“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
We’ve been here before. A goal to the good against a Serie A stalwart before two sucker punches in quick succession turn our Champions League campaign on its head. Jubilation for the striped signores; anguish for the luckless Lilywhites. Defeat painfully wrenched from the jaws of victory.
OK, so Inter are no Juventus. But the manner in which the game escaped us mirrors that abject night at Wembley. Groundhog Day: chances not taken, a failure to react, individual errors, goal conceded, then another. Mamma mia. It’s happened again.
Pochettino had warned us in his pre-match press conference; our eyebrows raised to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson proportions following his tale of The Cow and the Train.
Perplexed reaction from the press was a case of lost in translation. What Pochettino had meant to convey — I think, at least— was that Tottenham are the cow, the “passing train” the experience. Just like Spurs, the cow can’t say for themselves whether or not they have learnt from the experience, only time will tell.
And time did indeed tell. An Italian opposition mediocre for most of the game only required minutes of dominance to leave Spurs scratching their heads once again after a European defeat. “[Spurs] always create many chances and score so much but, in the end, they miss always something,” proclaimed Giorgio Chiellini back in March after Spurs were sunk 2-1 by Juventus. Six months later, the same score-line purports Chiellini as Mystic Meg.
To find those on the pitch culpable is to be expected. Regardless of I Nerazzurri’s stature as has-been heavyweight, a positive result at the San Siro is near-on impossible when players are making the same mistakes that have cost them previous: slow, purposeless passing, attacking overloads spurned, and — most of all — a sorry state of set pieces ineptly defended.
Blame will rightly fall on Pochettino’s shoulders, too. Whereas against Watford and Liverpool, not to mention the aforementioned Juventus match, his failure to tactically react proved fatal, this time his reactions were actually the catalyst to our catastrophe. The removal of Lamela, in particular, resulting in an imbalance that invited Inter to advance — it was an invitation they duly accepted.
Has this Cow learnt anything, then? To go beyond the white lines of the pitch lies the same, bleak answer of lessons not learned. Nine of the players to suffer loss against Juventus in March featured against Inter last night, while eight of the players to play in our group opening defeat to Monaco two years ago also played in Milan.
Not only are the same players making the same mistakes year after year, the club is also repeating its own ruinous error when failing to bring in the necessary players for this squad to advance under Pochettino. The manager, of no fault of his own, is relying on the same set of players to win the same matches and trophies they’ve failed to win in the past three seasons.
Of course, the instinctive retort to this claim is that Spurs possess a young squad who have improved, and will continue to do so. But to expect more when there’s nothing left in the tank — how can, say, Harry Kane improve on last season’s goal tally? — is not only an unreasonable expectation for the club, but an unfair burden on the players.
As with the Juventus defeat, last night’s result at Inter once again proved what many already know: that while this Tottenham side is good enough to challenge, it may not be good enough to lift the trophies both players and fans so wholeheartedly crave.
And to expect a different result when we are repeating these same mistakes both on and off the pitch? Well, it doesn’t take an Einstein to predict how it will end.
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