The season of Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham Hotspur is threatening to derail entirely after a devastating loss to Aston Villa on Monday morning (AEDT) was compounded by another injury.
Having earlier in the season sat equal top of the Premier League table, Spurs have now lost their last three consecutive matches, after scoring first in each of them.
They’re only the fifth club in Premier League history to do so, and the first since Leicester in 2014.
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To make matters worse, Uruguay midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur, who was making his first start for Spurs after eight months out with an anterior cruciate ligament injury, was forced off after a foul by Matty Cash.
He joins an extensive list of players unavailable either through injury or suspension.
Spurs peppered the goal early, but it took until the 22nd minute before Giovani Lo Celso, playing as a replacement for injured playmaker James Maddison, lashed in a deflected shot from the edge of the area for the opening goal for Tottenham.
Watkins had a goal ruled out for offside almost immediately after the restart, Bentancur went off injured, and Villa then equalised in the seventh minute of first-half stoppage time when Pau Torres headed in Douglas Luiz’s free kick.
Villa saw more of the ball in the second half and after Tottenham goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario tipped a shot from substitute Leon Bailey onto the post and away, the visitors took the lead when Watkins exchanged passes with Youri Tielemans and sent a low shot beyond Vicario from a central position just after the hour mark.
Despite the loss, Postecoglou said he « couldn’t be happier » with the way his side played.
« I’m really proud of them — I thought we played some fantastic football and on another day we’d have probably won the game comfortably, » Postecoglou told Sky Sports.
« I can’t fault the effort, the intent and everything they put into the game.
« There’s no frustration. We played well and as a manager that’s all you can ask for.
« Sometimes the outcomes don’t go the way you want but as a manager you’re looking for how the players are committed to what we’re trying to do and they were totally committed to it today. »
But former Spurs boss Tim Sherwood suggested Spurs could be in for a tough period.
« They’ve got so many injuries, so many suspensions, it’s crippling them at the moment, » he said on Optus Sport’s Matchday Live.
« They’ve got Manchester City up next, they need to stop the rot. »
The win lifts Villa into fourth place, tied on points with Liverpool in third and two points behind leader Arsenal after 13 games. Tottenham is two points behind Villa in fifth.
There was a minute’s applause ahead of the game and both sets of players wore black armbands as a tribute to Terry Venables, the former England and Tottenham coach whose death was announced Sunday. He was 80.
Spurs’ task to stay in touch with the leaders isn’t about to get any easier. They next face defending champs Manchester City on the road, and and then must bounce back at home against West Ham.
— With AP