Thursday, 10 March 2016

Europa League: Borussia Dortmund 3 Tottenham Hotspur 0 – Pochettino damned because he didn't

The sadness for the neutral for this game is that Spurs did not turn up, or at least they did but with a scratch side. Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino made seven changes to the regular line-up for this Europa League first leg match against a full strength Dortmund side that had notched an impressive point against the mighty Bayern Munich the previous Saturday. As soon as the visitors starting XI was announced it was clear that this was Dortmund's game to lose.

Pochettino's team have had their Premier League title ambitions hindered by dropping crucial points in two bastard hard derby games against West Ham and Arsenal respectively. With the gap between Tottenham in second and Leicester in first now five points, Spurs need a win against bottom club Aston Villa this weekend in order to get their title challenge back on track. 

As good as Leicester and Spurs have been this season (and that have been really good) it cannot be ignored that their success is due in some part to Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and to a lesser extent Arsenal being below par. Tottenham may never get a better chance than now to claim a league championship and help re-draw the English football landscape in the future, what with a new stadium on the horizon. If they drop points against one of the worst Villa teams there has ever been they may never recover and could blow their big chance.

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All the more reason to be cautious when going into what should have been a blue ribbon European game against Dortmund, albeit in the Europa League. And it is this factor that made the decision easier for Pochettino. This competition has always been regarded as small fry by top English clubs. Something to be fought for but spurned when it is achieved. So when faced with the prospect of a tough knock out game against the tournament favourites and second best team in Germany, who most certainly were fielding a full strength team, Pochettino elected to bail.


Consequently the match has generated a false reading and any discussions and debates that you may hear or read about the quality of English football in European competition are meaningless, as are any proclamations about the virtues of the Bundesliga. And from a Spurs point of view, why should they care? Their priority is to win the league if they can and they definitely can. So if the coach, who has barely put a foot wrong all season, decides to rotate his squad then he is perfectly entitled so to do and would not be the first.


Spare a thought for the fans who travelled all the way to Germany to see their team effectively chuck a game? Well yes but if you're traveling to a place like Dortmund with its atmosphere, biergartens and hospitality just to watch football then you're not doing it right, in my opinion. Besides, supporters follow their team win, lose or draw. They'll cope and if Tottenham can get three points against Villa this Sunday then the only memories of their trip to the Westfalenstadion will be happy ones.*

*Update: It seems my closing remarks were overly optimistic as there were reports of "rioting" Tottenham fans and clashes with police. Tear gas and batons were used.