Football

Slow starts stalling Spurs: Shearer

But Tottenham manager Pochettino confident 'suffering' will benefit his team

Tottenham Hotspur stumbled to their fourth successive league game without a win after a 1-1 away draw at Watford on Saturday.

Watford opened the scoring at Vicarage Road after just 13 minutes when Christian Kabasele headed home Tom Cleverley's corner. The visitors equalised on 25 minutes when Christian Eriksen beat the offside trap and crossed for Son Heung Min to turn home.

But Spurs were then hit with the dismissal of Davinson Sanchez on 52 minutes after he was deemed to have elbowed the effervescent Richarlison.

The result left Spurs sixth in the English Premier League table and a hefty 15 points behind leaders Manchester City, ahead of the Citizens' match with West Ham United this morning.

That prompted Alan Shearer to suggest that Spurs' travails are down to slow starts and them not "turning up against the so-called smaller teams".

The former Blackburn Rovers and England striker said on the BBC: "It's all right playing in the glory games in the Champions League, Real Madrid home and away and getting a result, but in the bread-and-butter games in the Premier League, they have started so slowly.

"If you start games slowly in the Premier League, you get punished. You go behind last week to West Brom. You go behind to Leicester. And you go behind to Watford.

"They're not up for it for the first 20 or 25 minutes."

Spurs' slow starts are an issue that concern manager Mauricio Pochettino as well.

After their 2-1 loss to Leicester City last Tuesday, he said: "We started the game not in the right way... At 2-0 down it is difficult. We need to improve the way we start. It happened against West Brom and Borussia Dortmund."

With Spurs having lost to Leicester and West Ham; and drawn with Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion, Burnley and Watford, former Premier League winner Shearer believes a pattern has developed.

He said on the BBC: "You can't just turn up for the big games. You've got to turn up against the so-called smaller teams. That's why Tottenham won't win the league."

Former Leicester City and Wales midfielder Robbie Savage agreed, telling BT Sport: "It looks like Spurs... are battling for that fourth place."

LESS PESSIMISTIC

Matt Le Tissier, however, was less pessimistic, telling Sky Sports: "I think if they'd kept 11 men on the pitch, they would have probably gone on to win the game because you couldn't really tell, when Spurs were down to 10, that Watford had that extra man anyway."

Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen felt his team coped well with Sanchez's dismissal and believes they would have scored the winner had they had a bit more time.

He told Spurs' official club website: "Even with 10 men, we were still looking good. We still had at least 50 per cent of the game and if we'd gone for 10-15 minutes longer, I think we could have won."

However, scorer Son said going down to 10 men affected the team's chance of grabbing a winner, telling the club website: "We had confidence after we scored and we were looking good but then we got the red card in the second half... We were unlucky."

While Colombian defender Sanchez might get much of the blame, Shearer was quick to point out that Dele Alli had another poor game, saying: "Dele Alli I thought was poor again, sloppy."

Le Tissier agreed, telling Sky Sports: "Alli was probably below par, Eriksen was okay... Harry Kane, not up to his usual standards today."

Despite the struggles of Spurs' stars, manager Pochettino believes his team's recent malaise will stand them in good stead for the future.

He said: "We are in a period now where we are suffering things against us. It is good for the group to try and learn.

"It is a long-term project. It will be good for the future. You want to win but, in tough moments, you learn.

"In the last few games, we have deserved more. You can't question the performance or character." - WIRE SERVICES

Football