Life seemed good back in early November. Spurs had just beaten Real Madrid 3-1 in a pulsating Champions League clash and sat a healthy third in the Premier League table.
A scrappy 1-0 win over Crystal Palace followed. Mauricio Pochettino’s side didn’t play well in that encounter but they found a way to get the three points. A hangover from such an emotional Champions League victory was only to be expected.
But since that day we’ve gained a measly 2 points from 12, a run that included a dispiriting loss to our neighbours and some poor results against teams we would expect to beat. We sit sixth, level on points with Burnley and way off the pace.
Where did it go wrong?
Toby Alderweireld has been one of the most consistent performers during Pochettino’s reign as manager and his loss to injury has been a major blow. His influence on the team is important on several levels –
- He organises the defence. Early in the season Jan Vertonghen was getting a lot of the plaudits but he hasn’t seemed the same player since his compatriot’s injury.
- He starts the attacks. In modern football defenders aren’t just there to defend. Alderweireld has more passes per game than any player apart from Vertonghen and leads the team for long balls.
- Eric Dier has had to move back into defence. With Wanyama out injured and Dembele not looking 100%, this has left a hole in our midfield.
Injuries and loss of form
Kane was injured in the 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool, the last Premier League game where Spurs looked to have some form. He only missed one game – the disappointing loss to Manchester United – but he hasn’t looked fully fit since then, often playing with a strapping.
Eriksen is looking tired having played some very big games for both Spurs and Denmark. Hopefully the return of Lamela will take some of the pressure off our main “assister”.
Alli is out of form. He’s only 21 so it’s hardly surprising he is having a small dip in form.
Dembele looks way off full fitness and Winks, his natural replacement, has been in and out of the team through injuries.
Tottenham had a relatively easy fixture list in the first few weeks of the season. September saw games against Everton, Swansea, West Ham and Huddersfield. Things were always going to get tougher.
In recent months Spurs have faced big six rivals in Manchester United and Arsenal. Games against West Brom and Leicester have coincided with managerial changes that made them a much tougher proposition. Marco Silva has received many plaudits for his work at Watford and going a man down didn’t help our cause.
Champions League distractions
While Spurs league form has been poor, their Champions League results have been excellent. Topping the “group of death”, unbeaten with the highest points of any team in the group stage, was an amazing achievement. The physical and emotional toll this has taken out of the team shouldn’t be underestimated.
How Bad have Spurs been?
While the results have not been good, Spurs underlying stats are better than you might expect.
In the last four Premier League games, Spurs have had more shots than their opponents in all but one. The game against West Brom was particularly uneven – drawing 1-1 despite taking 25 shots to 5.
Expected goals tell a similar story. Only the Arsenal game has Tottenham behind in chances created.
So part of the story is that luck has not been on Spurs side.
On the negative side, Davinson Sanchez’s red card could put more pressure on a defence already missing Alderweireld.
On the positive, the Champions League is done until next year. Players will hopefully come back into form and fitness. Lamela could be a big addition, especially when it comes to creating chances. We have fixtures against Stoke and Brighton that look very winnable.
With the underlying numbers still looking positive, it’s not time to panic. It won’t take much to change the mood and get Spurs get back to winning ways.
Why do you think Spurs have seen a dip in form? Let me know in the comments.