The evidence suggests that Tottenham’s offensive stagnation in the last two matches is down to Matthew Doherty’s absence.
Tottenham haven’t registered a shot on target in over three hours, the last coming in the 4-0 away win at Aston Villa. The common denominator in the last two anemic performances?
No Irishman marauding down the right wing.
The success of Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 formation depends on having wingbacks who attack proficiently and put the pressure on the opposing defence.
Emerson Royal and Ryan Sessegnon certainly don’t fit that bill, both of whom were horrendous today. Although Sergio Reguilon wasn’t any better last week.
Sessegnon made his return to the lineup after being out with an injury for an extended period, offering some insight as to why he was so ineffective. It’s a valid excuse, but an excuse nonetheless.
Royal has no such excuse to fall back on. He has been dreadful in recent weeks, exacerbating the overall impact of Doherty’s absence.
Without productive minutes from Tottenham’s two wingbacks, Conte’s 3-4-3 formation is rendered completely ineffective.
Pierre Hojbjerg and Rodrigo Bentancur were suffocated in the centre of the park, thwarted by Brentford’s numerical advantage.
They cannot find the time and space to supply the front men with chances and are forced to rely heavily on their wingbacks to provide the offensive support for the front three. That obviously isn’t happening.
It’s no surprise that Tottenham’s surge in offensive production coincided with Doherty’s return to top form. Spurs require that level of productivity from at least one wingback to create the space Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Dejan Kulusevski need to thrive.
While it’s highly unlikely Conte will tinker with the formation with just five matches to play, the crafty gaffer needs to find a different solution to his team’s current offensive woes before Spurs find themselves looking down the barrel of another fruitless campaign.
Either way, Spurs are shopping for at least one, most likely two wingbacks as soon as the season ends.