'We deserved to lose': Pogba's truth bomb, slow mo shows Salah genius, Bruce's last stand in PL Talking Points
With those pesky internationals out the way, the Premier League was back in action and it was a weekend full of drama.
Tottenham had the advantage heading into the second leg at Wembley after their draw in Turin, but they could not capitalise on it in London.
Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala scored within three minutes during the second half to punish Mauricio Pochettino’s men, winning 2-1 to dump Spurs out of the knockout phase.
Ultimately, Juve’s determination got them over the line and Massimiliano Allegri must deserve praise. The mastermind changed Spurs’ shape in the second half, seeing his team complete their comeback in the tie.
Chasing the game in the second period, he brought on Kwadwo Asamoah for Blaise Matuidi and Stephan Lichtsteiner in place of Medhi Benatia, which changed the complexion of the outcome. This meant Andrea Barzagli tucked in from right back to play alongside Giorgio Chiellini in his preferred centre half role, while Lichtsteiner operated in his normal position at fullback.
This tactical switch was on full display when the Swiss fullback got down the line to deliver the cross that played a part in Higuain scoring the important equaliser, which then resulted in the Italian outfit scoring the all important second very soon after.
The Italian manager has received criticism in recent times for not having the ability to change tactics positively, which was evident in last seasons devastating 4-1 final loss against Real Madrid, but the 50-year-old got one up on his opposition manager in the Wembley dugout, who proved to win the strategic battle in the first leg three weeks ago.
Allegri will now be aiming to make it third time lucky in this competition as Juve boss as the side look to win the illustrious trophy for the first time since 1995-96.
On the other hand, whenever it looks like Spurs are on the cusp of something great, they fall. When they gained that comeback draw in Italy, it showed that the team could soon reach the same levels of the elite.
After taking the lead through Heung-Min Son in the first half, all signs pointed towards the London club building on their good form. More importantly, it was looking as though they were going to make a huge leap forward and eliminate a team that has partaken in two of the last three Champions League finals and currently seeking their seventh Serie A crown in a row.
Though the hosts were the best team for the large majority of both games. It will be hard for players and fans alike to reflect on that three-minute bracket, which killed their European aspirations.
In the end, when push comes to shove, Pochettino’s men could not get the job done and the Argentine can only now turn his attention to a possible FA Cup triumph as their last hope for silverware this season.
Spurs have had a strong core for the last three or four years, and many won’t disagree with that statement, but it is very possible that the club could be starring down the barrel of yet another season without a trophy.
When dissecting the personnel at the Argentine’s disposal, while there is no secret that as a team they produce some really good attacking football, it is clear his team lack any real winners. It is why they were left disappointed at the end result and it is really holding back this Spurs team.
Looking at Pochettino’s reign in charge so far at the London club, there have been instances to pick out where they have fallen at crucial moments.
In his debut campaign in 2014-15, Spurs reached the League Cup final against fellow Londoners Chelsea, but eventually lost out 2-0 in the former Espanyol manager’s first cup final appearance as the manager.
In the Argentine’s second season in charge, it is hard to forget the collapse towards the end of the 2015-16 league campaign, where they went from being Leicester City’s biggest title challengers to not picking up a single victory in their last four league matches. In the last game of the season, Pochettino’s men suffered an embarrassing 5-1 away defeat at the hands of relegated Newcastle United and to make matters even worse, it saw their arch nemeses Arsenal claim second spot ahead of them.
Last season, despite claiming second position in the league, the team failed to qualify out of a Champions League group that many expected them to flourish in. This meant another crack at a possible Europa League crown, but the team failed to get past the round of 32 stage. The team reached an important FA Cup semi-final match-up against Chelsea, but failed again, which continued their drought of not claiming the cup since 1991.
Over the last near four seasons, Pochettino has not possessed the best track record in European competition. The 46-year-old has managed three Europa League stints, with the team not progressing past the last 16 stage.
In Europe’s elite club competition, they managed to improve on their performance last campaign, which was Pochettino’s second taste of Champions League football. Despite improving on being knocked out in the group stage last campaign to reaching the round of 16 this season, Tottenham only added to their reputation as a team that keep falling when it matters most.
Juve defender Giorgio Chiellini summed up the match up brilliantly in his post-match interview, saying “it’s the history of Tottenham,” and further stating “we believe in history, we saw it between Paris (PSG) and Real (Real Madrid). The history is important, with experience it is important and we used our skill.”
It is important to note as well that Pochettino has arguably assembled a better squad than that of Harry Redknapp’s when he was in charge at the helm. However, the English manager has got Tottenham further in the competition and that was when they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Real Madrid in 2011.
Pochettino can rue on that decisive three-minute period that ended another hope of European glory, but now they must turn their attentions back domestically as they aim to maintain their status in the top four when the side travel to Bournemouth this weekend, before looking to continue their run in the FA Cup when they travel to Wales to take on Swansea City in the quarter-finals.
What do we think is going to happen? Will Pochettino claim a first trophy by winning the FA Cup? Or will it be another trophyless season?
If Spurs come to the end of another season without silverware, question marks are certainly going to be raised over Pochettino. Even if the Argentine is able to successfully qualify for the Champions League for a third campaign running, in this day and age, fans want and expect success.