Tottenham Hotspur supporters close enough to the tunnel to give manager Mauricio Pochettino the benefit of their opinion did not hold back as he walked down it following the concession of two late goals and consequent loss of two points.
“Rubbish” was one of the more polite terms and questions about the summer’s transfer business proliferated. Those bellowing “sign a striker” presumably did not realise that the club had done just that earlier in the day, securing the 22-year-old Cameroonian Clinton Njie from Lyon on a five-year contract after Roberto Soldado departed for Villarreal.
That was too late, of course, to appear in anything more than civvies against Stoke, which meant that once Harry Kane was taken off, Spurs played the last half an hour without a regular forward.
Although he returned later than most to pre-season training, it was odd that he should have played a full 90 minutes at Old Trafford last week but barely 60 here.
It was dangerous to assume that his team, 2-0 up at the time, could simply sit back and play counter-attack. The visitors had already made a number of chances before that against a defence that should theoretically have been strengthened by adding Toby Alderweireld from a Southampton side that was the second meanest in the league last season. Instead, every cross into the penalty area was a threat.
Twelve minutes from time Alderweireld clumsily fouled Joselu, the striker who was one of two Mark Hughes substitutions to make an impact. Marko Arnautovic scored the penalty and within five minutes Stephen Ireland, the other replacement, crossed for Diouf to head in.
“Ten minutes more and we might have won it,” Hughes said. They could have done so even before the finish, creating further opportunities for Ireland and Diouf, while Tottenham, with Nacer Chadli moved to centre forward, were never in a position to do so.
“Until the penalty we dominated the game,” Pochettino claimed, which was highly debatable, given that Stoke had produced many of their 16 attempts on goal before that point. The hard-working Diouf, for instance, was guilty of passing up the chance to equalise Eric Dier’s goal by heading straight at the returning Hugo Lloris from barely three yards.
Pochettino said he still wants another striker; whoever controls transfer policy at Spurs these days should pay heed.
Tottenham: (4-2-3-1) Lloris; Walker, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Davies; Dier, Mason (Bentaleb, 68); Dembele, Eriksen, Chadli; Kane (Lamela, 62).
Stoke: (4-2-3-1) Butland; Johnson, Cameron, Muniesa, Peters; Van Ginkel (Ireland, 58), Whelan; Arnautovic (Adam, 89), Walters (Joselu, 58), Afellay; Diouf.
Referee: Robert Madley
Man of the match: Diouf (Stoke).
Match rating: 8/10Reuse content