Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 0 Aston Villa
The game plan was clear: absorb and hit on the break. The game plan didn’t work because we didn’t possess enough goal threat and that’s an ongoing problem Steve Bruce has to address.
Though expectations of anything other than defeat were low, it was still disappointing that we didn’t test a much-changed Spurs side more.
Some will tell you there’s no disgrace in losing two-nil to a top four team in the Premier League but these weren’t the top four team; this was a half-and-half mix.
Then there’s the question of whether you want to win enough if you’re happy in defeat. After all these years and with all the practice, losing still cuts through me as bad as it ever has in the past.
Before the match, the talk was all of about how we were going to ‘give it a go’ and the words were fine. I understand that we can’t go to Tottenham and ‘out-football’ them, it’s a recipe for disaster. Even so, we could have been more adventurous and one shot on target all game underlines that.
After the match, Steve Bruce put in a better display defending his players than we did in the second half. “We had to defend well and run a million miles,” he claimed, “because they are a very good side. We had a big chance in the game.”
The singular tells you all you need to know because we conceded twice. Even if we’d taken the chance, we were still out.
Ever the master of the understatement, Bruce was “a touch disappointed” at conceding from a cross. Has he been watching us this season? It felt like it was par for the course.
Disappointingly, he seemed to give our latest recruit some backhanded praise.
You need your goalkeeper to play well, and Sam Johnstone looks a very good young goalkeeper – I think he’ll relish the challenge to play week in, week out.
It’s a low bar based on this season’s showing from others. What we need is a consistent goalkeeper rather than one who consistently makes mistakes. Hopefully, young Johnstone is that player.
We are desperately missing Jonathan Kodjia as an attacking outlet as well as an attacking threat. At some points during the game, we had a back seven; that’s how dominant Spurs were. I think they ended the match with over 70% possession which is ridiculously high.
Instead of being a match which gives us a boost ahead of the trip to Wolves, it’s one which has left us with plenty of questions to answer. Certainly, it has underlined that we need to head into the transfer market before the month is out. A goalscorer is an absolute must. We’re seven points off the play-offs, but only four sides have scored fewer goals than us.
Fortunately, we’ve conceded the third-lowest total goals in the Championship otherwise, we’d be fighting our second consecutive relegation. I know you said we’d be getting out of this division, Steve, but I’d rather it were upwards!