5 talking points from Tottenham’s 0-0 draw at Bournemouth
Spurs played out their second goalless draw in the space of five days after a 0-0 tie against Bournemouth on the south coast. Here are five talking points.
1. Vincent Janssen is dropped (or is it just squad rotation?)
The summer signing has only scored one goal in six starts and 13 appearances for Tottenham and, although Mauricio Pochettino defended the Dutchman on Thursday and stated the 22-year-old simply needs support and patience, he dropped the forward for today’s game at Bournemouth and picked Heung-Min Son up front instead.
There may have been an element of squad rotation in the decision – a busy period featuring seven games in 23 days continues with a League Cup tie at Anfield on Tuesday.
However, Victor Wanyama, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli had also started the previous two games against West Bromwich Albion and Bayer Leverkusen, and all three of them were selected again at Bournemouth. Pochettino also picked Danny Rose, even though the left-back headed out of Leverkusen’s stadium on Tuesday night wearing a protective boot after bruising his foot.
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It seemed clear that this was Pochettino’s strongest available line-up, and Janssen was not in it. However, Son struggled to make an impact up front and Janssen was summoned from the bench 15 minutes into the second half.
He held the ball up well on a couple of occasions but was unable to break the deadlock as Tottenham drew a blank for the second game in a row. Pochettino still has a conundrum as he awaits Harry Kane’s return to fitness.
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2. Moussa Dembele returns to the starting line-up in an advanced midfield role.
Some have questioned how the Belgian will fit into Pochettino’s new 4-1-4-1 system and the answer came today.
Dembele started his first game since the change from the 4-2-3-1 formation and was given a role as one of the four attacking midfielders.
While he is regaining match fitness, he displayed his offensive and defensive qualities - particularly when he hared back to dispossess Max Gradel in the 89th minute – and he looks well suited to the role.
The only issue is that Dembele, Alli and Eriksen would all like to be playing in central areas, and Lamela also tends to come infield off the flank. At times the quartet seemed to get in each other’s way. Does there need to be more natural width behind the striker?
3. Spurs get a taste of their own medicine.
Tottenham encountered a Bournemouth team who employ a similar style and the Cherries’ ferocious pressing in the opening 25 minutes gave them problems, affecting their ability to play out from the back and settle into their usual rhythm.
Jan Vertonghen was hassled by Joshua King and Wanyama was clattered when he miscontrolled a pass from Hugo Lloris, who made a superb early save, denying Charlie Daniels at close range.
On occasions, Tottenham had to play five or six quick, accurate and sometimes dangerous passes just to get the ball into midfield, and it took almost half an hour for them to push the Cherries back and get some time on the ball.
Indeed, Bournemouth gave as good as they got for most of the game and they were pushing for a winner in the final minutes. They deserved their draw and have enhanced their reputation further after this impressive showing.
4. Spurs show some frustration, indiscipline and petulance.
Pochettino says his players are becoming mentally stronger and more mature, but their frustrations boiled over at times in the first half and the Lilywhites were shown four yellow cards in the opening 45 minutes – more than they have collected in any other game so far this season.
While Erik Lamela and Jan Vertonghen were booked for mistimed or clumsy tackles, both Alli and Rose were disciplined for petulant challenges seemingly borne out of frustration after they were beaten by opponents.
Alli was nutmegged by Adam Smith and pulled the ex-Spurs right-back down, while Rose slid in on King from behind after being eluded by the 24-year-old.
Rose’s tackle in particular looked like punishment for a perceived lack of respect after a player from a so-called lesser team had the temerity to show a bit of flair. Pochettino’s first job at the interval was to calm a few of his players down, and he succeeded in that respect. There were no more bookings after the break.
5. A missed chance to go top.
Tottenham’s unbeaten record in the Premier League remains intact but they have now drawn their last three games in all competitions – and the last two ties have been goalless.
It underlines Spurs’ defensive solidity – even without the injured Toby Alderweireld – but their inability to score against Bournemouth cost the Lilywhites top spot, even if their position at the summit would only have been temporary ahead of the rest of the weekend’s games.
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs