Monaco vs Tottenham: Five things we learned as Spurs are knocked out of Champions League group stage

Spurs struggle with the same problems they have had in their Champions League campaign so far: tactical naivety, defence chaos and no real support for Harry Kane up front

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The Independent Football

Spurs still inexperienced

When Mauricio Pochettino looked back on Spurs' collapse at the end of last season, he said that problem was in their heads, and that they needed to improve their mentality. This Champions League campaign has felt like a vindication, of sorts. Spurs have looked tactically naive and careless in their four games against Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco, good sides but not in the European elite. They were outplayed in all four of those matches and it would have been absurd if they had qualified at the expense of either of those two. This campaign has been a hard reminder that this Spurs team is still a work in progress, with none of the exposure its domestic rivals have to the top end of European competition.

Monaco full-backs dominate

Mauricio Pochettino has spent the last few games trying to find a new tactical balance. Tonight he played a new narrow 4-3-2-1, hoping to get as much support to Harry Kane as possible. The problem was that it was so narrow, with Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli tucked in, that the flanks were left free to Monaco. And French full-backs Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Mendy destroyed Spurs down the sides. Every time they found space, ran into it, and caused Spurs problems they could not answer. Kieran Trippier is not first choice, but Danny Rose is, but neither Spurs full-back had to the protection to stop his Monaco counterpart.

Kane needs more help

In Spurs' last three games, Arsenal, West Ham and Monaco, they have scored five goals, which is good. But four of those came from Harry Kane, and three of them were penalties. Spurs still have a problem scoring goals from open play, and the return of Kane, welcome as it is, is not a total fix. Dele Alli is not playing well, neither is Christian Eriksen, while Erik Lamela is injured. Vincent Janssen is still settling in and, ultimately, Spurs simply do not have the attacking players to help Kane out. He is having to do it all by himself which is hard enough anyway, never mind after seven weeks out with an ankle injury.

Alderweireld a big absence

Spurs do not have a big squad and the problem is that they have never had a full side fit all season. Before Harry Kane returned, they lost Toby Alderweireld, their leader at the other end of the pitch. This game was an example of how much they miss him, as Eric Dier and Kevin Wimmer were pulled all over the place. Spurs painfully missed Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, and every time Monaco attacked they could have scored. It was only a superhuman performance from Hugo Lloris that kept Spurs in the game for as long as they were. Until Alderweireld comes back, there will be no stability in Pochettino's defence.

Back to the Europa League

There will be no glamour trips to Barcelona, Madrid or Munich for Tottenham this spring. Instead, they are likelier to be flying off to Krasnodar, Osmanlispor or old favourites Qarabag instead. The Europa League last-32 begins in February and Spurs could well be dreading a return to its long Thursday night trips which distort their Premier League program. Had Spurs not been in the Europa League last year they could well have won the Premier League and now they are facing the prospect of another busy spring time, with all the costs they might bring.

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