Tottenham’s defeat to Chelsea appeared to be simply another stumble on the road for Mauricio Pochettino’s side but tactically, the loss was self-inflicted and the second goal of the game was quite an emphasis of that point.
What is unacceptable is to have full-backs in the modern Premier League who have to choose between moving up to put in crosses or defending, but cannot do both.
They don’t have to do that with great technical aplomb, either; they just have to understand their role as an extra man in attack without compromising the defense.
That is the job of a modern full-back, and not having one on either side means you are either too short of players going forward or threadbare at the back. On Wednesday, it looked like both for Tottenham.
Chelsea simply sat back, covering the middle of their defense whenever threatened. It was going to take runs on the outside and a quality ball to beat them and that never happened.
It appeared as though Chelsea were even more gleeful when Spurs’ full-back did come up, because then they could simply poke the ball away and the full-back would never recover in time to give the away side a proper defensive recovery.
‘Sarri ball’ didn’t come into play here by any means. The only available source of Tottenham chances also gave Chelsea exponentially better chances on the other end.
At their skill level, the full-backs would have been best off acknowledging they were a liability, the attack was crippled, and this was the best case scenario because they were a bigger liability going forward.
Wednesday was another glimpse of how Spurs have missed the input of reliable full-backs in the post-Kyle Walker era and perhaps the club’s transfer shopping this summer might just have to be directed at restrengthening that area of the pitch.