There are a number of issues which need addressing at Tottenham Hotspur but none of them are as alarming as their ability to defend- or their lack of ability, to be more accurate. This has been the story of their season so far, and even the appointment of Jose Mourinho (one of the most renowned defensive coaches in the world) has failed to change things so far. With the Portuguese coach needing to sure up his defence, what are the problems that lie in front of him?
Basic Errors- It’s actually been painful to watch at times, but some of the basic mistakes Tottenham defenders are making would make an Under 12s coach cringe in disgust. A common way for Tottenham to start attacks is for Toby Alderweireld to launch long angled passes over opposition defences in an attempt to find Harry Kane or Deli Alli. This makes it even more confusing when Alderweireld, and whoever he partners at centre defence, seems incapable of defending simple long balls. Today against Middlesbrough, one ball over the top took out three Spurs defenders and allowed Ashley Fletcher to give the home side the lead.
Against Southampton on New Years Day, a simple aired pass allowed Danny Ings to isolate Alderweireld and score the winning goal on the day. In the 2-2 draw with Norwich prior to that, they were very lucky to see Teemu Pukki have a goal disallowed for offside when yet another diagonal ball caught Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen flat footed. It’s errors that would be scolded at youth level and yet even Mourinho can’t seem to prevent them at the moment. Spurs need to work very hard to try and cut out these easily avoidable mistakes, and making sure their back line isn’t too flat would be a good start.
No natural left back- Due to issues with a number of Spurs’ natural left backs, Jan Vertonghen has been filling in for them for a sustained period of time now. While he is a very accomplished defender, his lack of pace has been found out and exploited in recent games. I would imagine Mourinho will be trying his best to sort out this situation in the coming weeks, as an Alderweireld-Vertonghen partnership at centre half and a more natural left back will surely help to sure up the Spurs defence. Against Wolves last month, even though they managed to come away with three points, Wolves created a number of chances down the Spurs left and should have capitalised on them more- this needs addressed.
Mourinho needs more time- Wherever he has gone, Jose Mourinho has held a stellar defensive record. However, he seems to be taking long than usual to get his methods and ideas across to his players. Whether this is down to a lack of ability with the players he has at his disposal or Mourinho himself taking a bit of time to adapt, he’ll have to come up with a remedy sooner rather than later. Spurs are leaking goals that the opposition aren’t even having to work for and if it continues at the current rate, they could find themselves out of the race for the top four.