance.

A point is better than none, that’s for certain but lose next weekend and the gap is six points, one which will leave the seeds of doubt growing in the players’ minds. There’s a lot of work to be done in the next few days.