Leipzig leave Lloris squirming and hurry Mourinho's stale Spurs to the exit

Leipzig beat toothless Tottenham 3-0 to secure a 4-0 aggregate win and a place in the Champions League quarter-finals

If any positives are to emerge from Tottenham’s humbling by RB Leipzig, perhaps it will force this drifting club to rethink a strategy which is failing them at the moment. This is not just about José Mourinho, even if he increasingly looks like a manager whose best days belong in the past. It is also about Daniel Levy taking the easy way out when results dipped and not having the vision to stick with Mauricio Pochettino, who should have been given the opportunity to build again after losing the Champions League final to Liverpool last season.

Ultimately it was more straightforward to fire the manager than splash out on transfers. Across two legs against Leipzig, however, the consequence of Levy’s decision to hold on to players who should have been sold a long time ago has been laid horribly bare. Spurs, a stale side whose decline was epitomised by Hugo Lloris conceding two soft goals in the first half, are a shadow of their former selves and they could not grumble about being defeated by Leipzig, who were slicker and smarter throughout.

The Germans were accomplished 4-0 winners on aggregate and it is clear to see why there is such a buzz around their 32-year-old manager, Julian Nagelsmann. Indeed it is hard not to wonder if Spurs would be playing with more energy had they hired someone like Nagelsmann instead of replacing Pochettino with Mourinho, that proven winner who has not been past the last 16 of this competition since 2014.

Admittedly Mourinho has inherited a flawed squad. While injuries to Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Steven Bergwijn have exposed a lack of cover in attack, key players from the Pochettino era have not been adequately replaced. Christian Eriksen, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Mousa Dembélé and Danny Rose have gone and time has caught up with stalwarts like Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.

Marcel Sabitzer (leads the Leipzig celebraions after scoring one of his two goals in the Champions League victory over Tottenham.
Marcel Sabitzer leads the Leipzig celebrations during his match-winning two-goal display. Photograph: Ronny Hartmann/AFP via Getty Images

Plenty of managers would struggle in this situation. Yet this is the first time that Mourinho has ever gone six games without a win and it is likely to remain a joyless trudge unless he stops moaning about injuries and finds some solutions. After all there is nothing to lose in having a look at Troy Parrott, an 18-year-old striker who remained on the bench here.

As it was Spurs displayed no conviction, which left them vulnerable from the start against Leipzig. There was a brisk confidence about Nagelsmann’s side and danger flared whenever Timo Werner eased into space down the right. Spurs were too open despite using a back five, Eric Dier and Alderweireld wobbled when they were confronted by the speed of Werner or the intelligent hold-up play from Patrik Schick. The only surprise was it took Leipzig until the 10th minute to score.

The goal stemmed from one of those elusive bursts from Werner. Spurs were all over the place defensively, as they have been all season, and although Dier blocked Werner’s initial attempt, the forward had time to collect the loose ball and work out what to do next. Sabitzer was free on the edge of the area and, with Érik Lamela slow to react, the Leipzig captain’s drive squirmed beyond Lloris.

It was poor from Lloris and another reminder of how far the players who once made this Spurs side so exciting have regressed. Even if allowances had to be made for their problems in attack, the painful truth for Mourinho was that his stodgy side had no way of stopping opponents implementing their well-drilled plan. It was one-way traffic and Spurs were fortunate not to fall further behind in the 19th minute, an offside flag denying Werner when he converted Angelino’s cross.

José Mourinho watches on helplessly as Spurs exited with a whimper.
José Mourinho watches on helplessly as Spurs exited with a whimper. Photograph: Kieran McManus/BPI/REX/Shutterstock

In Mourinho’s defence he had gone with a relatively attacking line-up. Yet Ryan Sessegnon toiled after being given a rare chance at left wing-back and there was little threat from Dele Alli in the false nine role. Then again, given that Mourinho picked a side made up of players with 26 goals between them this season, the dearth of creativity in the final third hardly came as a surprise.

The only bite came from Giovani Lo Celso who went close near the end of the opening period. Leipzig cruised, though. They sliced through a soft Spurs midfield and pulled clear when Angelino, who tormented the abysmal Serge Aurier, crossed from the left for Sabitzer to head past Lloris at the near post. The Spurs goalkeeper should have done better.

Leipzig added a third when the substitute Emil Forsberg finished from close range. Spurs, unable to exploit the inexperience of opponents making their debut in the knockout stages, had been outclassed. They are out of the FA Cup, eighth in the Premier League and have lost four of their last six matches. All eyes are on Levy. The Spurs owner must show his worth.


Jacob Steinberg at the RB Arena

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