Tottenham vs. Leicester: Lessons to Be Learned in Near FA Cup Embarrassment

Sam Rooke@@SamRooke89Featured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2016

Tottenham’s Harry Kane celebrates after scoring a penalty to equalise during the English FA Cup third round soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City at White Hart Lane in London, Sunday Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
Tim Ireland/Associated Press

A replay, yet another match in an already packed season, seems the apt punishment for Tottenham's maddening performance in the 2-2 FA Cup draw with Leicester City

In their last two fixtures, against Everton and Leicester City respectively, Spurs have utterly dominated their opposition for an hour and come away with just one goal on each occasion.

In the league fixture at Goodison Park, that wastefulness consigned them to a 1-1 draw. At home in the FA Cup, it almost meant yet another early-round exit. 

Both matches should have been won easily. Manager Mauricio Pochettino should be concerned that neither was. 

Eight members of Spurs' strongest 11 were rested, but Pochettino was still able to field a strong side. 

Among those that started were seven full internationals and, initially, they played like it. 

Spurs had plenty of shots—24 in fact—but far too many were from unlikely wide angles. 

Tim Ireland/Associated Press

Leicester are exceptionally good at forcing their opponent into wide areas. 

By conceding the flanks, they are able to compress their back four to the extent that they almost appear to have one long row of centre backs.

This tactic, along with Pochettino's selection of Heung-Min Son as striker, meant Spurs had numerous opportunities but few in dangerous areas.

Leicester City have a consistent approach. After the replay, Spurs will have played them six times in 12 months, and yet Sunday's performance showed that necessary lessons have not yet been learned.

Tottenham's inability to penetrate a competent defence is becoming a concerning theme for Pochettino's team. It emphasizes the need for reinforcements to be sought in this transfer window. 

The opening stages of this fixture seemed to reinforce the idea that Spurs have the squad to compete on multiple fronts and far deeper reserves than Leicester City. 

Given that Leicester are one of the three teams ahead of them in the league, that superiority is of great significance. 

In the marathon Premier League campaign, the comparative strength of first teams is of less importance than the capacity of the squad to fill inevitable gaps caused by injury and fatigue.

Pochettino was able to rotate heavily, and he retained Toby Alderweireld in central defence. The rock-solid defensive base upon which Spurs have relied this season was represented by the Belgian's presence. 

Unfortunately for Pochettino, Alderweireld contrived to have his worst game in a Tottenham shirt. 

The Foxes' ability to break with great pace is well-known, but Spurs were still repeatedly exposed by it. 

Tottenham's vaunted defence - the meanest in the Premier League - was undone first by a simple near-post run at a first-half corner. 

Then it was embarrassed by half-time substitute Shinji Okazaki. 

The Japanese striker weaved right through Tottenham before shooting straight at goaltender Michel Vorm.

Vorm, perhaps in the same generous mood that characterised his performance in the 2-1 defeat to Arsenal in the League Cup earlier this season, pushed the ball straight back to Okazaki who gratefully accepted the second chance. 

Harry Kane's late penalty saved Spurs' FA Cup campaign from ending at the first hurdle.

The upside of this fixture was the performance of a number of squad players. 

Right back Kieran Trippier gave an impressive display, winger Nacer Chadli and midfielder Nabil Bentaleb got vital competitive minutes and midfielder Tom Carroll had his best game of the season. 

Fellow midfielder Josh Onomah was arguably the highlight.  

In just the second start of his young career, the 18-year-old was bright, creative and exciting. 

He has proven himself a useful member of Spurs' squad and can be sure of getting more time on the pitch as the season progresses. 

Having extricated themselves from a tricky position mid-match, Spurs now face a different pickle. 

Tim Ireland/Associated Press

Three games in seven days was an unnecessary complication to an already-bulging fixture list, but it is preferable to an early exit from a competition in which Spurs have a proud history. 

Next up, Leicester return to White Hart Lane for Wednesday's coincidental league match. 

The return of several first-team players on both sides will only sharpen that contest. 

It is a fixture with greater immediate significance than this FA Cup draw. With just three days rest, it may better reflect the difference in squad depth between the two clubs. 

Not only would victory bring Spurs within one point of the Foxes, it would puncture their confidence ahead of the replay in Leicester. 

Both clubs' seasons have begun with much promise; the next ten days could come to define them. 



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