Steven Bergwijn’s costly miss in Liverpool defeat may have exposed him as Tottenham’s weakest link in title charge… but will Jose Mourinho ditch the forward (who is keeping Gareth Bale out the side) in January?
- At 1-1, Steven Bergwijn missed a crucial chance for Tottenham against Liverpool
- The Reds made their title rivals pay with Roberto Firmino’s last minute winner
- Bergwijn has yet to be involved in a Premier League goal for Spurs this season
- The Dutch forward’s goal shyness may be exposing him as a Spurs weak link
If ever there was a miss that defined Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League era – Steven Bergwijn’s spurned glorious opportunity at Liverpool on Wednesday summed it up.
Much like Tottenham’s quest for major honours in the last 30 years, Spurs at Anfield were in the fight and at times battled extremely well with the odds against them, but when the big chance came to take the glory they somehow missed out again.
Jose Mourinho’s side were drawing 1-1 at the time after Son Heung-min had cancelled out Mohamed Salah’s opener in the fist half, and Bergwijn’s big moment came just after the hour mark.
Steven Bergwijn reflects on a missed opportunity to hand Tottenham the lead at Liverpool
At 1-1, the Dutch forward’s effort across goal beat Alisson but bounced back off the post
Running in on goal at a favourable angle and with just the keeper to beat, his shot across the target bounced agonisingly off the post.
It proved costly, as Liverpool went on to win the top of the table clash in the last minute courtesy of a Roberto Firmino header.
From being in a position where they had the chance to end the evening three points clear at the top and really stamping their authority down as genuine title contenders, Spurs are now three points off the Reds.
Admittedly, the timing could have been worse. Had the circumstances come with five games to play rather than just a third of the way through the season it would have been much more catastrophic.
Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino made Spurs pay for the miss by heading in a last minute winner
Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho shows his frustration from the bench during the Anfield clash
But if Mourinho wants to change the trophy-phobic culture at Tottenham, and early signs suggest he is heading in the right direction, he needs to be able to count on players being clinical on his counter attacking game.
Question are now arising if Bergwijn is up to the standard.
It’s perhaps harsh on the Dutchman who has not even been at the club a year having arrived in January but even then there was a ‘panic buy’ feel to the £27million paid for the winger
Harry Kane had been ruled out for the next three to four months after a New Years’ Day injury and Spurs were lacking fire power.
He started well enough, netting on his debut with a fine half-volley from the edge of the box in a 2-0 win over Manchester City. Another goal followed in the home defeat by Wolves but he has now not scored since Spurs’ first game post-lockdown in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United back in June.
Bergwijn has settled well in the Spurs squad but is yet to be involved in a goal this season
He got off to a stunning start in February after scoring on his debut against Manchester City
This season he has appeared in nine Premier League games but has yet to contribute to a goal. Mourinho struggled to hide his frustration at his Anfield miss but yet the Spurs boss still considers him an important player having started the last five league outings.
His versatility across the front line is important and it is worth noting that whatever Mourinho thinks he offers to the Spurs team, he is keeping Gareth Bale out of the side.
Although his lack of attacking contribution is a cause for concern, he is well regarded by Spurs supporters as well as Mourinho due to his work rate. It is his ability to help out in defence which is keeping Bale out of the starting line-up.
Mourinho didn’t single out Bergwijn for criticism after the Anfield loss, but did mention his miss when lamenting his side’s failure to put away their second half opportunities.
Pictured tackling Mohamed Salah, his defensive effort is helping keep him in the side
Bergwijn’s all-round game is helping keep the more attack focused Gareth Bale out the team
‘Normally you have to kill matches of this dimension,’ Mourinho said. ‘You have just to kill it. The game was there. We were in the face of the keeper two or three times and we just have to kill it.
‘Steven Bergwijn has to face to face with the keeper, we have the corner of Harry [Kane] with the free header, we had other counter-attacking situations that we didn’t finish. We had it, we knew how to hurt and we should do much more than we did.’
With one of the best defences in the lead and a stable midfield in terms of the starting XI, Bergwijn is now starting to look like the weak link in the Spurs side unless he can produce a better end product.
Crystal Palace star man Wilfired Zaha (right) is an upgrade option for Tottenham but his transfer fee would come at a premium which the north London club are unlikely to pursue
January is rarely the best month to make changes to a settled side, which is what Spurs have right now, and there are not many options out there for Mourinho to get in a proven upgrade.
The best of them looks to be Wilfried Zaha, whose work rate has increased in recent years to cover the defensive side of his game and yet also has a significant end product in his attack.
Palace are unwilling to let such a key player go cheaply though, especially mid-season, and Tottenham rarely like to splash the cash too liberally when it comes to transfer dealings.
Bergwijn is likely to survive any winter cull but Mourinho will know if he wants to turn Tottenham into winners he cannot afford to have any passengers along the way.
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