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Played seventeen, won one. A dire record for any club, let alone Tottenham Hotspur. This is Mauricio Pochettino’s away record against teams in the top six.
How can any team expect to compete for the title if they cannot pick up results away from home? This is Spurs’ biggest weakness and it undermines any league ambitions they may hold.
On Saturday, they were professionally dispatched by Arsenal – surprisingly, the Gunners were full of verve and tenacity and were worthy winners.
Yet it wasn’t simply Wenger’s men playing well that saw them claim bragging rights; Pochettino’s persistence in playing both Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen away from home is one of the key reasons why Tottenham have such an abysmal record at grounds belonging to the league’s elite.
Playing Alli and Eriksen in the same side is fine: as long as you’re at home, or if you’re playing an inferior opposition. Tottenham will, invariably, have the majority of possession and dominate proceedings. Away from home against teams of equal if not superior quality, it is a different story.
Against the very best, ball retention is vital; even more so in light of Pochettino’s possession based philosophy.
Alli and Eriksen, for all their enterprising play, are guilty of giving the ball away an awful lot. When your backs are against the wall, when you’re seeking to assert authority on the match, looking to hush the home crowd and settle into a rhythm, having such luxury players are a mistake.
On Saturday, Alli lost the ball countless times.
He was trying too hard, finding the golden goal, the mesmerising dribble or the killer pass. It simply was not working – why? Because he rarely touched the ball, couldn’t get a feel for the game, and when he did, he lost it.
Against weaker sides, Alli would expect to be on the ball a lot more, therefore allowing him to “get a feel for the game”. A player who needs such introductory pre-requisites to perform at his very best is not one you want to be playing away from home when you will not get as much of the ball as you are used to.
It is a similar story for Eriksen. Both are pushers, both have the capacity to win games, but both, in their very creative nature, lose the ball too often.
It is fine to play one away from home, but not both. This was evident on Saturday where Tottenham were overrun in the middle – a solitary central midfielder didn’t help, in fairness – but Alli and Eriksen’s inability to hold up the ball and instigate composure into proceedings was a determining factor.
It is naivety on Pochettino’s part, even if his loyalty to attacking purity is admirable. If Tottenham want to take points off the “big boys” away from home they must bulk up the midfield and employ those capable of retaining the ball, rather than opting for two luxury players.
Written by Michael Jones
Follow Michael on Twitter @jonesmichael_97
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