While picking through the bones of Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-0 defeat to Everton on Sunday, the lack of a ‘plan’, especially after the goal was conceded, was painstakingly obvious.
Spurs boss Jose Mourinho bemoaned his players’ reluctance to press the ball in his post-match press conference, especially high up the pitch, and put the fact down to laziness.
However, certain Tottenham players, Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura in particular showed a willingness to work hard off the ball and press the Everton full-backs and deep-lying midfielders.
Mourinho’s track record at other clubs never had his teams pressing high up the pitch and it remains unclear whether this is the instruction now – one assumes it is, if the criticism after the game is to be taken on face value.
While nothing tactically is black or white in football, most teams either look to press the ball as a collective or sit in and keep their shape.
Under Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham were initially one of the best in the business at putting opponents under pressure by pressing, before a change of tact in the final 12 months of his tenure.
On Sunday, it appeared that some Spurs players were pressing the ball, some were regimented in their pre-ordained positions and others were doing neither.
Criticising the players after the first game of the season is not a great look and Tottenham’s players may well be scratching their heads – as a fan, I was.
While the lack of intensity was a worrying part of the defeat, Spurs’ identity and tactical style will be dictated by the manager.
At this point there is a fair amount of uncertainty over what the team has been instructed to do or is trying to achieve.