Three things we learned: Tottenham - Aston Villa
Tottenham raced out to an early lead, but that was the extent of the good times in what might have been Harry Kane’s final home game for the club, as Aston Villa scored twice before halftime an picked up a 2-1 win with 10,000 fans in attendance at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday.
The nature of Tottenham’s demise was self-inflicted — in majority by left back Sergio Reguilon, who endured a nightmarish first 45 minutes — in a way that would perhaps lead some to believe that Jose Mourinho was still in charge.
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The defeat leaves Tottenham in a precarious position regarding European qualification (top-seven). Ryan Mason’s side is currently 6th with 7th-place West Ham (level on points) still to play on Wednesday. Everton were victorious on Wednesday, bringing them level on 59 points (but still behind on goal difference) with one game left to play.
3 things we learned: Tottenham - Aston Villa
1. Kane deserves better than this mess of a club: Maybe the new manager will possess a brilliant tactical mind and fix the horrific imbalance between attack and defense with the players currently at the club, but more likely than not a lengthy rebuild is on the way as four new defenders are required to rebuild what was actually the strength of the squad not so long ago. Speaking of problem areas…
2. Have Spurs considered playing the good midfielders? The answer is, clearly, no. Mourinho rarely, if ever, picked Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso during his 18 months in charge, and Ryan Mason has largely been hesitant as well. The result? For two seasons, Tottenham have been routinely dominated by sides that press high up the field, targeting the likes of Harry Winks in midfield and Eric Dier in defense — both of whom as significantly less accomplished on-ball players than, say, Ndombele and Lo Celso, neither of whom started on Wednesday. The slew of own-half turnovers aren’t ever limited to the midfield as the defense gave the ball away plenty itself, but the lack of dynamism and advanced players showing for the ball is a direct cause for someone like Dier or Reguilon to continuously play passes to no one in particular.
3. Grealish sparks Villa back to life: He didn’t manage to score or provide an assist for either of his side’s goals, but the difference between Aston Villa with and without Jack Grealish is akin to Tottenham and Kane. The difference Grealish makes when Aston Villa look to counter-attack transforms them from a run-of-the-mill EFL Championship side to a genuine top-half Premier League side capable of upsetting just about anyone on a given day. The Kane transfer saga will dominate headlines this summer, but whether or not Aston Villa can keep hold of Grealish will be equally impactful in the west Midlands.
Bergwijn opened the scoring with the game’s first shot, and he did it on his own, winning the ball back twice before leathering a right-footed half-volley into the ceiling of the net past Emiliano Martinez.
Reguilon drew Aston Villa level in utterly hilarious fashion. Marvelous Nakamba’s cross from the left wing was met by Tottenham’s left back without a claret shirt anywhere in sight, yet the Spaniard shanked his right-footed clearance so badly that it looped over the unsuspecting Hugo Lloris in goal and found its way inside the near post. It’s not often that own goals are scored from 16 yards out.
Reguilon was again at the center of the action as Aston Villa took the lead in the 39th minute. Attempting to pass his way out from under increasing pressure near the penalty area, Reguilon’s forward ball was blocked and caromed high into the air and into Watkins’ path. Watkins nodded the ball into his own path and beat Lloris with touch no. 2.
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Tottenham began the second half brightly, and it was again Bergwijn through whom the chances flowed. Martinez made a pair of stellar saves to deny the Dutchman inside the opening five minutes. First, a striker from 12 yards out, cutting left to right. Then, an even more powerful blast from roughly the same distance, moving right to left.
Once the initial storm had again passed, Aston Villa resumed control and dominance. Bertrand Traore was unlucky to not score on multiple occasions, as was Watkins as the game became more and more stretched and direct balls in behind proved dangerous, while Tottenham tripped over themselves simply trying to get out of their own half.
Kane manage to work a scoring chance in the 75th minute, but his powerful blast came from a tight angle on the right side of the box and Martinez reacted well to block and push it away with both hands.