It’s starting to feel as if rather than bother to write a bloeug today I could just cut and paste major parts of bloeugs written after points were dropped late against Newcastle, West Ham, Palace, Liverpool and Wolves, though this latest stumble against Fulham felt more like the West Ham game than the others, in that we could well have been three goals to the good early on and still wouldn’t have looked completely in control of our own fate.
I know the below highlights aren’t truly representative of the opening phases as Fulham had plenty of the ball in dangerous areas before Kane finally took one of our own chances, but they do show what a weird team we can be shape-wise at the moment, especially the very first move, with Kane starting it off from the sort of position you would expect Sissoko to be occupying, feeding Ndombele in the right-back position, who feeds Aurier playing right-wing, who puts the ball into the box for Son, Sissoko and Reguilon to attack.
It ends up with Son getting on the end of it and a good save, but Harry Kane is nowhere to be seen even as the ball comes back into play off the keeper, and I suspect he’s out of shot in the right-back position, making sure Aurier is covered should Fulham break.
Kane is alongside Son for our second chance on twenty-four seconds, but again Sissoko is also very advanced and making the sort of decoy run Bergwijn would usually be making, and there he is again on thirty-seven seconds forming the left hand fork of front-three prong as Hojbjerg pings a brilliant ball out to Reguilon, who puts in a peach of a cross for Kane’s inch-perfect finish.
The pattern continues into the second half, where it’s Sissoko out of the supporting cast who’s most advanced as Son hits the post, and in the move that leads to Fulham’s equaliser, it feels as if Aurier is playing where Sissoko should be, which means Sanchez ends up playing where Aurier should be, leaving Dier and Reguilon with a man each at the back post as the cross comes over. Not a single Spurs player in that move covers himself in any glory, and a freeze-frame on 1:42 as the move gets underway shows what a mess we were in, with Sissoko modelling his early moments of the Champions League final pose, Aurier caught in no man’s land, a chasm between Sanchez and Dier and Reguilon happy to stand with two men on his shoulder and not bother to call Son or Winks back to help him out.
At 1-0 up and chances still coming our way to kill off the game, it’s effectively a front three against a back three and if this is how Mourinho coaches a team to sit deep and defend a lead these days, I think his glory days are most definitely done.
In the end, a draw was probably a fair result, both teams having chances to get the win and fluffing their lines, but the fact Chelsea found a way to scrape by Fulham yesterday just adds to the sense of frustration that Mourinho has us performing at less than the sum of our parts in a season where holding on to leads against the teams currently in 13th, 14th, 15th and 18th would have us two points clear at the top of the table, our next game a supposed gimme against Sheffield United to open up a five point gap, and the teams in second and fourth playing each other as we journey home.
In the real world, my feeling is that sixth is about where we deserve to be given we can’t hold on to the ball and Newcastle were the only one of those sides we really dominated. Also, where Spurs are concerned, there are no gimmes against Sheffield United, especially at Bramall Lane. We’ve lost there in our last two Premier League visits, taken a solitary point in the Premier League era, and last won in the league there in December 1975.
There was a League Cup win there in 1990, and of course although we didn’t actually win there in the League Cup semi-final in January 2015, we did do enough to book the first of our finals under Pochettino despite very nearly Spursying it up at the death.
Going back even further in time, and although this game wasn’t played at Bramall Lane, it being an FA Cup Final replay, it was First Division Sheffield United we overcame in 1901 to lift our first ever FA Cup as a Southern League side, having already seen off First Division Preston North End, Bury and West Brom to get there, as well as fellow Southern League members Reading.
Back in the modern world and last season’s 3-1 drubbing at the hands of Sheffield United has to be the low-light of Mourinho’s time in charge so far but at least provoked us into going unbeaten for the rest of the season. Although this season’s Sheffield United are a shadow of their former selves – that win had them sitting seventh while we skulked in ninth, whereas I think even with last week’s win over ten-man Newcastle they’re presently the worst ever side points-wise at this stage of a Premier League season – only four of their fifteen defeats have been by a margin greater than one goal, and those narrow losses include defeats to Villa, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, West Ham, Leicester, Manchester United and Everton.
They have only scored more than one goal once in their eighteen league games to date, however – losing 2-3 to Manchester United – so, who knows, this might be one of those games where we get our noses in front and actually manage to hang on to the lead.
Or it might be a game where Mourinho looks at his squad and realises he does have options which mean he doesn’t have to ask poor old Sissoko to play as a utility striker and the team finally rediscovers its funk.
Come on you Spurs!