As dark nights go for Tottenham Hotspur, this one was as bad as any in living memory.
Manager Jose Mourinho lamented his side’s professionalism and captain Hugo Lloris labelled the 3-0 Europa League loss to Dinamo Zagreb ‘a disgrace’ – he’s not wrong there.
The defeat sees them exit the Europa League at the Round of 16, despite having held a 2-0 lead going into the second leg in Croatia. It was a humiliating 3-2 aggregate exit.
Spurs now have 10 Premier League games left to get into the top four, while they currently sit eighth, six points off Chelsea in fourth.
Meanwhile, there is a Carabao Cup final against Manchester City on April 25 at Wembley, but given recent results, the feeling is not positive for their chances.
Supporters currently feel more detached from their club than they have done in many years, left disillusioned by a manager many did want.
It seems like it’s possibly a similar feeling in the changing room too given Lloris’ comments after the demoralising defeat.
“I think we are more than disappointed because it is just a disgrace,” the French Wold Cup winner said after the loss to BT Sport.
“I just hope everyone in the changing room feels responsible. The taste of the defeat is more than painful.
“We are a club full of ambition but the team at the moment is a reflection of what’s going on in the club; we have a lack of basics, fundamentals. Mentally we should be stronger, more competitive.
“I didn’t feel that on the field unfortunately. When you not ready at this level, you pay. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, there is quality everywhere. If you don’t respect the opponent it’s kind of permission (to score), and that’s what happened today.
“Full credit belongs to the opponent because they played the game full of belief but the blame is on us. All the team, all the club.
“I don’t have to go deeper. The way we play is just not enough. One thing is to come in front of the camera and say I’m ambitious, the other is to show every day – in training, every time on the pitch – you cannot let it down.”
It’s looking pretty bleak and it could get worse if the rest of the season doesn’t go to plan either.
But what could happen next for Tottenham? talkSPORT.com takes a look.
Jose Mourinho sacked
It’s not beyond the realms of possibility, even if it would seriously put a dent in the club’s finances.
With no break clause in his contract and the current £15million-a-year deal set to last until 2023, it could take a pretty penny to shift him.
Fans might feel it’s worthwhile, mind you. Since he arrived in November 2019 – with many supporters against the appointment from the start – he’s alienated the fanbase with pedestrian and defensive football.
Even in good results for Spurs this season we’ve seen dire displays from the team. A four-goal haul for Heung-Min Son against Southampton early in the campaign hid a really poor performance in a 5-2 win.
Draws with Fulham, Wolves, and Crystal Palace saw the team score but then return to their shell, inviting attacks and inevitable equalisers when, with the tools at their disposal, they should have added more goals.
The less said about panicked performances against LASK Linz, West Ham, Wycombe Wanderers, and Stoke City the better, while dreadful showings against Brighton and Arsenal in recent weeks have been miserable watches.
Mourinho can only blame his players for their insipid and backs-to-the-wall displays so often. He’s the manager, if he can’t stop them doing it then he’s not worth the money he’s raking in.
He’s made strange tactical choices, failing to adjust mid-game to issues caused by opponents, and while some players seem to be quickly cast aside, others remain in favour despite poor matches.
It should also be noted he played no new signings against Dinamo Zagreb, opting to play relics of Mauricio Pochettino’s reign, including a midfield two of Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks, which didn’t even work when the Argentine was doing well.
Levy, quite frankly, should probably thank his lucky stars supporters haven’t been able to head to their brand new stadium over the last year – one suspects the atmosphere would be toxic by now, while gaps may have been appearing in the seats.
If the Portuguese does go, German talent Julian Nagelsmann is a name that has been linked with the role but as he’s the current RB Leipzig boss it would need another outlay of cash.
Fans would likely take well to the youngster who is far more tactically aware than Mourinho, and has been likened to Pep Guardiola.
The summer could prove make or break for the deal – miss out and he might move onto bigger things while Spurs struggle again.
Harry Kane leaves
Right now, even the most die hard supporter would be unlikely to stand in the England striker’s way.
As it stands, he could turn 28 in the summer without a single trophy to his name, despite being on course to be one of the greatest players in English football history on his goal-record alone.
The first of Kane’s peak years, if the Carabao Cup isn’t lifted, will have been wasted.
He’s been the club’s best player by a country mile, adapting his game to be the most creative AND the most lethal, and still some teammates are finding it hard to put in the effort to help him.
Manchester City, right now, appear the most obvious of any possible suitors, with Manchester United also likely to consider a bid, although it would have to be £100m+
Meanwhile, foreign sides such as Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid may mull over a deal if post-coronavirus finances will allow it.
It’s a worst case scenario for Tottenham, their homegrown hero no longer able to achieve his ambitions in north London but it’s not a unrealistic thought.
The only positive in a sale is he would enable the club to fully finance a further rebuild…
If it wasn’t clear before, it’s crystal now. So much more is need by Spurs, particularly in defence.
How only Joe Rodon was added to Tottenham’s centre-back options is one for Mourinho, Levy and technical performance director Steve Hitchin to mull over.
The Welshman has barely been able to make an impact either – left out of the Europa League squads and ineligible for the Carabao Cup.
Davinson Sanchez has barely kicked on since his £42m move from Ajax, nervous on the ball and poor in the air, which will almost certainly result in a loss when Spurs do sell – surely in the summer.
Toby Alderweireld doesn’t have the fitness to play every three days, and Eric Dier, despite patches of okay form, now looks back to where he was under Pochettino, lacking trust and confidence.
Against Zagreb and Arsenal, the trio looked panicked and clumsy when pressed, while Matt Doherty’s arrival from Wolves looks like going down as one of the worst transfers by the club in a few years.
Ball-playing centre-backs are a must when it comes to signings and it’s not surprising Spurs have been linked to Sven Botman of Lille and Ibrahima Konate of RB Leipzig, both young and talented, although the latter has some concerning injury history.
Marcel Sabitzer has been linked with Spurs for the last year and is certainly a midfielder who would be welcomed into the squad.
They are in desperate need of someone who can play central, is tactically astute and is technically superior than Sissoko, who takes too many touches and is another who can’t handle being pressed.
Erik Lamela’s red card in the north London derby defeat last weekend, and his proclivity for chaos rather than measured and sensible attacking play, should finally see his spell with Spurs come to an end.