Spurs defender rues costly error in home debut against Stoke
Toby Alderweireld admits it was a bitter blow to make a key error in his home debut against Stoke on Saturday, and the defender has held his hands up for his part in Tottenham’s collapse.
But the summer signing says Spurs must learn to control the game better when they are ahead, and to keep the pressure on their opponents rather than inviting it upon themselves.
The signing of Alderweireld – along with fellow centre-back Kevin Wimmer, and right-back Kieran Trippier – was designed to shore up a Lilywhites defence that conceded 53 goals in their 38 league games last season.
But, with Spurs seemingly heading for a 2-0 victory over Stoke at the Lane on Saturday, Alderweireld put his hands on Potters substitute Joselu just inside the penalty area to concede a 78th-minute spot kick – and the resulting goal was followed by an equaliser as Mauricio Pochettino’s side threw away two points.
While Joselu appeared to go down easily, Alderweireld had no complaints about the decision and directed the criticism at himself.
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“Last season [at Southampton] I didn’t make one mistake,” said the 26-year-old. “I want to prove myself very much here and so it feels very bad for me when I make a mistake in my first home game. I have to go back and work very hard to improve my game and I’ve got to learn about it.
“I was just trying to win the ball and if I had just stood behind him [Joselu] he couldn’t have done anything so it was stupid of me.
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“I think Spurs is a massive club so of course I’m happy to play here, to sign here. I want to give 100 per cent and I think until the penalty it was ok, and then I made a mistake. That’s part of being a defender but of course I’m very disappointed about it.”
While Alderweireld was cross with himself after the rapid downturn in Spurs’ fortunes on Saturday, he believes the whole team has lessons to learn.
The Belgium international spent last season on loan with Southampton, who boasted the second-best defensive record in the Premier League after champions Chelsea – and he was disappointed with Spurs’ attempt to see out the game against Stoke.
“I think in the first half we played a good half,” he said. “We were 2-0 up so nothing bad happens and then in the second half we didn’t play football any more.
“We couldn’t keep the pressure on them and they kept on coming and, from a fault of mine, it’s a penalty. Then we just had to get over the line with the three points and we didn’t do that.
“Until the penalty it’s quite ok, they had a couple of chances but not too much. I think you have to play better because if you don’t play football any more they can keep putting pressure on you, put more guys in the box and then it’s very difficult to defend every ball.
“At Southampton, Victor Wanyama and [Morgan] Schneiderlin put good pressure on so the opposition didn’t have time to put the ball in the box. It makes it easier for defenders.
“I think everybody worked very hard for each other and tried to do their best, and of course maybe if I didn’t concede the foul for the penalty it would have been different.
That’s football, sometimes people make mistakes and unfortunately this time it was me.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs