A late Chris Wood goal sealed a point for Burnley at Wembley as Tottenham failed to hold out and bag their first home win of the season.
When the fixtures for the new season were announced, it was clear that Spurs were going to have to hit the ground running: their first home game of the season at their temporary accommodation was against a Chelsea side who, at the start of the summer, looked like they could become an all-conquering force in English football.
What happened over the next few weeks turned Spurs’ game with Chelsea into a battle between two clubs who were desperate for a change of narrative: the champions were searching for a break from stories about how unhappy their manager was, and Spurs for a change from how unhappy their players are. Danny Rose in particular, though you get the feeling that the low wages and lack of signings this summer have made more than one Spurs player question the direction of his career.
That need to hit the ground running quickly wasn’t just about the narrative, though. It was really about the fact that Spurs have shown that they can’t afford to start badly. And that they’ve dropped more points at home already this season than they did in the entirety of last season means there are real issues are being clouded by that narrative.
The story now is about a Wembley ‘curse’ and Harry Kane’s August ‘curse’, as well as Daniel Levy’s refusal to spend money earlier in the window. And that’s why the fixture announcement day was such a dangerous date – because defeat to Chelsea was always going to mean those stories were going to raise their heads, whether they were fair or not. Defeat was always going to mean talk of the stadium more than the game, and the slow start just amplifies it.
But the problem is that, despite the hysterical nature of talk of curses, there really is a genuine issue at stake, and one which can’t be talked about properly if it can’t be heard above the noise. And that’s the fact that, ever since Mauricio Pochettino has taken charge of Spurs, the club have suffered slow starts to the season and it’s end up costing them by the end.
That makes the slow start a serious problem. With the top of the Premier League now tighter than it has ever been, and with the teams below spending more money than ever before, can Spurs really afford a few months to get up to speed – a scenario which has cost them before, even when the league was less competitive and other teams weren’t as strong as they are now.
But despite the seriousness of the winless run at Wembley in terms of points picked up, the trivial point about curses and hoodoos will continue until they finally get going with some serious form at home this year. It was a relief that after the Chelsea match, the next two home games were Burnley and Swansea because points could be picked up more easily in those games.
The Burnley result didn’t come, however, and now with the Champions League draw pitting Pochettino’s side against Borussia Dortmund at home in their first game of the group stage, that’s now the next home game, after a tricky away trip to Everton.
What started out as a bit of harmless fun about Tottenham’s Wembley record has snowballed into a real problem. Not because it’s true, but because it’s hiding the real issue. We’ve seen just how much of a momentum side that Spurs can be under their Argentine boss, and if the next few games don’t see them turn the form around, it could cost them even more than it has done in the last two years.
We could be seeing what was a small annoyance at the start of the season turn into a full-blown crisis after the international break, and the next two fixtures aren’t looking easy at all for Tottenham.