Wembley not to blame for Tottenham Hotspur’s Europa League exit to Belgium outfit Gent
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Mauricio Pochettino may have found a solution to Spurs’ previous woes at the national stadium
In black and white, it was another game at Wembley for Tottenham Hotspur and another result that wasn’t good enough, but behind the 2-2 draw with Gent was a performance full of character and a backing from the Spurs fans that made the national stadium feel like home.
There was genuine belief and optimism that Tottenham could actually beat the Belgium side on aggregate despite having 10 men for the whole of the second half.
In all honesty, Spurs should have progressed, even despite Dele Alli’s red card, and what let them down was poor finishing and some bad defending in their own area.
While Tottenham missed a plethora of good opportunities, they did actually play well at Wembley and may just have found a formation that suits them at the venue they will probably call home next season.
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It is no secret that Spurs have struggled at the national stadium in recent years and especially during their Champions League campaign.
After winning the League Cup against Chelsea in 2008, Tottenham then went on to lose their next six games at Wembley including disappointing defeats to Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen this season.
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Mauricio Pochettino didn’t see two typical Spurs performances during those losses in the Champions League at Wembley, but the north Londoners went some way to breaking the hoodoo when they beat CSKA Moscow to qualify for the Europa League in December.
Tottenham expected to have more than one extra game at Wembley in Europe this season with many tipping them to go all the way in the competition this year.
It wasn’t to be, but the lacklustre showing during the 1-0 defeat in Belgium last week is the main reason why Spurs have been dumped out of Europe by Gent.
A positive for Pochettino and his team to draw on today is the fact that last night Wembley didn’t feel like a temporary home - it felt like Tottenham and their fans belonged there.
Needing an early goal, Christian Eriksen provided it and Spurs played with pace and urgency and Kyle Walker was getting plenty of joy down the right acting as a wing-back.
Alli’s moment of madness occurred after a poor piece of defending allowed Gent to equalise, but even with a man less, Tottenham never gave up.
Pochettino showed a different persona after the break as he constantly urged the crowd to get behind his players and kept geeing up the supporters throughout.
The Argentinean very rarely shows his emotion on the touch line but it helped and so did the performance of Spurs who pushed Gent all the way.
Tottenham created several excellent opportunities and Kane missed a fantastic chance to put them ahead early in the second half.
Victor Wanyama soon gave them the lead with an outstanding finish and all Spurs fans believed they could get another goal and progress.
Unfortunately the Belgium club capitalised on another mistake at the back to make it 2-2 and virtually put the tie to bed with eight minutes remaining.
Tottenham continued to press, however, and Heung-min Son should have set up a grandstand finish when he was played through, but he blazed wastefully over.
Nevertheless, the 3-4-2-1 formation deployed by Pochettino worked even despite Ben Davies offering little as an attacking force on the left and it could be a way for Spurs to shine at Wembley next season.
The pitch at the national stadium is very wide, which creates so much space for wing-backs, and although Walker’s crossing was poor, he enjoyed a lot of joy down the right.
With Danny Rose fit and on the left, Tottenham probably would have won last night and that is why despite exiting the Europa League to Gent, it is not all bad for the north Londoners.
The prospect of Rose and Walker bombing up and down the national stadium next season is exciting and Pochettino may have found the solution to Spurs’ previous Wembley woes.