Peter Crouch and Jermaine Jenas were befuddled by Tottenham’s defensive approach after a reluctance to get forward proved costly in the first half against Marseille, before a change in approach gave them a much-needed win.
Spurs won just their second game in five, and their second in a row from a losing position, after responding from 2-0 down against Bournemouth at the weekend to win 3-2.
And it was a similar story on Tuesday night after former Newcastle defender Chancel Mbemba put the home side ahead, only for a second-half double from Clement Lenglet and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to salvage a late victory.
Peter Crouch has questioned why Tottenham don’t start games on the front foot more often
The Premier League outfit were much improved after a much-needed half-time tactical adjustment
“I’m frustrated, I’m very similar to the fans’ perspective, I just don’t understand why you don’t start on the front foot,” former Spurs striker Crouch told. BT Sport. “It gives teams momentum; it gives them hope, it gives them belief.’
“When you start like that, especially away from home, you give the impetus to the other team, I just don’t understand why you would back off and invite pressure.
“It gives the team a hell of a lot of confidence, they put passes together they play into the game.”
Spurs were inferior in almost every aspect in the first half before Marseille took the lead
Manager Antonio Conte – who was off the bench due to the red card he picked up in the aftermath of last week’s disallowed last-minute goal against Sporting last week – marked his one-year anniversary in north London with a much-needed win.
Spurs were second best in almost every respect in the first 45 minutes, and Marseille’s opener on the edge of the interval was fully deserved, having dominated possession and forced Hugo Lloris into saves early in the game.
But although his side progressed to the second round of the Champions League as group winners, Spurs have come in for criticism of late due to their lack of consistency and their poor performances in the opening games.
Tottenham won just their second game in five matches, having lost two and drawn the other
But goals from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Clement Lenglet in the second half turned things around
“I don’t feel they had the clarity to go and play on the front foot,” Jenas argued.
“It felt like what Clement Lenglet said was that as a team they were a bit more protective, like ‘let’s stick with what we’ve got’, but as soon as they conceded, which happens sometimes, they relaxed and went” You know what – let’s go play”.
“From my point of view, we can see they’re better that way, why don’t they just go and do it? When you’re on the front foot and playing, you’re so much better.
“You just brought up that list of who they’re going to face – going further into this competition you’re not going to get away with it, you’re not going to get a second bite in the second half to right your wrongs, so they have to try and find a way to nail it in the first half and try to be a lot more consistent over the game.’
Jermaine Jenas was convinced that Spurs are “so much better” when they play on the front foot
The former Spurs midfielder also noted that the north London side were missing several key members of their squad – particularly up front – and this was one of the main reasons behind their attacking struggles of late.
Jenas added that he expected to see a change in approach from the club going forward, saying: “Honestly yes, because they’re not playing well. They haven’t been playing well all year and that’s why it’s remarkable that they’re where they are .
It has to change at some point, I think (Dejan) Kulusevski not being in the team is huge.
“I think we’re seeing the effect of how good he is because he’s the fine balance between what they do offensively and defensively.
Jenas believes striker Dejan Kulusevski’s absence is a big factor in Spurs’ inconsistency
“When he is back I expect to see a much better version of Tottenham.”
Kulusevski had burst into Spurs’ attacking line-up following his arrival in January 2022, scoring eight and assisting five in 18 Premier League games.
However, the Swedish national team forward has missed ten games since the end of September due to a thigh injury, and together with the injury to Richarlison and the head injury to Son Heung-min in Tuesday’s game, Spurs are short up front.
But, as with Crouch, it was the lack of ‘character’ and fight from the visitors that most irked Jenas, and he had called for a much better display in both aspects in the second period.
“Also they are down to their bare bones, no (Cristian) Romero, no Kulusevski, no Richarlison, no manager today,” he added. BT expert.
“I asked for some character in the first half but in the second half I saw character I saw some players who didn’t want to go out of this competition, who fought, wanted to get on the ball and they deserved the win in the second half.’
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