Having challenged for the title last campaign, many expected more of the same this season, but Tottenham Hotspur are now struggling to make the top four. They have lost more games than they did in the whole of last season and had a big slump in form during November. What are the reasons for their mixed form this season, and what can be done to fix things?
In their last season at White Hart Lane, Spurs were dominant, going the whole season unbeaten and winning all but two home games in the league. Wembley was always going to be difficult, especially considering the club’s awful record there since it was redeveloped – and they just haven’t looked comfortable their domestically. Liverpool aside, the wins have been nervy and Tottenham have often found themselves frustrated against the so-called lesser teams. These teams were being brushed aside at White Hart Lane last season but at Wembley, Spurs are struggling to build any sort of rhythm and play with the same fluidity of last season at home.
There have been two notable absentees for Tottenham this season, Victor Wanyama and Toby Alderweireld. They were the team’s backbone last season. Wanyama has missed most of the season with a knee injury and Alderweireld hasn’t played since picking up a hamstring injury at the beginning of November against Real Madrid. Wanyama provides power in midfield and Alderweireld gives the Spurs defence a much more assured look, as well as starting attacks with his fantastic passing. It is also important to note that Alderweireld got injured at a similar time last season and Spurs suffered a similar dip in form. The sooner these two players come back the better, as they are sure to make a huge difference to this Spurs side.
“home games feel like they might as well be away games”
Key players losing form
While Harry Kane is continuing to bang in the goals, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen have suffered a noticeable loss of form. Eriksen has looked jaded since his heroics for Denmark and when he doesn’t play well the team tends not to play well. Save for Lamela, he is Tottenham’s only genuine creative player and the goals and assists have very much dried up. Alli is equally important for Spurs, especially in terms of reducing the goal burden on Harry Kane, having scored 22 goals last season. He has looked sloppy in possession in recent weeks and things just aren’t going his way. With the lack of squad depth at Mauricio Pochettino’s disposal, it is crucial that his key players are on song because his options off the bench tend to be limited.
Reasons to be positive
While the title is now out of the question, this could still turn out to be a fantastic season for Tottenham. They are looking strong in the Champions League having qualified for the knockout stages as group winners, and they will be expected to go far in the FA Cup also. A top four finish is still very much in reach and in a season where home games feel like they might as well be away games; this would be a fantastic achievement. Tottenham had an equally bad run of form through autumn last season but they had an incredibly strong Christmas period which set them up nicely for the rest of the season. The pattern has been very similar this season, with a poor autumn followed by the best run of form out of any team over the festive period. There are signs that Spurs are returning to their fluid best and it may well be the case that under Pochettino, they take a bit of time to get going. Finishing in the top four is vital for the club, especially moving in to the new stadium, and it will undoubtedly be the priority this season.