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Why Tottenham's lack of European experience came back to haunt them

Saturday 25th February 2017
While Leicester and Claudio Ranieri have stolen all of the headlines after the two parted company, it was Tottenham that were forced to shoulder yet another horrendous evening in Europe as they were knocked out by lowly Gent in the Europa League.

A 2-2 draw on the night was not enough for the London side as they were beaten 3-2 on aggregate after a 1-0 defeat the week before. It brought to a close an incredibly poor European campaign in both the Europa League and the Champions League. They have won just two games in Europe this season, with neither games in the Europa League yielding a victory.

On Thursday night, Tottenham were embarrassed at Wembley as Gent, a side that play in the Belgian Pro League, left England as the winners of the tie.  A Harry Kane own goal capped another poor display from the London side with Christian Eriksen and Victor Wanyama's goals not enough for Mauricio Pochettino's team.
But what went wrong for the Premier League side? Just two wins from a possible eight in Europe this term, along with two draws and four losses is an awful campaign for the London side. Tottenham have been in fine form in the league currently sitting in third place with 50 points, losing just three times, fewer defeats than they suffered in their time in Europe.

Perhaps it is their renowned youth that is hurting them. Very few of the players can be accused of being veterans of the European scene, with a real lack of experiences stunting their European push. On Thursday night, there did not seem to be any real leaders forthcoming, with poor decisions not chastised until it was too late. Dele Alli's appalling knee high tackle saw the midfielder rightly dismissed and their chances went with him as he trudged down the Wembley tunnel.

Of course, anyone that watched the game will talk about how positive Tottenham were at the beginning of the second-half as they looked to hit Gent early. It took them 16 minutes to break the stubborn visitors down though, with Wanyama's fine strike flying into the back of the net and filling Wembley with hope once again.

Suddenly Tottenham were leading on the night and they needed just one more goal to steal victory. However, they became increasingly desperate as time slowly ticked away. It took twenty minutes for another goal, but it was not at the right end as far as Tottenham were concerned. They threw players forward and were caught on the break as Toby Alderweireld could only chest the ball into the path of Jeremy Perbet who placed the ball beyond Hugo Lloris for what proved to be the final goal.

The result was one that was always likely as Tottenham pushed forward, but it would have been lessened hugely if they had not been forced to play a huge amount of the game without the most dynamic and talented player in their team. This is where their lack of experience comes into play. If Pochettino was able to call upon a number of players with European experience to calm the younger players down, then perhaps Alli's horror tackle could have been avoided.

As it was, Alli's sending off will be cited as the main reason Tottenham have been knocked out of both of Europe's top tournaments in very quick succession. However, Tottenham have struggled to impose themselves in most of their games this term, with Hugo Lloris all too often the hero after being forced to make a number of saves. It seems as though their lack of experience has seen them beaten in games where they are the better side talent wise, but they have been bested all too often on the scoreline due to their lack of savvy ability.

Positively, Spurs can now focus on chasing Chelsea down and ensuring they are in the Champions League next season. While the pain of yet another elimination will resonate with the fans and players for months to come, it will stand them in good stead for the campaigns to come.
Ben Darvill

I graduated with an upper second class degree in English and Creative writing from Cardiff Metropolitan University. I have been a freelance sports writer since leaving University and have written for a number of online websites. I am a Chelsea and England fan but I enjoy watching any team play as I have an intense passion for football.

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