Comment and Analysis @ghostgoal
Tottenham: Jose Mourinho's side short of ideas against Everton
Tottenham's 1-0 home defeat to Everton in which they were outplayed was a worrying start to the season for Jose Mourinho
Last Updated: 14/09/20 3:47pm
Talk of crisis on the opening weekend of a Premier League season often feels over the top but when that team has made itself the focus of a new documentary drama series, perhaps it is appropriate. The cameras were on as Tottenham kicked off their campaign on Sunday but they left it to Everton to provide the action as they slumped to a 1-0 home defeat.
Statistically, Spurs were outrun and outsprinted, outshot and outscored. But the easiest way to summarise this performance is to say that they were outplayed. Carlo Ancelotti's team had a coherent plan and played with positivity. Tottenham, damningly, ran out of ideas.
But what was that idea anyway?
The summer signings of Matt Doherty and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg were hardly spectacular but they were widely regarded as sensible acquisitions. The former appears well suited to the advanced role on the right that Mourinho has favoured since taking over. The latter has the ability to add steel in the hope that it provides a platform for those ahead of him to play.
- Tottenham 0-1 Everton - Match report and highlights
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But Spurs need the ball for that to work and they struggled to see much of it during the first half an hour. "I have not seen anything from Hojbjerg and Winks in midfield from a possession point of view," Gary Neville told Sky Sports. "They have not got on the ball at all."
The second half was even worse. At least Dele Alli and Doherty had forced smart saves from Jordan Pickford before the break. After it, Tottenham were abject. Indeed, it was alarming how quickly any kind of belief appeared to fade following Everton's 55th-minute goal.
"No press whatsoever from the white shirts," said Neville. "They look so flat."
It is not a good sign when the team is being accused of sulking less than an hour into a new season.
The frustration for fans is that many of the limitations on display are well known.
For all the talk of wanting to rebuild his career at the back, it was Eric Dier who was beaten to the ball by Dominic Calvert-Lewin for what turned out to be the winning goal.
For all the talk of a new-look midfield, there was Winks again, struggling to impose himself on the opposition while proving unable to pose enough questions of his own.
For the second half, he was joined by Moussa Sissoko, whose endeavour cannot always mask the fact that his close control is not that of an elite-level midfield player.
These are all too familiar flaws.
Mourinho knew this. Coupled with the club's injury crisis earlier in the year and the fact that he was able to scramble his way to sixth spot with a draw at Crystal Palace on the final day of the season, it ensured there was a prevailing mood of 'job done' given the circumstances.
New season, new start.
So it is a little troubling that he is already bemoaning the lack of a pre-season in which to prepare his players. Even despite the time restrictions and the fact that players such as Doherty did not appear fully fit, this should have been the true unveiling of Mourinho's Spurs.
How long will he be able to point to a situation inherited? Not too long if he continues to make substitutions such as the one that saw Sissoko introduced for Alli at the midway point.
It seemed designed to restrict opponents who had not won away against one of the big six in 60 attempts. How much thought was given to focusing instead on Tottenham's ability to cause problems of their own was not entirely clear. Harry Kane was left cut adrift.
That has happened too often already under Mourinho.
Kane did not have his first touch in the opposition penalty box until the 78th minute of the match - and that was a header under pressure from Heung-Min Son's right-wing corner.
At least it avoided the possibility of Kane going a full game without touching the ball in the opposition for the second time in three months - something that had happened only twice in Kane's entire Premier League career prior to that. Service to the striker is a concern.
Spurs' potential fixture pile-up
- Sep 17 - Lokomotiv Plovdiv (A)
- Sep 20 - Southampton (A)
- Sep 22 - Carabao Cup R3
- Sep 22 - Leyton Orient or Plymouth (Carabao Cup R3)
- Sep 24 - Europa League Q3
- Sep 26 - Newcastle (H)
- Sep 29 - Carabao Cup R4
- Oct 1 - Europa League PO
- Oct 4 - Manchester United (A)
The absence of that pressing - attributed to laziness by Mourinho after the game - is a recurring theme of the aforementioned behind-the-scenes documentary.
It is a curious focal point for his criticism given that it is not a quality with which Mourinho is particularly associated. Certainly, the underlying data suggests that he has had little success in implementing such a style of play since his arrival at Tottenham last November.
They managed far fewer pressed sequences than the five teams who finished above them last season, allowing far more opposition passes per defensive action than those sides too.
On this evidence, that does not look like changing. Tottenham are not playing a possession game and they are not playing a pressing game. Is there any hope of a solution?
The only absentee likely to change things up for Spurs is Giovani Lo Celso, the Argentine playmaker. He has the imagination in his passing that could unlock a defence. The off-the-ball running of Son and Doherty was useless without team-mates who could pick them out.
Others will be hoping that Tanguy Ndombele could yet develop into the sort of midfielder supporters thought their club was buying one year ago. They could be waiting in vain.
It seems more likely that the search for answers will fall to the manager and a group of players who looked so bereft of ideas against Everton. Too soon for a crisis, perhaps. But too late into Mourinho's reign to countenance excuses for performances such as this one.