UCL: What’s wrong with Tottenham Hotspur as they are pushed to the brink by relentless PSV Eindhoven

Tottenham spurs

With PSV Eindhoven’s late leveller pushing Tottenham to the brink of an unceremonious exit from the Champions League, we take a look at what’s wrong with the London side.

The stage seemed primed for Mauricio Pochettino’s men to stage a comeback into their Champions League group. Having lost their opening two games to Inter Milan and Barcelona, albeit in an entertaining fashion, Spurs travelled to the Philips Stadion with no points from their opening two games, in exactly the same position as their Dutch counterparts.

While that statistic certainly did change, it was definitely not in a manner they would have liked.

The game started slowly with both sides cautious in the opening exchanges. It wasn’t fine margins though, as a clear error from Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld finally gave some life to the game. The Belgian took far too much time on the ball and was dispossessed by Mexican sensation Hirving Lozano who raced through on goal, with his shot coming off a last-ditch tackle from the Tottenham defender – looping over a hapless Lloris into the net.

Spurs had a legitimate goal ruled out for offside before Lucas Moura scored to level things up. It wasn’t all smooth for the English side from then on, though, as PSV struck the bar at 1-1, Lozano’s lovely footwork teeing up Pereiro for a shot on goal. The second half started in far more relaxed fashion for Tottenham as they took control, Harry Kane nodding in from a sublime cross by Christian Eriksen. Lamela struck the post late on but the turning point came when Lloris came charging out of his area, taking Lozano down to earn a straight red and plunge his team into disarray. De Jong finally levelled things up in the 87th minute as Spurs looked out of sorts for the third game running in the Champions League.

But where exactly did it go wrong for them in this group?

While the London club are used to being handed tough draws owing to UEFA’s coefficient system, they were expected to make a fight out of this group and even qualify, considering they came through a group comprising of holders Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund the previous year, thumping the Spanish giants 3-1 at Wembley.

The problem however for Tottenham is that they tend to shell out far too much of the same. More often than not, it turns out to be all style and no substance. While they never put their foot down and are experts in taking the game to the opposition, the same cannot be said about their tactical nous and game management when seeing games out. Indeed, this frailty has been on show so many times that it’s hard to keep count, so much so that their name is often associated more with the perennial ‘choker’ tag than with the more apt label of ‘overachievers’.

In the Champions League, starting from last season, the problem first reared it’s ugly head as Pochettino’s side were knocked out by holders Juve on their own turf. Tottenham had battled from two goals down to earn a phenomenal 2-2 draw at Turin, leaving them in pole position to qualify, but somehow conspired to knock themselves out, losing 2-1 at home despite being a goal up at halftime. Again, it was a typically stylish but loose performance as they conceded two goals in three minutes, putting an end to their European dream.

Coming to the current season, their complacency has come up in the league too, losing 1-0 to Watford following a fantastic 3-0 result at Old Trafford against Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. The level of their callousness in Europe however, has to be seen to be believed. Having led 1-0 for 84 minutes at the San Siro, it was a familiar story once again as they managed to change the score to a 2-1 loss by full time. It was typical Tottneham in the second game too as they entertained but never really looked to get into the game – completely destroyed by a Lionel Messi masterclass.

For all of the plaudits thrown at Pochettino, the woes of his team have become far too familiar to be excused. Closing out games has become a problem year-on-year as they refuse to throw in the towel and manage the game, even with only five minutes to go. It has seen them lose out on Premier League titles as well as ended their Champions League ambitions two years running. If they manage to go down the same route this year as well, there might be no excuses left to give for the North Londoners and they will only have themselves to blame.

As goes the famous Hollywood quote: “There is a time for caution and a time for daring – a wise man knows which one is called for.”

For Pochettino and co, it’s been all daring and no caution for far too long.