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Bumbling out of the Cup

Spurs Across the Pond
Tottenham fall to Chelsea 0-3 on aggregate and won’t be returning to the League Cup final | NLD in doubt after Arsenal request a postponement

Apologies for the slight delay on this issue, but I am recently returned from a roadtrip and was catching up on less enjoyable things like “laundry” and “grocery shopping.” Boo.
So let’s keep it brief, since the next match is coming up fast–if it ends up happening at all.
When I was still under the impression that Dier would be available for the second leg against Chelsea, I could harbor some hope that a comeback was possible. Of course, he did not end up being available after all, and the lineup announcement did not inspire much confidence. Opting for Gollini over Lloris was a crystal clear signal from Conte that this game was not his #1 priority. With the North London derby coming up on Sunday and top 4 within reach this season, I didn’t even blame him for making that choice. Nevertheless, it’s always a bit of a bummer to feel like your team has conceded a match before it’s even begun.
We at least played better over the 90 minutes than we did in that disastrous first half of the first leg, but it wasn’t enough to keep out a third Chelsea goal on aggregate, let alone mount a comeback with some goals of our own. And you can’t even blame VAR for cheating Spurs out of two penalties, because they actually made the right call both times. For Kane’s disallowed goal, I know I wasn’t alone in being briefly thrown off by Kepa’s high positioning changing the offside dynamic. You don’t see that scenario very often! But Kane was definitely offside. Overall, we just didn’t do enough to create solid goal-scoring opportunities. It was a very deflating performance.
same, Fabio
same, Fabio
Football can be a funny old sport, and luck definitely wasn’t on Spurs’ side for this cup tie, from the flukey goals Chelsea scored to the false hope of our overturned penalties. It is what it is. And while it’s disappointing to miss out on going to the final for the second season in a row, it was never going to be an easy chance for a trophy, since our opponents would have either been Liverpool (who you never want to face) or Arsenal (who you also never want to face). We move on.
...if the next match goes ahead, that is.
Another week, another possible PL match postponement. For some thoughts on why the league powers-that-be could have avoided this lose-lose situation they’ve put themselves in, see my Twitter rant, prompted by the widely shared comments from Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher:
Caroline Stefko
I have to say I agree with them, but at the same time, this could probably have been avoided if the league had just paused all of the fixtures for the holidays. Because unfortunately, a lot of the non-COVID & non-AFCON absences are players suffering from muscle overuse injuries.
For the tldr; version: the PL needed a pause during the festive fixture period, and letting the matches continue as scheduled was a shortsighted move that has led to muscle injuries all across the league, putting a crunch on teams’ ability to rotate when COVID cases do happen, encouraging them to tempt the league to bend the postponement rules. They created this monster! Now, I hope the league does the right thing and lets the game go ahead, because it’s true that Arsenal should have been more strategic with their loans out, knowing AFCON was coming and the pandemic is still raging (they should also know to plan for one of Granit Xhaka’s regularly scheduled implosions, by this point). They might have to dig deep into their youth setup to field a full team, but that’s not Spurs’ problem, and it shouldn’t be reason enough to sway the league into a postponement.
(I guess that wasn’t really the short version. My bad.)
One positive from being out of the League Cup is that we are only going to be involved in one other competition besides the PL, and won’t have to contend with as many mid-week matches going forward. But the more postponements there are that have to be rescheduled, the less true that will be. Not that Spurs are the only team that will be dealing with fixture pile-ups.
But let’s assume for a moment that the match is still going on (as it should). We shouldn’t take for granted the fact that Arsenal will necessarily be the weaker side, because we will still be missing two of our most important players in Dier and Son. I’m also feeling concerned coming off the Chelsea double defeat, because the mentality in the away NLD earlier in the season was so poor, and I just hope the lads are able to brush off the disappointment of the League Cup and not go into the Arsenal match in a demoralized mood. We need to see intensity from minute one.
On an actual playing note, I think that more important than any formation or lineup decisions is a need for accurate passing. Seriously, I have been going out of my mind the last few matches with how sloppy the passing has been. This sounds like basic fundamentals, but honestly, it affects every aspect of the tactics if the team isn’t doing the basics right. If you caught me on the latest Tottenham Depot podcast you’ll know that I suspect the fabled new manager bounce has already ended with Conte. In the early weeks of his tenure, the team was looking so much better drilled than they were under Nuno. Now, they’re back to listless, disconnected performances. It’s a problem! And in fairness, I recognize that those initial strong performances under Conte were happening with his preferred lineup. I don’t think the so-called bounce ever really extended to the more rotational, squad players like Rodon, Tanganga, and Doherty. Since injuries will require that some of them continue to stay in the starting lineup for the time being, we can only hope that they will form a better understanding with the usual starters and we can get something going. Or at the very least, start stringing together more than one pass at a time. Some of these players are just seriously lacking in confidence at the moment.
Double Derby Day
Luckily, our Tottenham team that is not lacking in confidence, the Women’s side, is also in action on Sunday. They take on West Ham at The Hive and will be hoping to get all three points in a reversal of the away fixture that saw West Ham win 1-0. That was also the match where Kit Graham suffered her season-ending injury, so I’m sure the team will be feeling extra motivated to win this one for her. Looking back on my notes from that match, we were actually firmly in the conversation to win and could have come out on top if not for a couple of very narrow/sketchy offside decisions that went against Ubogagu. I would love to see her start in this match and go on a few more counter attacking runs, though I’m sure West Ham will have prepared for her this time. She’s not an unknown quantity anymore!
West Ham have already made two signings in the transfer window, Emma Snerle and Halle Houssein, although both players are pretty young. They are both creative midfielders, so the Hammers are obviously looking to improve their goal-scoring opportunities. I’ll be interested to see if either of them feature on Sunday.
Spurs would also do well to add some creativity to our squad, since our top 3 rivals from Manchester United and City, while being below us in points currently, already have a big advantage in the goal difference column. Our first January signing also happens to be a central midfielder, Eveliina Summanen from Finland. She has international experience, and Rehanne has praised her for her technical ability and strong work ethic (a must for any player in Rehanne’s Spurs team). I’m excited to see what she can do. And cheers to “Agent Korpela” for helping to bring in her fellow countrywoman.
welcome, Eveliina!
welcome, Eveliina!
It’s nice that the Women’s match is immediately after the Men’s, so that we won’t have to dwell on the Men’s result if it goes badly. You can always count on Rehanne’s team to put in 100% effort and play with a sense of bravery. Just saying. Get behind this Spurs Women team now, so you can say that you were supporting them before they were big shots in the Champions League 😉.
Let’s end this issue on a highlight. Cheers to Jiali for this honor!
Tottenham Hotspur Women
Shortlisted for the Chinese women's Footballer of the Year award! 👍

Congratulations, Jiali! 😍
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Caroline Stefko
Caroline Stefko @cgstefko

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