Tottenham Hotspur hobbled out of the Brentford Community Stadium with little hope of finishing fourth, and it might have been worse if one of their own had been injured.
Antonio Conte’s squad lost its edge against Arsenal and must rediscover their aggressive enthusiasm fast. Spurs have gone scoreless in 180 minutes this season against Brighton and Brentford. Brentford’s patched-up defensive line effectively restricted Tottenham’s offense, as David Raya finished without making a save.
The hosts communicated the attacking aim in their own unique way. You know what Brentford does, but you’re worried about Tottenham, given their sloppiness here. Thanks to Thomas Frank’s side, every other Premier League team has experienced a taste of the Brentford experience when visiting this tranquil part of west London.
Tottenham was on the verge of collapse for extended stretches. Brentford sling the ball into the area, tugging you about with their changes of play, all while playing football to advance the ball. Injuries elsewhere may have enabled Brentford to employ Mads Bech Sorensen’s 40-meter long throw as a trebuchet, adding to Tottenham’s anxiety.
Brentford, on the other hand, has a new weapon in Christian Eriksen, a former Tottenham Hotspur star. Only Manchester City and Liverpool have won more Premier League games since the Danish international made his debut, and he played a key role in several of their dangerous moments, leaving Tottenham nervous and grateful for a point.
Brentford came near with Ivan Toney’s header from Eriksen’s corner and a Pontus Jansson attempt that was cleared off the line by Harry Kane. As the bear pit expanded, Eriksen tested Hugo Lloris with a low shot. Toney hit the crossbar in stoppage time after Eriksen’s free-kick, but the Spurs held on. Their manager may question their winning mentality, but Tottenham is back to being cautious.
If the top four race had been marked by mistakes, errors, and stumbles, here was another. Arsenal’s victory against Manchester United earlier in the day vaulted them over Tottenham into fourth place in the standings. Tottenham must rise above it and reclaim the upper hand over their rivals in north London.
Eriksen was a stumbling block, with Brentford winning all five of his games since his return. Brentford would want to retain him until the end of the season, but Tottenham are a serious contender. Perhaps this was the pre-reunion. “You know you’re a Spurs fan,” the traveling supporters chanted as he turned to face them.
As Brentford made a good start and made Tottenham’s life tough, Eriksen would spend most of the first half taking corners on that side. Eriksen lobbed high balls to the far post, where Toney volleyed goal-bound attempts that had to be repelled. Toney then sprang to his feet and headed an Eriksen corner over the crossbar.
Tottenham’s only opportunity in the opening 45 minutes came from Rodrigo Bentancur, who blasted a long-range effort over the bar. Son’s precise touches and flashing feet showed promise, but he was limited in his ability to make a greater impact. Son wasn’t the only one. Dejan Kulusevski, the third prong of their aggressive trident, remained unidentified.
Perhaps the desired athlete was on the pitch, but he was dressed in red and white. Eriksen sat in front of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Bentancur, attempting to feed Toney and Bryan Mbeumo. Tottenham lacked inventiveness from the start as they struggled in the space that Brentford denied them.
In the initial seconds of the second half, Mbeumo almost caught Lloris dozing on the ball. The goalkeeper then had to be quick to beat Toney to a hopeful clearance downfield, taking both the player and the ball with him. Mbeumo then sent a shot over the crossbar. Brentford struck once again.
Tottenham had no choice but to improve; it was impossible not to. Kane fired a deflected shot after turning Sorensen before Kulusevski’s pass to Son had to be cleared. Kane’s attempt was saved by Sorensen’s knees after Emerson Royal’s low cross, causing Brentford to scramble.
Brentford, though, battled back. The ball was lobbed underneath Lloris’ crossbar as Sorensen was wheeled into position, adding to the dread. Free-kicks were added to the corners, with Tottenham even surrendering a foul on the edge of their box in a favorable position for Eriksen. Is this his opportunity? No way, no how. He punched the wall, joking because this was too much even for his Hollywood story.
Others would follow. Eriksen’s effort from a corner sailed wide, and Kane pushed Jansson’s header off the line. Eriksen cut inside and fired at Lloris, who dove to make the save.
It might have come down to the wire. Eriksen’s free-kick found Toney unmarked, and he hit the goal frame for the second time, with Mbeumo’s follow-up only hitting the side-netting. Kane’s last-second overhead kick would have been a steal if it had gone inside Raya’s post. Spurs instead limp away.