5 talking points from Tottenham’s 1-0 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League at Wembley
Tottenham suffered a 1-0 defeat against Bayer Leverkusen in Group E of the Champions League at Wembley Stadium tonight. Here are five talking points.
1. Risky rotation
The decisions to start with Heung-Min Son up front and Moussa Sissoko in midfield were understandable. Spurs’ last victory, against Manchester City, came with Son leading the line, while striker Vincent Janssen is yet to score from open play - and this was the only game that Sissoko was able to start out of four matches due to a domestic ban.
However, Mauricio Pochettino also opted to leave Danny Rose on the bench and field Ben Davies at left-back.
Rotation is important, of course, and Spurs are approaching the end of a testing spell featuring seven games in 23 days.
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However, at this stage of the season, a Champions League defeat is much more costly than a Premier League reverse as there are far fewer opportunities to recover and make amends.
Spurs needed a home win to give themselves some breathing room in a tight European group, and Rose seemed the better man for that job, especially given the extra width of the Wembley pitch.
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On the other hand, Davies had struggled in Spurs’ previous game at the national stadium, against Monaco. It looked like a risky call from Pochettino to leave his best left-back on the bench and Davies failed to justify the decision.
Then again, the Welshman was certainly not the only Spurs player to put in a poor display. There were many contenders for the worst performer but Sissoko probably takes the title after a lumbering, error-strewn outing. He looked like a centre-back having a go at being a winger in a meaningless end-of-season match, and he probably only finished the game because he won’t be playing on Sunday due to suspension.
2. Spurs look drained of confidence.
Tottenham went into the game struggling for goals but that quickly became the least of their problems – simple touches and passes seemed to be beyond them and Pochettino cut a hugely frustrated figure on the touchline as his players repeatedly gave the ball away.
Pochettino swapped Mousa Dembele for Janssen after 30 minutes – the Belgian appeared to be struggling with a knock – and switched from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-1-4-1 system but it did little to improve matters.
The best thing about the opening 45 minutes from Tottenham’s perspective was that it ended goalless, and there was little improvement after the break so it was hardly a surprise when Leverkusen took the lead in the 65th minute, with Kevin Kampl tucking the ball home from close range.
Eric Dier hit the crossbar in the final 10 minutes with a free kick but Spurs thoroughly deserved to lose and there were precious few silver linings (see point 5 for an attempt at a positive).
3. The Champions League adventure could be a brief one.
Tottenham have now dropped into third place in Group E and face an uphill battle to reach the knockout stages.
With Monaco beating CSKA Moscow 3-0 in the group’s other match tonight, Spurs are now four points behind the leaders and two behind Leverkusen with two games to play.
History suggests that 10 points is generally the target for qualification but Pochettino’s Lilywhites have only managed to pick up four from their four matches so far.
4. And now derby day approaches…
Sunday’s clash with north London rivals Arsenal at the Emirates is coming at a bad time for Tottenham. They are completely lacking in confidence and momentum and their only two goals in the last five games have been penalties, while their defensive solidity also abandoned them on this occasion.
Meanwhile, the Gunners go into the game on a high after fighting back from two goals down to beat Lodogorets with a late winner on Tuesday – and they have scored seven goals in their last two outings.
Perhaps the heat of the derby will bring Spurs back to life, and it is certainly a good time for them to unleash their frustrations and rediscover their best form – but Arsene Wenger’s side are certainly going into the showdown in better form.
5. At least the attendance was good!
Spurs’ players didn’t turn up but the fans certainly did and they can at least console themselves with the fact that they have set a new club record attendance. There were 85,512 people in the stands at Wembley tonight, and the vast majority of them deserved better (the others were supporting Leverkusen).
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs