A fear of receiving public criticism could be a contributing factor to Tottenham’s alarming trend of conceding late goals, according to a leading sports performance coach.
Spurs have let 11 points slip this season by letting in goals in the last 10 minutes of Premier League matches, turning a possible title challenge into a fight for the top four.
Boss Jose Mourinho has not been afraid to criticise his players, either individually or collectively this season, and after the latest blip against Newcastle on Sunday he said “same coach, different players” when asked why his current side were not showing the resilient traits associated with his former teams.
Sports performance coach Jeremy Lazarus, who has Premier League players, managers and top level performers in other sports among his client list, insists he does not know the ins and outs of what is happening at Spurs, but says generally the fear of producing a mistake tends to make one more likely to happen.
“There is almost certainly a mental issue, whether that comes from lack of motivation, lack of confidence or other factors. I am not doubting their motivation, I am just asking the question,” he told the PA news agency.
“How much do the players absolutely want to do those hard yards? I can’t say, only people inside the club can absolutely say that.
“Could there be an element of panic or fear in the last 10 minutes? If it has happened five or six times before do the doubts start creeping into people’s mind? That is completely possible. These are questions that need to be asked.
“I don’t know Jose Mourinho, he is a very successful manager so I am not going to criticise him in any way.
“It is completely feasible that if you go into a match thinking you might get hung out to dry or might be criticised in some way, either individually or collectively, that could affect the way you perform.
“There is much evidence about the impact on performance of ‘psychological safety’, the idea that to you need to feel ‘safe’ enough to perform at your best.
“It is a paradox, if you know that if you go out and make a mistake you are going to be OK, then you are less likely to make a mistake.
“If you are on edge and thinking, ‘If I make a mistake, not only am I letting the team down but I am going to get criticised publicly’, then it’s more likely that you are going to be a bit scared and make bad decisions.
“Managers have to be tough sometimes but when the players know he is being straight with them and totally supportive they are more willing to accept fair criticism.”
Spurs captain Hugo Lloris gave a damning assessment of the state of the dressing room in the wake of their embarrassing Europa League exit to Dinamo Zagreb, suggesting out-of-favour players were causing a “big problem” and that there was a lack of the togetherness that was prevalent during Mauricio Pochettino’s spell.
Lazarus says it is impossible for there not to be an impact on the pitch if there is a lack of harmony in the dressing room.
“If you have got divisions, and it seems from what we are reading there are, if there are divisions in the club that is going to affect their mentality which could subconsciously affect their desire to really give that extra little bit for a team-mate,” he said.