Entering last Saturday’s London derby with Chelsea, Tottenham appeared to be well positioned to crack the top four party. The early season crisis of confidence and character under sacked manager Andre Vilas-Boas had been replaced by more free-flowing and assured performances under Tim Sherwood.
Tottenham’s record at Stamford Bridge since the inception of the Premier League is one of great shame around the club. Beating Chelsea, a local rival at their ground has long been a goal of those around the club. However in the first half Saturday, Sherwood’s setup that was based around pace and physical defending worked exceedingly well. Tottenham controlled possession and were able to break up play in Chelsea’s triangular midfield quite well. So strong was the play of Spurs that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho inserted Oscar at halftime for Frank Lampard to bring more dynamism and attacking impetus to the Blues midfield.
Unfortunately for Spurs fans, Tottenham gave up the opening goal of the match about ten minutes into the second half when Jan Vertonghen slipped under pressure from André Schürrle, allowing an easy goal for Samuel Eto’o.
Minutes later Younes Kaboul, making only his third start of the league campaign, was perhaps harshly judged to have fouled Eto’o in the area and was sent off. Eden Hazzard calmly dispatched the penalty and Chelsea were home free two goals to the good.
At this point what neutrals wanted to see was a good performance from Spurs, not the type of embarrassing capitulation we saw earlier in the season whenever adversity would strike. Instead the ten man Tottenham side showed a lack of character and guts in conceding two more times and losing 4-0, the side’s fourth loss this season by four or more goals.
For a side that is dripping with quality up and down the pitch as well as on the bench, the continued lack of fight in the Spurs side is alarming. Manager Tim Sherwood summed up his thoughts on this debacle with is post-match comments
“It hurts me and I won’t forget about this when we hit the motorway, but some might.
“There’s a lack of character, too many of them are too nice to each other and you need to show a bit more guts.”
Perhaps it was poor form of the manager to call out his players in such a way, but he is right. The lack of leadership on the Spurs side is apparent and when you lack veteran, vocal well-respected leaders like John Terry or Steven Gerrard, sometimes adversity is not easily overcome even with lots of quality in the side.
For Spurs who spent over a hundred million euros in the summer transfer window, another season outside the UEFA Champions League awaits. That is not what Daniel Levy had in mind when he assembled this expensive squad, but many of the players seem to be lacking the stomach for a fight.