5 lessons Tottenham must learn from their Champions League final defeat
FourFourTwo’s James Maw and Hunter Godson, football journalist Tony Evans (plus his mate Tony) have driven to the Champions League final – and back again – in a motorhome. You can follow their trip on Twitter and Instagram.
1. A more dynamic right-back is needed
It feels like decades since Kyle Walker was bombing down the right flank for Tottenham, causing chaos and creating havoc that only players with his speed and directness are able to conjure.
Since his departure to Manchester City in 2017, Spurs have tried numerous alternatives to fill a vital role in Mauricio Pochettino’s masterplan. Both Kieran Trippier and Serge Aurier have been found wanting. The pair have major defensive flaws, a lack of awareness and an inability to get beyond their opposing full-back. Even the most generous of invitations to maraud down the right on Saturday night was ignored by Trippier – much to the disdain of the 16,000 Spurs fans packed inside the Wanda Metropolitano.
Supporters both in the stadium and at home will appreciate Trippier going over to the travelling fans at the full-time whistle, tears streaming down his face. Was it a goodbye? If it is, Spurs will need to act fast in finding a superior replacement.
2. Harry Kane is only human
Nobody can question Kane’s work rate. The England man looked fit as a fiddle, running defenders down at every opportunity and chasing multiple lost causes. And there were many.
The problem is that Spurs fans have seen it all before. Nobody questions whether Kane is fit and ready to run around for 90 minutes, but the question is whether he will be sharp and properly match-ready. On last night’s showing, he wasn’t.
The England forward has built a reputation for being hard to play against. He’s one of the best in the world at manipulating his body to force the opposing defender into a mistake or giving away a foul. In Madrid, he made sure to drift onto Joel Matip each time a Tottenham attack started up, in an effort to avoid the man mountain that is Virgil van Dijk.
Shrewd, yes, but Kane was beaten by Matip in 50/50 battles time and time again, with the slender central defender managing to slip past Spurs' talisman on various occasions to intercept the ball.
Mauricio Pochettino knows best, but ultimately there’s a big difference between training with team-mates and a Champions League final.
3. Possession isn’t everything in big games
Spurs may have dictated large parts of the play but Liverpool bossed the overall game last night. They moved up the pitch to press Spurs when they wanted, and dropped into a defensive unit as a team when necessary.
If the Reds chose not to press, Spurs – who seemed shocked by the time and space they had been afforded – were languid. They were slow to move through the defensive third and transition into attack, and not for the first time this year. Spurs have lacked intensity in the final few months of the season.
Liverpool did the dirty work better than Spurs, and although they were equally poor in possession, made what time they had on the ball count. In these big games it’s not always about playing the best football; sometimes you’ve got to do it dirty – and Liverpool have learned that in recent years.
4. Time to decide what Dele’s best position is
Centre-forward? Off Kane? Central midfield? Left midfield? Just what is Dele Alli’s best position?
Worryingly, does he even know anymore? Again, his work rate and running can’t be questioned, but Dele is supposed to be much more than a willing runner. World Cup fatigue has ensured a patchy season for the midfielder who has previously been compared to the likes of Glenn Hoddle and Steven Gerrard.
Not last night, though. The flicks and tricks didn’t come off for Dele, and when a chance finally fell at his feet he attempted an audacious flick, much to the annoyance of a baying Spurs support.
He is clearly an exceptional talent. It will be up to Pochettino to harness and unlock his brilliance once again next season.
5. Learn from Liverpool; invest now
Last season, Liverpool finished fourth in the Premier League and suffered a crushing defeat in their Champions League final clash with Real Madrid. The similarities with Spurs this season are striking.
Tottenham’s stock has never been higher. They’ve reached a Champions League final for the first time in their history. They own one of the most incredible stadiums and best training complexes in the world. In Pochettino they have one of the most highly rated managers in football, and their squad is built on a core group of world-class players.
Now is the time to invest. Learn from Liverpool and buy world-class talent. A right-back, goalkeeper, central midfielder and striker should all be on Daniel Levy’s shopping list, but what’s more important is that they are able to make an instant impact.
On Saturday, Allison was arguably man of the match; 12 months ago, Lorius Karius was costing Liverpool the Champions League final. Who will Tottenham sign to make a difference next season?
With thanks to Baileys of Bristol for supplying the motorhome to make this trip possible.