Tottenham a club in need of 'Das Reboot' after Bayern Munich inflict worst ever home defeat
Architects of their own angst, Mauricio Pochettino must address issues of fatigue and form in his out-of-sorts squad
A worst home defeat in the club’s history emphasised what feels the worst stretch in Mauricio Pochettino’s reign.
Seven days after crashing out of the League Cup to fourth-tier Colchester United, Tottenham Hotspur conceded seven. Seven.
In a hark back to the vidiprinter age, it required spelling out. It was a result writ large across Spurs’ stuttering start to the season.
Open and overrun, they ended their marquee match against Bayern Munich completely out for the count. Tottenham teetered, Bayern kept totting them up. Come the conclusion of the rout, this felt a club in need of Das Reboot.
Uefa Champions League finalists exactly four months before, Spurs were swept aside by true European heavyweights. After last season’s remarkable run, they were handed the harshest of lessons.
Five-time winners of the tournament, most recently in 2013, Bayern whizzed through the goals as the closing stages whirled. They capitalised on myriad mistakes with uber-clinical finishing. They scored three in the final seven minutes.
Serge Gnabry got four at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium; Harry Kane has scored as many there since it opened. In the Great Centre-Forward Shootout, Robert Lewandowski prevailed, scoring two to Kane’s one. The Pole has 14 goals in his past nine matches.
Searching for positives, Pochettino said the first 30 minutes were Spurs’ best of this nascent campaign. It was just the other 60 that hurt.
"The team were tired and gave up a little bit," the manager said, somewhat surprisingly.
As slick as Bayern were, Spurs were largely architects of their angst. Serge Aurier, Harry Winks and Toby Alderweireld erred to gift goals, some through poor decision-making, some fostered no doubt by fatigue.
After 10 men stared down Southampton on Saturday, the same set of players could not compete with a polished Bayern outfit who clicked through the gears. On a sodden night in North London, they rained on Pochettino’s parade.
Where do Spurs go from here? Problems on the pitch have been exacerbated by those off it. Struck by star players with contracts winding down, the “painful rebuild” predicted in May never materialised.
Of the three summer signings, only Tanguy Ndombele was available for Bayern. Giovani Lo Celso has played 44 minutes since arriving; Ryan Sessegnon is yet to feature. Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli are woefully out of form.
But the issues run deep. Right-back is a clear concern, with Aurier rash and unreliable and no obvious solution apparent. Pochettino has used four different players there this season. The hope is Juan Foyth can return from injury and render some stability to an unsteady position, although he remains a specialist centre-back.
In front, Pochettino searches still for the right combination in midfield. Spurs are too open, too easy to slice through. In the aftermath of Olympiakos last month, when for a second successive away day his side surrendered a two-goal lead, the Argentine admitted as much.
"This season we are conceding too many chances and goals," Pochettino said in Greece. "We need to change the way."
Sufficient protection is not provided. Neither Winks nor Moussa Sissoko, irrespective of their energy and enterprise, buffer adequately the backline, making Eric Dier’s recovery from injury all the more necessary.
Around them, Ndombele has shown flashes of why he commanded that club-record fee from Lyon, but the Frenchman is not yet fully up to speed. He offers much going forward, yet can appear quickly out of puff and soon out of synch with his teammates. His talent indicates that should come with time, although right now, time is not on Pochettino’s side.
There appears no quick fix, with a trip to Brighton & Hove Albion coming fast, early on Saturday. Spurs must bounce back from their worst home defeat in history by displaying their mettle on the road. They haven’t won away in the Premier League since January 20.
Hit for seven by Bayern, they have to strike back immediately. Pochettino and his players must prove this is but a sizable bump on the road, not the end of it.
Updated: October 2, 2019 11:50 AM