The Christmas games had seen Tottenham Hotspur put themselves right into the Premier League title race.
11 goals in two games put them above Manchester City and a win at Wembley against Wolves would have put Spurs just three points behind leaders Liverpool. Last Word on Football looks at a defeat for Spurs that asks questions of whether they really can be realistic title challengers as Wolves bring expectations back down to Earth.
Wolves Bring Expectations Back Down to Earth at Wembley
Spurs started on the front foot and won a corner after just 30 seconds as they looked to set the tone for the afternoon. Harry Kane, named MBE in the New Years honours list, looked to bustle his way through but found his route blocked time and again. On 12 minutes he was again brought down but the free-kick from Kieran Trippier was straight at Rui Patricio. You never write off Harry Kane, though, and on 22 minutes he curled a wonderful left-footed effort beyond the Wolves keeper to give Spurs the lead.
From that point on, it was Wolves who looked likeliest to score the next goal. Spurs did make it to half-time in the lead but Wolves were about to bring expectations back down to Earth at Wembley.
The word for Spurs’ second-half efforts is inept. Slow, lazy, cocky, overconfident, and Wolves smelt blood. Time and time again Spurs gave the ball away. The usually imperious Christian Eriksen couldn’t find anyone in a white shirt. Kieran Trippier was woeful going forwards and not much better at the back. Hugo Lloris showed once again that his ball skills with his feet are questionable at best and Spurs looked anything but title challengers.
Three Goals Reveal Defensive Weakness
Spurs have struggled with set pieces this season and on 72 minutes they showed that fragility once more. Willy Boly headed home a corner unchallenged and Spurs needed to respond.
Instead, they capitulated. It was old school Spurs. Ten minutes later and Wolves were 2-1 ahead. Raul Jimenez collected another ball that Spurs had given away and not one of their players was in attendance. The shot was on target but weak. It went through Toby Alderweireld’s legs but Hugo Lloris should have saved the shot. A fabulous keeper who keeps making errors that are costly.
Even after the second goal, Spurs simply did not respond. Wolves got their third on 87 minutes and the already sparse crowd at Wembley was virtually empty as the fans headed for the exits.
Cardiff Away Next – Can Spurs Respond?
Nothing should be taken away from Wolves who came away from home and went for the win and, make no mistake, they fully deserved the three points. Spurs, however, were sluggish and were too quick to wave the white flag of surrender in the second half.
From an opportunity to go three points behind the leaders, Spurs could be nine points behind Liverpool should they beat Arsenal in the evening kick-off.
There have been strange results over the festive period as has been seen with defeats for Manchester City at home to Palace and away at Leicester City. This is just one defeat for Spurs but it is their fifth defeat this season and that may be too much for a side challenging for the title.
Spurs have shown powers of recovery already this season and will need to do so again in Wales on New Year’s Day. Any dropped points in that game and Spurs will have to wait for at least another season to challenge for a league title.