It was a game that represented everything that’s still very much wrong with the Europa League. Playing in front of what looked like approximately 20 Panathinaikos fans, Spurs’ lack-lustre performance last night was what the word pedestrian was invented for. The two teams served up a bland mix that the word ‘dull’ doesn’t seem quite enough for, and the overall lack of caring on the behalf of both sides was clear to see. Even AVB’s goal celebration was a muted parody of his fist-pumping jubilation in Spurs’ league games.
More’s the point, last night was the opportunity for Spurs’ first team fringe players to put in a performance, and in terms of this, the performance was mediocre at best. Michael Dawson may have found the net, but his poor clearances from defence and lack of mobility did little to suggest he’ll be forcing himself into AVB’s league plans any time soon. Similarly, Tom Huddlestone’s supposed passing ability showed little sign of developing anything resembling incisiveness, and the big midfielder wandered around the pitch in a slightly dazed-looking manner for much of the game.
Overall, the effort just wasn’t there from Spurs. Sure, the squad isn’t the biggest after all of the summer departures, and many of the team who turned out last night had also appeared against Manchester United the past weekend. However, all of the blame can’t be shouldered by the fallacy of tired players. Panathinaikos, as ITV4′s commentators were at pains to frequently point out, have had an appalling start to their season, sitting just about the relegation zone in the Greek league, and with a wealth of financial problems. Their captain was sacked from the team prior to the game, and since the beginning of the season they’ve only managed to net three times. This wasn’t a team that should have caused Spurs any problems – on the contrary, it’s likely to be the easiest game in the group.
Perhaps that was the problem – complacency. Spurs never really got out of walking football mode, maybe mistakenly thinking that they merely needed to put in an appearance to start banging the goals past Panathinaikos. Getting the team motivated in the Europa League has to be a worry for AVB; they might have turned up for the biggest game of the group against Lazio, but after last night’s failure to take all three points, Spurs can probably only afford to drop points once or twice more for the rest of the group stage in order to stand a chance of getting through to the knock-out stages. Can they raise their game against Maribor? Once again, not a big team that the players will be relishing playing, but one we need to go to the trouble of putting in the effort to beat.
Regardless of that, it’d be good to see a reaction against Villa at the weekend. They’ve improved marginally since their pretty poor start to the season, but should still be there for the taking for a team of Spurs’ calibre. We’ve had the win last week against United to really give the players some belief – perhaps we now need the win by several goals in order to boost the confidence of the players even more.