Monday 25 March 2019

Spurs 'not mature enough' as Poch laments latest collapse

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino watches on from the stands in St Mary's Stadium, Southampton. Photo: PA
Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino watches on from the stands in St Mary's Stadium, Southampton. Photo: PA

Jim White

As he sat in the directors' box, Mauricio Pochettino, was surveying all-too familiar territory. Not so much the stadium he left behind, apparently in tears, for north London in 2014; more the well-trodden ground of another Spurs implosion.

With one Premier League point accrued from their last possible 12, Pochettino's side have sunk from title contenders to also-rans.

This run of relegation form has put Champions League qualification, something that looked a cast-iron certainty a month ago, suddenly in jeopardy.

And, in the St Mary's media room, Pochettino did not hold back in his analysis of what a third defeat in four Premier League matches meant, not just for his side's prospects, but for the club's future direction.

"That is a clear example that we are still not mature enough," he said. "When you talk a lot and when you find a lot of solution, it's only one way, it's to try to change, making different decisions than from the past.

"Of course, maybe that is our limit. It's a little bit sad, but maybe we need to start to think that we need to operate in a different way from the start of next season."

Reaching the "limit": It was a damning response, but a need to change the philosophy and working approach of the club is becoming ever more pressing. Because, in many ways, Pochettino was right: the performance here summed up the issues he faces.

With the visiting supporters delighted by the news that the opening of the new White Hart Lane stadium was imminent, this game at Southampton should have been a moment of shared celebration, the start of the homecoming.

And Pochettino's team began as if powered by euphoria. For 45 minutes, watching in temporary exile in the stands, the manager must have been delighted. His team were faster, sharper, cleverer than their labouring hosts.

This was Dortmund part two. Leading through a typically crisp Harry Kane finish, they should have been out of sight by half-time.

Just as they should be easing to Champions League qualification by now.

Instead, after Ralph Hasenhuttl (incidentally the fifth Southampton manager appointed in the attempt to fill Pochettino's shoes since he left) made a couple of subtle readjustments to his team, bringing on a bit of speed, they crumbled.

In a calamitous five-minute spell, Spurs moved from comfortable to abject.

First, a horribly complacent bit of defending, in which two international defenders (Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose) allowed a cross from Stuart Armstrong to pass under their feet, gifted Yan Valery the chance to equalise.

Then, James Ward-Prowse's textbook free-kick, won after more panicky defending, secured the points for Southampton, taking them up to 16th, two points above the relegation zone.

It was inexplicable. Bizarre. Completely self-destructive. In short, what was being delivered on the St Mary's pitch was the very definition of 'Spursy'.

"The problem is, in the Premier League, if you let your opponent in the game you never know what to expect or never know what can happen," admitted chastened Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris.

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