When Tottenham beat Borussia Dortmund at Wembley last month, it seemed like it could have represented a real watershed moment for the club.
Victory over a huge European name at a stadium where Spurs seemed to be suffering a so-called ‘hoodoo’ looked like it could turn things around, but a dull draw with Swansea brought things back to Earth again.
Barnsley in the League Cup remains Spurs’ last home win in all competitions, but it’s the Dortmund win – nearly a month ago – which is their only big one of the season. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have picked up their form since that Swansea draw, but after the international break, it remains to be seen if they can continue it at Wembley.
The further we get from the Dortmund game, the less important it looks. But it should still be considered something of a watershed moment. To go from the high drama and the occasion of Champions League football to a nil-all draw against a stubborn side who will simply be aiming to avoid relegation this season is something that can happen to every team, and breaking those teams down just days after the European high is certainly something that Spurs are still getting used to.
They’ve had experience in the Europa League, but games against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund (they did play the Germans in the Europa League the season before last, though that hardly seemed as important) are new.
But beating Dortmund allowed us to learn something fundamental about this Spurs side, as we were treated to an example of how they can raise their game, something we haven’t always seen from Tottenham in the last couple of seasons.
The few weeks before that first Champions League group game were disappointing, if not overtly cause for too much concern. Narrowly beaten at home to Chelsea before conceding a late equaliser to Burnley was the backdrop, and whilst points were dropped, we all know that Spurs can put a streak of good form together later in the season.
We’ve seen it over the last two seasons where they’ve managed to string wins together with ease: from December 11th until the end of last season, Pochettino’s side lost only twice.
But this time, despite limp draws before and after their big European night, they were able to put the bad luck and stuttering form behind them in order to raise their game for a big occasion in front of their own fans. The problem is going to be raising it in the smaller games, especially at Wembley. And the two they’ve had so far – Burnley and Swansea – haven’t convinced. They had chances to win both games, but when you don’t take them, you can’t always blame bad luck.
Last season, that stellar form from Christmas onwards wasn’t enough to win them the title because their start to the season was much weaker. Already this time, they find themselves five points behind in the league as the Manchester clubs have started at speed. Only one defeat means that they’re best of the rest so far, but given they’re still yet to win at home in the Premier League, it looks like it could be Spurs’ home form that stops them from challenging all the way this year.
That’s why Spurs have to hope that the Swansea blip was just the comedown from an epic night at Wembley, and that the home form for the rest of the season is something approaching the Dortmund performance for most of the rest of the season.
It’s not out of the realms of possibility, of course. Last season Manchester city won their first ten games before fading away. United had a good start, too, before dropping back. For both Manchester clubs, it’s true that this season feels different to last, and they seem like more of a threat, but they have to drop points somewhere along the line.
And so Spurs need to be able to put a run together that matches their form in the first half of the year, something that, if the Dortmund game really was a watershed moment, they shouldn’t have much trouble doing.