What cost Tottenham their first title in 55 years?

Spurs’ draw away to Chelsea saw their title challenge come to an end with two games remaining. But what were the contributing factors and how does it compare to Liverpool’s near miss in 2014?

Chelsea v Tottenham 2016

Son scored the second goal in the 44th minute.

Lack of Discipline
It’s only relevant following the Battle at the Bridge and Dele Alli’s punch against West Brom but these two games conjured up two-points from a possible six. If Tottenham had won both of them, then they would be just three-points off Leicester with two games to go and a superior goal difference.

Alli’s clash with West Brom’s Claudio Yacob came during the first half, which his side ended, one-goal to the good. The PFA Young Player of the Year was subsequently banned for three-matches after the FA took retrospective action, bringing a premature end to his season and leaving Spurs short of their second top scorer.

Then came the match at Chelsea. Their local rivals and reigning champions – who had nothing but pride to play for. A pride in preventing the side they’ve not lost at home to in 26-years from winning the league. Pride in ensuring that their former and likable manager, Claudio Ranieri, will win Leicester’s first top division title in their 132-year history. The Blues were pumped up for this game, despite the fact they had been hoping for the summer to arrive as soon as winter came. For the players and supporters, it was a case of, “If we can’t win it then neither can you!”

Tottenham were two clear by half-time. It looked like the hoodoo was over, but Chelsea’s response saw Leicester crowned Champions of England while the FA investigate what sanctions to take against both sides for their lack of control and discipline, particularly Spurs.

Mark Clattenburg was the unfortunate man charged with officiating this contest, which quickly became a battle. His willingness to accept the stakes were high meant he showed some educated leniency at first in the hope that the players would meet him halfway. However, the competitive egos that these professionals possess meant they were incapable of doing so and instead stood Clattenburg up without a reasonable excuse.

Ex-referee, Dermot Gallagher, said of Clattenburg’s position, “I think that’s the toughest game I’ve seen in the last 24 years for a referee.” I as a neutral did not envy his task that night and I suspect his colleagues were of the same thinking.

Che v Tott lineups

Tottenham’s card count of nine was the worst in Premier League history but it should have been more.

A total of 12 yellow cards were dished out, the most in a single Premier League game. Tottenham received nine of those yellow cards, unsurprisingly, the most for a single team in a Premier League game. Four of those came after Eden Hazard had equalised in the 83rd minute. They had seven minutes of injury-time, yet they failed to muster another effort on goal in a game that they had to win. Four yellow cards and no shots in the last 14-minutes doesn’t look pretty.

They lost their heads and failed to channel their emotions effectively. It was petulance in abundance and naivety in its execution. It was understandable to a point given the youthful nature of their squad. But ultimately, it cost them dearly and cannot be repeated should they want to reach their potential and more importantly, act as role models for future generations.

There were 29 fouls in total and 12 yellow cards. During the Manchester derby in March, which United won 1-0; there were 21 fouls and just two yellow cards. The fact it was a derby doesn’t excuse the pathetic and cowardly behaviour of those so-called professionals who failed to maintain any sense of control on Monday night.

Mousa Dembele was caught on camera gouging Diego Costa’s eye during one of many melees. Erik Lamela was seen to walk on Cesc Fabregas’ hand as the Spaniard lay on the ground. His aggressive protests following an over-the-top reaction left little to be desired but he did have a case for complaint. Both Dembele and Lamela are likely to face the similar retrospective ban that Alli received, while Eric Dier somehow avoided a second-yellow card as he cynically brought down one Chelsea player after another.

Even manager Pochettino overstepped his boundaries when he entered the pitch to breakup a scuffle between Danny Rose and Willian that took place just in front of the technical area. Undoubtedly, the Argentinian manager was fearful of Rose being sent off during first-half injury-time and potentially jeopardising his side’s two-goal cushion.

The unfortunate inevitability of players and staff clashing in the tunnel occurred after the final whistle, providing more candidates for the ‘ego-driven idiot’ award. It was almost poetic that during this testosterone fuelled nonsense in London; a team united by its togetherness and spirit was celebrating a title win in Jamie Vardy’s house.

Riyad Mahrez

Mahrez equalised against Tottenham in the 82nd minute of their third game.

Too many draws
Having drawn their last two games, Spurs sit third in the list of total draws this season with 13, one behind Everton and West Ham.

Of their 13 draws, Tottenham held the lead in seven of them – twice losing two goal advantages (home to Stoke and away at Chelsea). They also saw a one-goal lead turned into a 2-1 defeat at home to Newcastle.

Coincidently, one of those lost leads occurred at the King Power stadium when Dele Alli opened his Tottenham account by breaking the deadlock in the 81st minute. But just a minute later, Riyad Mahrez equalised for Leicester, causing a three-point swing in the title race in only the third game of the season. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing.

Lack of strikers
The failure to replace Roberto Soldado and Emmauel Adebayor with anyone appears to have contributed to many of those draws.

Name League goals Name League goals
Harry Kane 25 Jamie Vardy 22
Dele Alli 10 Riyad Mahrez 17
Christian Eriksen 6 Leonardo Ulloa 6
Erik Lamela 4 Shinji Okazaki 5
Toby Alderweireld 4 Robert Huth 3
Harry Kane

Kane has had to lead the line without much cover this campaign.

Kane is the only out and out striker amongst Spurs’ top five scorers. Meanwhile, Leicester have Vardy, Ulloa and Okazaki. Though, special mention for the goals Huth scored which came in a 1-0 win at White Hart Lane while the other two were in a 3-1 win at Man City.

Ulloa’s role has been from the bench for the vast majority of the season, yet he provides a different threat to Vardy and Okazaki, which Spurs don’t possess. Two of his goals proved vital in the 1-0 win at home to Norwich and the recent 2-2 draw against West Ham.

Luis Suarez

Liverpool’s good work in 2014 was undone by the sale of Suarez to Barcelona.

Is it Liverpool 2014 all over again?
The Reds all but lost the title against Chelsea in the 36th game of the 2013/14 season when a draw would have sufficed.

But there are differences between Liverpool’s experience and Tottenham’s, which should leave the Lilywhites’ fans feeling optimistic:

  • – Liverpool had the title in their hands heading into their game with Chelsea, Tottenham didn’t.
  • – Liverpool went on to lose their star man, Luis Suarez, that summer, while Tottenham look highly unlikely to lose Kane or more importantly, Pochettino.
  • – Liverpool lost out to Man City while Tottenham can’t begrudge the fairytale of Leicester City being the reason that they finished second.
Pochettino and Kane

Tottenham’s future is bright as long as they keep these two.

Spurs managed to finish above Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, Man Utd and Liverpool, yet they failed to take the trophy. However, if they can build on this season’s success and learn from their mistakes – something that is easier when you’re younger, then this squad has every opportunity of not only regularly competing for the title, but also becoming a real threat in Europe.

It might be hard to stomach now, but this could be the poignant beginning of a successful period for Tottenham.