Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted he does not have the words to console disheartened players and fans after Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Brighton compounded a miserable week for Spurs.
Four days on from a 7-2 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Pochettino was looking for a positive reaction.
Instead, Spurs looked like a side devoid of confidence after getting off to the worst possible start when captain Hugo Lloris gifted Brighton the opener and injured himself in the process.
Neal Maupay took advantage of Lloris’s fumble to head the hosts in front before 19-year-old Aaron Connolly scored twice for the Seagulls on his first Premier League start.
“We have to keep going. I have to say thank you for the fans. I feel sorry for them, it is massive effort to come and support us,” said Pochettino.
“Now you cannot find any words to console them and our players because I think we are living a tough moment.”
Last season’s Champions League finalists have won just three of their opening 11 games of the campaign and five of their last 19 dating back to when these sides last met in April.
While Pochettino could justifiably claim Bayern’s ruthlessness in midweek meant the scoreline was not a true reflection of his side’s performance, there was no excuse for being thoroughly outplayed by a Brighton side that had not won in six league games.
“We’ve been playing quite well, but while you don’t get results you always need that three points just to give you some confidence,” said Brighton boss Graham Potter.
“We attacked well, we defended well, we reacted when we lost the ball, we did everything we wanted to do. The personality on the pitch was really good.”
Tottenham were on the back foot from the off when injury was added to insult for Lloris.
The Spurs skipper dropped a simple cross into the box and as he fell backwards and landed awkwardly, Maupay stooped to head into an empty net.
Lloris was given oxygen and morphine before being taken to hospital and now seems certain to miss France’s upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Iceland and Turkey.
“He’s in the hospital at the moment, the club is going to communicate (the severity of the injury) because I think he suffered a big problem in his arm,” added Pochettino.
– ‘Emotional impact’ –
“To concede and lose your captain was a massive emotional impact for the team.”
After a lengthy delay for Lloris to be stretchered off, Brighton pushed on rather than trying to protect their lead and were rewarded just after the half hour mark.
AFP / Glyn KIRK
Brighton’s Aaron Connolly (second right) celebrates his second goal against Tottenham
Connolly was twice the quickest to react as he turned Dan Burn’s cross goalwards and, after Paulo Gazzaniga spilled his first effort, the Irishman followed up for his first Premier League goal.
Tottenham have made a bad habit of letting leads slip in recent weeks against Arsenal, Olympiakos, Leicester and Bayern, but when forced to mount a fightback themselves were found wanting.
Pochettino sacrificed club record signing Tanguy Ndombele at half-time for Harry Winks and changed system to a 3-5-2.
However, rather than turning the tide, it was Brighton who got the third goal to kill the game off.
Connolly jinked inside onto his right foot and curled a shot brilliantly into the far corner to round off an afternoon that he and the Seagulls will long remember.
Spurs now have a two-week break to contemplate their terrible start to the season, but Pochettino insisted he should take the burden of any blame.
“When we were on the top we were all together, and now when this type of moment arrives, we need to stick all together,” added the Argentine.
“I hope that all the pressure is coming to me and lets the players be free to recover and find the way to win all together.
“Now is a moment to be strong. We cannot underestimate this type of situation, but in times that are not so good there is always the possibility to make us stronger.”