Spurs show that 4-4-2 doesn’t go

Tottenham vs RB Leipzig (0-1) | UEFA Champions League highlights

into Europe.

Not a lot of Spurs fans were happy with the team’s showing in the first leg of the round of 16 tie loss to RB Leipzig, in which they were outplayed for the most part.

There seems to be mixed feeling about whether Jose was at fault for the woeful Spurs performance. Some saying this is Joseball, dull, clueless, long ball stuff. Others pointing out the limitations of the squad, what with injuries and lack of investment in various areas and it wasn’t exactly great stuff with Poch before the change.

The thing is that latter stuff didn’t mean Jose had to send out a team to play like that.

The problem was fairly obvious early on, well Leipzig did have, what, four shots in the first couple of minutes. Ten attempts by the visitors in the opening 20 minutes, in which the pattern was set. Spurs hump the ball, aimlessly, up the park, RBL pass it about a bit, then get into the box, their, much vaunted, striker misses the chance, the ball pinballs about the box, before a Spurs player humps it, aimlessly, up the park.

When the players were stationary during the ball’s passage back towards the Spurs’ box, you could see the problem. The middle pair of Spurs’ 4-4-2, Lo Celso and Winks – Winks, again so ineffectual in that central role that even Jenas had a go at him for being piss weak – had a RBL player between them and at the side of them. In space. RBL were playing in the spaces of Spurs rigid lines. At times it was like total football compared to table football. The Spurs players looked like they should have had a long metal rod through them, with a handle at the end.

The only exception being Aurier who seemed to want to be closer to Spurs left-back than he was to the RBL player he should have been marking. Werner. Though one time Werner came inside, Aurier wasn’t there, he chipped a ball into the box and Davies fouled the RBL player on the end of it for the penalty, knocking on for the hour. It was Werner who then slotted the ball home from the spot.

Hugo got close. He’d been flappy at the weekend, Hugo, but he saved Spurs here, numerous times.

Lo Celso again looked like the only outlet for Spurs. They had chances, the Argentinian created one for Bergwijn. Fernandes put a cross in that Dele seemed to completely misread. Lo Celso had a free kick which the RBL keeper palmed onto the post. In the end both sides finished with the same number of shots on target.

That Lo Celso free-kick came after Jose had changed things with a pair of substitutes. Ndombele and Lamela coming on for Fernandes and the disgruntled Dele. Of the latter’s reaction – slamming his boot down – Jose said I think he was angry with his performance. Not with me. I think he understands why I took him off and the team improved. Jenas saying he ran a bout a bit, more than any other player, really is the faintest of praises.

Things indeed pick up after those changes. They went more back three and there was some control, from Lo Celso and Ndombele in the middle of the park, as RBL dropped off from their earlier intensity. But did they really look like scoring? A mistake or a piece of genius, that’s what was needed. They just seemed to make a mess of most chances.

I get why Jose wanted to stiffen things up with the rigid formation. RBL are just a point behind Munich in the German league and we know what happened when they visited earlier in the season. But this could have turned out in a similar fashion, if they’d taken their chances very early on.

Yes, he’s got players out and players that are unfit for 90 minutes and there’s players he just doesn’t seem to want to try. I know they’re trying to do the F.A. Cup the hard way but this could be beyond even last season’s heroics if they play like this again…

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