Harry Kane improves but Mauricio Pochettino is undone in Spurs defeat at Inter
Inter scored twice late on to beat Tottenham in Champions League opener
By Husmukh Kerai
Last Updated: 19/09/18 10:21am
Is something wrong with Harry Kane or is he suffering from wider problems facing Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham side? We look at the talking points following Spurs' dramatic 2-1 defeat to Inter in their Champions League opener.
Kane: Fatigue or form?
Much has been made about Kane's fitness, or lack of it, so far this season, but suggestions of fatigue may be wide of the mark despite the fact the England forward did not attempt a shot in the entire match - only the second time Kane has failed to have an attempt in a game he has played at least 45 minutes in since the start of last season.
He missed a golden chance to give Spurs a first-half lead on the one occasion he was able to run in behind Inter's defence on the night, but an uncharacteristic moment of hesitation meant he was unable to get his shot away. A moment which may be explained by a lack of goalscoring form, rather than fatigue.
The questions should instead be asked of Mauricio Pochettino's tactical use of the 25-year-old. Kane, whether by design or not, dropped deep to link up play for much of the first half, putting the impetus on Erik Lamela to break the lines and make runs past Inter's defence.
After the break it was more of the same until Lucas Moura was introduced, with Kane now drifting off to the left to allow the Argentine and Heung-min Son room to manoeuvre centrally.
His performance was reminiscent of his battling display for England in the last-16 of the World Cup against Colombia this summer. His remit on that night was to bring Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli into advanced positions and for large parts of the loss in Milan it was the 'target-man' Kane on display, rather than the box-hogging, goalscoring phenom we've grown accustomed to.
Spurs approach stubborn
Pochettino was in a defiant mood after the game despite having seen his side lose a third consecutive game for the first time during his tenure, going as far as claiming the performance was Spurs' best of the season so far.
"The performance was good from the team, the result should have been different and I think everyone will agree, [it] was better than Inter Milan", he said. "The team deserved much more and I think that was our best performance since we started the season. But we lost the game."
The hosts' intention to press Spurs into submission was clear from the get-go, but Tottenham still looked surprised every time an Inter player snapped into a tackle deep in their half. Ben Davies and Davinson Sanchez, in particular, struggled in possession on numerous occasions, each time it felt like a layer of the team's confidence was being eroded away.
And despite those early warnings, they did not shy away from playing out from the back. Eric Dier was criticised for a lack of inventiveness and speed of thought in midfield during the league defeat to Liverpool, and it was unfortunately more of the same against Inter.
Spurs' sporadic moments of joy came when they abandoned that pursuit and let Mousa Dembele carry the ball into the attacking third, but those runs seemed like they were off the cuff, rather than part of Poch's greater plan.
Inter's two late goals were not a direct result of Spurs' playing out the back, but their continued efforts at doing so gave Luciano Spalletti's men enough to hang on to before they eventually landed their killer blows.
Moura makes a case
Back from international duty, Son made his first start for Spurs this season in a hostile environment. He was on the fringes in the first half, and was brought off with 25 minutes remaining for this season's surprise-package Lucas Moura.
Judging by Moura's cameo showing, he may well be Pochettino's preferred choice ahead of Son for the coming weeks.
He looked dangerous, incisive and confident, at one point striding past two Inter men like they were not there before getting into the box to create a chance.
The Brazilian does his bit for the defensive cause, too. Despite playing just half an hour, he was involved in 10 duels, with only Serge Aurier involved in more, winning eight of them,
Moura is like a new signing for Spurs, and we will see whether or not that sparks the returning Son into life as he looks to settle his way into the season.