FROM TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR STADIUM – After a third Premier League defeat on the bounce, it would be easy to claim that Tottenham’s season is quickly fading away.
And, well, if you bought into the tongue-in-cheek hype that they were ready to challenge for the title, you’d be right (even if you were wrong to assume that in the first place, pal).
But there was a strange sense of optimism that emerged from their latest loss, falling 2-1 to Aston Villa on home soil. Without five of Ange Postecoglou’s regular starters, Tottenham created enough chances to win the game two or three times over and showed the cohesion of a lineup that had played 50 games together.
On his first start for Tottenham in nearly two years, Giovani Lo Celso opened the scoring with a slightly deflected half-volley after a manic opening period. Pau Torres equalised in first-half stoppage time before Ollie Watkins clinched victory for Aston Villa midway through the second 45.
From start to finish, Spurs found different ways to carve open their visitors, but their lack of clinical edge prevented them from taking at least a point.
Tottenham squandered several great opportunities / Julian Finney/GettyImages
Football is the only sport in the world where good-to-great performances are not always met with results to match. Finishing is the biggest variable. “I didn’t think we fell short today, it’s fine margins,” Postecoglou declared in his post-match press conference.
Spurs deservedly lost at Wolves before the international break when old habits crept back into their display, sinking deeper as the match went on and conceding twice in second-half stoppage time. Today was far different, a display full of endeavour and intrigue. If you’re going to lose, this was a far more palatable way to do so.
It wasn’t necessarily a smash-and-grab from Aston Villa. You could argue their resilience made them deserved winners, particularly as Tottenham were so sloppy in front of goal. Unai Emery has made a powerful team in his image, a squad reflective of his ideals.
It’s a major reason why it was a paradoxically encouraging and frustrating end for Tottenham. They went toe-to-toe with one of the Premier League’s best teams despite not having any of James Maddison, Cristian Romero, Micky van de Ven, Yves Bissouma and Pape Matar Sarr. The social media era will demand the Spurs faithful be upset over a loss in isolation, but this is still year one of the project and the foundations have been set well. Sometimes one team happens to score more goals than the other.
The bad news now for Spurs is their next match comes away at Manchester City. For the time being, it’s a matter of blocking out the noise and essentially ‘firming it’ – this is a top team in waiting, it just needs another transfer window or two to fill in the cracks.
As Postecoglou in his infinite wisdom has said before, “it is what it is, mate”. Get up and go again. The wins will come back around sooner or later.