NO POINT: Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has struggled to get the best out of his team this season. — AFP Photo.
A little over 83 minutes into the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid on May 26th 2018, Gareth Bale hit a speculative shot from the edge of the box.
The Welsh man struck the ball cleanly enough but it really shouldn’t have troubled Loris Karius, the Liverpool goalkeeper.
The problem was it did trouble him, he fluffed the save and Real Madrid went 3-1 up. Game over.
Right about then (remember, Karius gave the ball away to Karim Benzema 20 minutes earlier to gift the Frenchman a goal), Liverpool knew full well they needed a new keeper.
So in the summer that followed, they went out and bought Alisson Becker, a Brazilian shot stopper from AS Roma.
Sure, they spent an awful lot of cash to secure his services, but it is proving money very well spent.
Fast forward 12 months and it was Liverpool, with Becker in goal, who were crowned champions of Europe, beating Tottenham Hotspur by two goals to nil in Madrid.
Last season, the Reds also pushed Manchester City to the brink in the race for the Premier League title and so far this season, they sit top of the league, unbeaten in nine games.
What Liverpool did after the final in 2018 was to identify the problem and find a solution.
After Liverpool's win in Madrid, I told a Tottenham supporting friend that his team should do exactly the same. Learn from their mistakes and push on.
Sadly, that hasn’t been the case.
Tottenham this season are a pale imitation of the team that reached the Champions League final on May 31.
They haven’t signed anyone of note, haven’t discovered the next best thing from their youth set-up, and on Saturday against Watford, they were very lucky to get a draw in the final minutes at home.
This season they have won just three of their nine games and conceded 13 goals. That’s six more than newly promoted Sheffield United who have the same amount of points as the north Londoners.
Tottenham are in a heap of trouble and I’m struggling to see how they can get out of it.
In Mauricio Pochettino, they have one of the best managers around, Harry Kane up front would walk into any team on the planet and it wasn’t that long ago Christian Eriksen was being sought by both Barcelona and Real Madrid.
They have the best stadium in Europe bar none, and financially, Spurs seem sound as a pound.
But they have become stale, a team that is predictable and one that is lacking confidence, which is odd considering how well they did last season.
Off the pitch, there are rumours flying around (some more believable that others) of player unrest, divisions emerging in the squad and a distinct lack of motivation from their Argentinian manager.
In the summer, they should have spent big, using their status as a team among Europe’s elite to lure some of the best players in the world, but they didn't.
I’m guessing they looked at what they had and thought: "If we managed to get to the final in Madrid, then we will be alright."
That’s not been the case by any stretch of the imagination.
It seems to me they are a team happy with just being okay. A team satisfied with a top four finish and a team that on the pitch at least, clearly lacks ambition.
On Sunday evening, they play Liverpool, who are surely hurting from their 1-1 draw against mediocre opposition.
It’s a testing time for Tottenham.
It’s still early days in the Premier League, but if they don’t buck their ideas up pretty soon Spurs could find themselves slipping away from the leading pack and struggling to be anywhere near the top four in coming May. — VNS