Spurs go through with worst possible performance

Posted by Dan Fitch

Have you heard the news? Tottenham Hotspur got the result they needed at the San Siro and are now through to the last eight of the Europa League.

That's the positive spin. Now here's a thick slice of reality. Spurs were a complete mess on Thursday. They lost 4-1 and are extremely lucky to have gone through.

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The potential absence of both the suspended Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon had me worried. Sure enough, when the team was announced, Lennon was missing.

That wasn't the only worrying aspect. Kyle Naughton was playing at left-back with Gylfi Sigurdsson in front of him, ensuring zero width on the left. Scott Parker and Jake Livermore were again paired in midfield despite failing to impress against Liverpool.

Then there was the formation. Jermain Defoe was paired with Emmanuel Adebayor in attack. Spurs were playing 4-4-2 against a team that were duty-bound to attack. Was this suicide or would it pay off?

Things started pretty brightly. Tottenham had a lot of possession and were knocking the ball around very well. Defoe and Adebayor were able to come wide and compensate for the lack of natural width in the midfield. Maybe this was going to work out after all.

Yet even during this period, there was evidence that all was not well. Every time Inter got the ball they pinged it over the top of Spurs' defence, where the pacy Rodrigo Palacio was waiting to try and break the offside trap.

Eventually, Palacio found space and crossed for Antonio Cassano to head home in the 20th minute. After that, things got really painful.

Spurs were playing far too high a defensive line, considering that William Gallas and Brad Friedel were in the starting XI. You either adapt the tactics, or play Steven Caulker and Hugo Lloris instead. It simply can’t work.

Friedel made some very good saves to keep Tottenham in the game, but Lloris makes such a difference to the way the team can push up confidently. In contrast, there is nothing positive to say about Gallas’ performance. He was absolutely woeful tonight. So bad, in fact, that one can only hope that it has ensured he will never be picked again.

Then there was the midfield. Moussa Dembele replaced Lennon on the right. Once again, he did a very good job. Once again, he was sorely missed in central midfield.

Is Jake Livermore good enough to play for Spurs? Maybe he is and maybe he isn’t (and on this evidence, he isn’t), but the youngster hasn't been helped this season by the fact that pretty much every game he's started has been alongside either Sandro or Parker.

Where’s the creativity going to come from? Parker was another player who had a really poor game. He was great in the home leg, but again, he isn’t helped being paired with a player who can only do a similar job. Neither Parker nor Livermore possess the passing range to play alongside each other.

Up front, Defoe and Adebayor looked as off the pace as they have for most of the season. Do you remember when they were first paired together at the start of last season and looked such a lively partnership? Was it a dream?

The 1-0 scoreline became 2-0 in the second half, then 3-0 to send the game into extra time. Inter were by far the better team, with Cassano dropping deep and causing chaos with his through balls.

Then came the one redeeming aspect of the match. Just when it seemed as if this trip to the San Siro would be added to the huge list of famous Tottenham collapses, the team started to show some backbone.

Spurs started extra time looking like a different side. Jan Vertonghen went close with a header that was superbly saved, before Gallas (who else?) missed a sitter.

Eventually, the pressure was rewarded when Dembele’s shot was pushed out and Adebayor slid in the rebound from close range to score a vital away goal.

Of course, it almost goes without saying that things went back to normal at that point, with Inter scoring a fourth to make it 4-1 and ensuring every Spurs fan would watch the last 10 minutes fearing a heart attack.

If Tottenham were looking to prove that they are not a one-man team, then they badly failed. I'm looking forward to that one man returning to the side against Fulham and a much-better performance. It certainly can't be worse.

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