Tottenham's Federico Fazio woeful in Capital One Cup loss to Arsenal
One look at Tottenham's team sheet against rivals Arsenal in the League Cup on Wednesday was enough for many fans to fear the worst.
The team featured a complete second-choice back-four in Kieran Trippier, Federico Fazio, Kevin Wimmer and Danny Rose and also had Tom Carroll and Andros Townsend in the XI, two midfielders who were always going to struggle to impose themselves against what was almost an Arsenal first team.
What was Tottenham's manager Mauricio Pochettino doing? This may have been an early round of the Capital One Cup and the Premier League is undoubtedly the club's priority, but an exception always has to be made for the North London derby -- especially when you are playing at home in front of your own fans. Yet it was Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger who seemed to be taking the game more seriously.
For the first 45 minutes, Spurs were as poor as they have been all season, which isn't surprising, considering that few of the players have had much playing time together. All too often, the team looked short of ideas and lacking in composure and confidence. Going in a goal down at the interval was no more than the team deserved.
The second half saw a marked improvement by Tottenham. If their equaliser came from a slightly fortuitous own goal by Arsenal's Calum Chambers in the 56th minute, it still bred an expectation that, against the odds, Spurs might snatch an unlikely victory. Then the hapless Fazio hoofed a ball high into the air and Matthieu Flamini volleyed in the winner in the 78th minute. No late substitutions could conjure a comeback.
Yet at the final whistle, the talk was not so much about the performance but the selection. There wasn't a member of the crowd who didn't believe Arsenal were there for the taking had Pochettino picked something approaching a full first-team. He's going to need to conjure three points from Manchester City's visit to White Hart Lane at the weekend to be easily forgiven.
Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Michel Vorm, 4 -- No complete howlers, but his lack of match playing time is destroying his confidence.
DF Kieran Trippier, 6 -- Competent and relatively error free, but struggled to make much of an impact and posed little threat going forward.
DF Federico Fazio, 3 -- A complete disaster. Never looked confident on the ball and is now an accident waiting to happen.
DF Kevin Wimmer, 6 -- Under the difficult circumstances of being asked to partner Fazio in the centre of defence, Wimmer's performance was almost heroic. But his lack of trust in Fazio inevitably affected his own game.
DF Danny Rose, 8 -- One of the few success stories. Being made to bide his time on the bench when Ben Davies gets a run out clearly has not affected his game. Consistently strong in both attack and defence
MF Eric Dier, 8 -- Pochettino's decision to turn Dier into a defensive midfielder is being vindicated with every game. He now looks a natural in that position and was one of the few players to really look up for the fight.
MF Tom Carroll, 7 -- Promised more than he delivered and was visibly tired in the second half. In the final 45 minutes, he was consistently bullied off the ball by the Arsenal midfield.
MF Andros Townsend, 7 -- A poor first half which was partially redeemed by a much improved second half. However, his intentions are all too obvious and defenders have little trouble containing him.
MF Nacer Chadli, 6 -- Yet another anonymous performance from the Belgian midfielder. The poise and purpose he showed last season has gone and his first team place must be under threat.
MF Christian Eriksen, 7 -- The Danish international seldom looks anything but a class act, but he is still a long way from being match fit and struggled to create any genuine openings.
FW Harry Kane, 6 -- Another 90 minutes, another hard-working goal-less game. His energy levels can't be faulted, but if he should be concerned by his inability to find the net.
MF Son Heung-Min, 6 -- Lightning doesn't strike three times and the Korean couldn't make the same impact as in his last two games. He looks like a player who needs the full 90 minutes rather than an impact sub
MF Dele Alli, NR -- A late substitution. Full of bustle and purpose but his introduction was too little too late
MF Clinton Njie, NR -- As with Alli, he had little time to change the course of the game. Still a long way from full match fitness
John Crace is one of ESPN FC's Tottenham bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @JohnJCrace.