Over the last two matches, the entirety of the Tottenham Hotspur midfield has not been good enough. The wingbacks have not threatened the opposition, and the central midfielders have been so deep that there has been a massive hole in the middle of Spurs’ formation in the 0-0 draw with Brentford.
Against Brighton, Rodrigo Bentancur was reportedly under the weather, and then a yellow card forced the Uruguayan to be a bit less aggressive defensively. However, there has been nothing reportedly wrong with Hojbjerg, yet neither pair is putting in the same kind of mileage they were a few weeks ago.
Although they are only playing one match a week, neither Hojbjerg nor Bentancur displayed the kind of aggression and support in the attacking half that the team needs to be successful. Thus, on a day when Tottenham needed a spark in the middle of the park, Conte was left without any options at his disposal. Spurs cannot afford to lose the battle on the flanks and in the middle of the park.
Tottenham really misses Oliver Skipp
The last time Spurs fans saw Oliver Skipp, he was limping off just past half an hour into the third of three January matches against Chelsea. Initially reported to be a groin issue that might take a few days, Skipp has been out of the squad for 90 days as of this writing.
The last two games are not the team’s first stumble without Skipp over the previous three months, as Spurs lost three out of the first four matches Skipp missed in league play. It seemed Tottenham had righted the ship, but the Hojbjerg and Bentancur combination will not be right every week.
Whereas both Rodrigo and Pierre are more measured in their play, reading the game and looking to react, Skipp is a more active player who is better at making things happen rather than waiting for them to happen. He is not a dynamic player going forward, but Skipp does go forward and was doing so with increasing frequency before his injury.
The three main centre-midfielders are all pretty similar, even with a healthy Skipp. However, when one of the three is out, it leaves the team short in a place where shortages lead to losses.
Tottenham needs improvement on the wings and more movement from the front three, but more than anything, they need the depth in the middle of the park Skipp provides. We can only hope he returns this season to contribute because it looks like Conte’s cupboard is bare.