In a season studded with so much unpredictability and hectic schedules, it is always tough to maintain consistency. Liverpool digested a shock at Villa Park a few months back, the Blues discovered, money can’t buy you everything, and Manchester United suffered humiliations while the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Barcelona went through a lean-patch.
Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur started to entertain the fans and neutrals with his defence-and-then-counterattack style of play and post-match statements. The Spurs tamed Manchester United, Manchester City, and Arsenal and in the UEFA Europa League, they looked bright.
Have the Spurs rediscovered their lost mojo?
Will they be able to maintain this form till the end?
The Spurs paid a visit to Anfield and in the clash of tactical minds, Roberto Firmino’s late-header disturbed the plans of Mourinho and he ended up saying, the best team on the pitch did not win. One cannot claim, Mourinho’s team with their resistance-oriented football were the best against Jurgen Klopp’s high-pressing football, but the way the Spurs almost halted the Reds deserve credits. Still, a bit more possession on the ball could have helped the Spurs when the Reds threw more bodies in the penalty area of the Spurs.
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 20, 2020
Jose Mourinho changed things up against Leicester City by restoring both Sergio Reguilon and Tanguy Ndombele in the final XI.
After the 3-3 draw away at LASK in the Europa League the first time the head coach had started the pair. The combination didn’t exactly work in Austria in a midfield three but the pair took up different roles against Leicester.
Ndombele was playing just behind Harry Kane up front, with Lo Celso operating on the right side with Moussa Sissoko and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg forming the pivots.
The Foxes started in a great fashion in North London.
They took five shots in the opening 20 minutes which yielded no reward and the first effort on target from either team did not come until the 34th minute, when Kasper Schmeichel was required to keep out a deflected free-kick from Harry Kane, who then headed over from close range.
Serge Aurier has come in for a lot of praise in recent weeks following some very good performances at right-back.
Previously infuriating fans with his erratic displays and the fact he was often way out of position, the Ivorian has demonstrated that he is actually a very good defender.
🕵️♂️ Roy Keane on Tottenham Hotspur right-back Serge Aurier’s foul on Wesley Fofana to award Leicester City a penalty:
— José Mourinho Daily (@JoseMourFan) December 20, 2020
However, it was the return of the old Aurier on the stroke of half-time as he conceded a penalty for deciding to needlessly barge into Wesley Fofana when the Leicester player was going nowhere.
Jamie Vardy scored from the penalty spot and the Foxes were leading by 1-0.
Vardy’s successful penalty was Leicester’s eighth of the season, at least three more than any other team in the Premier League.
Spurs, trailing at half-time for the first time in 20 league games, threw on Gareth Bale for Ndombele – an experiment, which lasted just 45 minutes – after the interval but looked to have fallen 2-0 down within three minutes of the restart when James Maddison superbly controlled James Justin’s long ball and confidently slotted beyond Hugo Lloris.
— Jamie Vardy (@vardy7) December 20, 2020
However, Maddison was deemed to have strayed marginally offside by VAR but Leicester’s lead was doubled just before the hour mark.
Vardy showed more desire than Alderweireld to attack a deep cross from Marc Albrighton and although Moussa Sissoko did to defend it, his header deflected off his team-mate and past Lloris.
Vardy has been directly involved in seven goals (five goals, two assists) in as many Premier League away games against Spurs, more than any other opponent on the road in the competition.
Schmeichel produced a stunning reaction stop to deny Son Heung-min but Spurs struggled to threaten thereafter as Leicester stood firm to claim a win that underlines their credentials as title challengers.
Back to back defeats for the Spurs!
Brendan Rodgers had been mindful of how Spurs gunned his team down last season.
He did not want that to repeat.
David Hynter of The Guardian stated, “Rodgers got the balance of his tactics right and he could salute a number of individuals for fine performances, chief among them Vardy, the wingers; Marc Albrighton and Harvey Barnes, and the right-back James Justin, who was able to nullify Son Heung-min. In midfield, Wilfred Ndidi made more recoveries of the ball than any other player in any league game this season. It meant Rodgers, at the eighth time of asking, could savour victory against Mourinho, under whom he worked at Chelsea.”
After going 11 Premier League matches unbeaten, Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham team have lost twice in five days. pic.twitter.com/rYIGy9Al85
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 20, 2020
In comparison to the previous outings against City and Liverpool, Mourinho’s men had enjoyed more possession on the ball, but they paid a heavy price due to some sloppy work by the defenders – who, in fact, had been one of the most important components to the success of the Spurs this season.
“We started bad,” Mourinho said. “The first 20 minutes was a poor performance, some empty spots in terms of pressing, attitude, recovering the ball. I didn’t like [it] at all. The fact we didn’t start well is not because I didn’t tell them to start well. I didn’t tell them: ‘Don’t be proactive or be reactive.’ But I admit we did start bad!”
“We changed during the first half, adapting the positions in midfield. We improved a lot, had a period of domination, and then the penalty. The penalty is not a penalty created, it’s a penalty that we commit. For me, it was out of context to the game at that moment because it was our best period. Aurier made a mistake. But before his mistake we had other players making mistakes in other areas of the pitch. I can’t blame a player for a mistake.”
Rodgers gained his first victory in all competitions against a Jose Mourinho side, having failed to win any of his previous seven such encounters.
Leicester will be in the first two places of the top-flight table at Christmas in consecutive seasons for the first time in their history.