Tottenham needs to quit ‘old playing style’

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A late ball is pinged into the box as Newcastle search for a dramatic equaliser. The ball ricochets of Eric Dier’s arm in the box and he’s penalised. Callum Wilson scores the spot kick. Two points dropped.

Fabian Bulbuena heads in, Davinson Sanchez heads past Hugo Lloris, and Manuel Lanzini sends a scorcher in off the woodwork. A 3-3 draw with West Ham. Two points dropped.

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Tottenham sit off and off and off at Crystal Palace, eventually resulting in Jeffrey Schlupp scrambling in an equaliser at Selhurst Park. Two points dropped.

We could go on, and we will.

Roberto Firmino, Romain Saiss and Ivan Cavaleiro have also all scored late goals against Tottenham during the last month or so in games Jose Mourinho’s side either could or should have taken points from. That bunch and their goals took another five points off Spurs.

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So, that’s 11 points in total Tottenham have let slip in the last 15 minutes in league games this season. Y’know where they would be in the Premier League had they held on in those matches? First, five points clear of Manchester United, just two games before the halfway point of the season.

Spurs make their fans feel sick numerous times during each campaign, and there are always moments of ‘what if?’, but this term it’s hitting particularly harder. To see the same performance and result time and time again this season is now bordering on infuriating, because it’s clear lessons are not being learned.

Following the 3-3 draw with West Ham, there was a clear switch to a stubborn, deep pattern of play. Tottenham had blown Southampton and Manchester United away in 5-2 and 6-1 victories respectively, highlighting the attacking force in their ranks. We’ve all seen the Harry Kane and Son Heung-min statistics and know what they can do when given free rein.

But while there were initially wins that took Spurs to the top of the Premier League, there have since been moments of predictable downfall.

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During the 1-1 draw with Fulham, as Tottenham dropped deeper and deeper, there was no ignoring that nagging thought in the mind or the swirling feeling in the gut. That feeling was guided by what we’d seen before rather than the trademark pessimism the fan base owns and is renowned for.

The Cottagers grew in confidence with the more possession they enjoyed, and one moment of quality at the expense of Sanchez and Dier – one getting skinned out wide and the other losing an aerial battle – was enough to render the effort in sh*thousing an opponent meaningless.

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It must be knackering for the players, as it’s certainly tiring viewing for those at home.

Since the 3-3 West Ham draw, Tottenham have scored three goals in a league game just once, that being the simple victory over Leeds. They give themselves a brief period to score in the first half of games and look to shut up shop in the second.

The problem with that is it panders to the side’s weaknesses rather than their strengths.

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Is it more sensible to give Kane and Son every chance to express themselves and contribute even more than they already have this season, or rely on Dier and Sanchez to close out a 1-0 win with tonnes of pressure piled on them late on? It’s not really a contest, is it?

Mourinho hinted that the defeat involved problems with ‘individual skills, individual ability’, and he may be right. Neither of the centre back duo would be touted as among the Premier League’s best central defenders right now, even if there’s a dearth of quality options to choose from, but they’re not being given a fair chance with the style of play currently employed.

Fulham were good on Wednesday evening and deserved their point – hell, they could have nicked all three with some more precision in attack – but Tottenham need to be winning at home against teams in the relegation zone. They have to give their creative players more chances in possession and not sit off and allow themselves to be battered while defending. It’s not their strength.

Albert Einstein once said – or may not have, according to history nerds – that ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. Yet numerous times this season we’ve seen Tottenham put in the same performance, and it continues to halt any suggestion of a title push.

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It’s time for a change in style, before they slip any further down the table. The gap to United can still be reduced to three points with a win at Sheffield United on Sunday, before the Red Devils’ trip to Liverpool.

Fingers crossed that Bramall Lane encounter doesn’t end in a 1-1 draw.

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