Europa League: Dele Sent Off, Spurs Sent Home

You’ll forgive me, fellow footy fans, for entertaining the faintest hopes of a simple Tottenham victory when Eriksen notched early on in the second leg of our Europa League tie with Gent on Thursday. It seemed like the perfect tonic for the sickness I’d felt since our embarrassing 1-0 loss away to our Belgian opponents last week. Then minutes later, Harry Kane went and did what Harry Kane does…scored a goal. Even better, right? Except he forgot which end we were at, and flicked it deftly into his own net. At that point, I braced for what I and every true Spurs fan knew was coming: 75-odd more minutes of utter Spursy-ness.

Now I’ll get the fair balance out of the way right now in the up front, just to maintain some semblance of reasonability. Yes, we played quite well at times. Yes, both their goals were quite unlucky for us. And yes, I’ve seen better officiating in the adult co-ed league I play in each week than I did on the Wembley pitch Thursday evening. But there’s no excuse for some of the nonsense that occurred, and it’s time to let off some steam.

First off, Dele. I could see from the first inklings of referee incompetence that the lad would lose his head, and he did it in predictably reckless fashion. The aggressive knee reconstruction he attempted to pass off as a tackle in the first half would have been considered a felony had it occurred in the stadium seats around the pitch instead of on it. This isn’t the first time this season Dele’s lost his mind, and this latest rush of blood to the head is going to rightfully cost him at least a 3 game suspension; likely more if UEFA officials view that tackle as badly as even I, a totally biased Spurs supporter, did.  

Dele's attempted murder on the Wembley pitch Thursday evening. (PHOTO CREDIT: PA - Press Association)

Dele’s attempted murder on the Wembley pitch Thursday evening. (PHOTO CREDIT: PA – Press Association)

For the next architect of our downfall, look no further than Dele’s partner in social media shit-posting, Eric Dier. I love Dier, he’s clearly a valuable player, but he’s a damn liability at the heart of defense and proved it again Thursday. His positional awareness compared to Vertonghen and Toby—which I realize is about as fair a comparison as a Ferrari stacked up against a Prius—is just not even close to good enough. He’s also prone to a bit of afters and temper-tantrums as well, a trait that was made increasingly evident as time ticked on.

Finally…Harry Kane. I’m so loathe to criticize this absolute beast of a striker, but the fact is he likely cost us the chance at overcoming Gent through a combination of errant finishing and a knack for getting in the way of his own teammates’ efforts at goal. I can’t really blame him for the own goal as he’s got to challenge for that header, but I can wonder aloud at why he felt it necessary to block a goal-bound effort from Eriksen on Gent’s 6 yard box later in the match. The big man just didn’t have it Thursday night, and it’s unfortunate that he followed up the Fulham hat trick performance with such a tame outing when we really needed a leader to step up.

Bottom line, the same faults that cost us the title to Leicester—of all teams—last season still exist. When the going gets tough, Spurs get soft. Call it immaturity, loss of confidence, an inability to take lesser teams seriously…whatever. Fact is, for all the talk of how Pochettino has changed the atmosphere at Spurs, we continue to fall short when it really matters in “big” games.

The few positives from this game were that we’ve now got fewer fixtures to contend with during our quest for the top four, and that certain players performed admirably despite our loss. Wanyama, Eriksen, and Walker were excellent, and if they can drag their struggling squad mates through this patch of questionable form, we’re still in decent shape in the league and FA Cup. A few short days of reflection await before Stoke this weekend. I hope to the football gods Pochettino and the squad use them wisely.

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