A few months ago, the 2013/14 campaign looked like a real write-off for Tottenham, as the north Londoners recorded a series of lukewarm results and the players struggled to adapt to Mauricio Pochettino’s methods and philosophy.
It seemed their transition period, a work-in-progress under a new manager, would be a long one, perhaps until the Argentine would be given licence to remodel the squad in summer 2015.
Now however, amid a superfluous run of eleven wins in their last 19, the Lilywhites are through to the Capital One Cup final and just three points off a Champions League spot in the Premier League.
We at Football Fancast are now tipping the White Hart Lane outfit to close that minuscule gap between themselves and fourth-place Manchester United between now and the end of May, and here’s FOUR reasons why.
How well you start a Premier League season is almost completely irrelevant to how well you end it – whilst those that begin brightly usually tend to inevitably fall away, those that start more troublingly, such as Tottenham, have the opportunity to build momentum and end the campaign on a crescendo.
Fortunately for Spurs, they appear to be hitting form at just the right time, after struggling to adapt to Mauricio Pochettino’s change in philosophy and style at the start of the campaign. As viewable below, their league form has miraculously improved since mid-November, and they’re now on a run of seven wins in their last eleven:
Although involvement in the Capital One Cup final and the Europa League might exhaust their resources somewhat, the Lilywhites are now entering the home stretch in imperious form. If they can sustain it until the end of the season, they’ll undoubtedly breach the three-point gap between themselves and fourth-place Manchester United.
Poor performances against the Premier League’s big boys has always been the glass ceiling between Tottenham and regular Champions League qualification.
Harry Redknapp, Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood all struggled for answers and until recently, defensive capitulations against England’s top clubs had become the norm for the North Londoners – particularly last season.
This term however, the Lilywhites have already bagged some decent scalps against those just above them in the table. They recorded an impressive scoreless draw against Manchester United just after Christmas, and followed it up with a famous 5-3 victory over table-toppers Chelsea on New Year’s Day. Highlights below.
In the second half of the campaign, those kind of victories serve as six pointers, completely changing the landscape of the Premier League table.
Admittedly, Spurs’ form against their divisional rivals earlier in the campaign wasn’t great – a 4-1 thumping by Manchester City at the Etihad, and 3-0 defeats to Chelsea and Liverpool – so the real test comes in the next few weeks, when the Lilywhites face Arsenal and Liverpool in the space of just three days.
Those with the better defensive records tend to finish higher in the Premier League table. Take a look at last season for example, with the exception of Liverpool in second:
Tottenham started the campaign looking rather ropey at the back, with Younes Kaboul putting in a string of wayward performances and a lack of pressure from the front regularly becoming the undoing of Mauricio Pochettino’s high-pressing philosophy.
Since the incarnation of centre-back duo Jan Vertonghen and Federico Fazio however, the Lilywhites have dramatically improved on the defensive side of things, whilst the inclusions of academy trio Harry Kane, Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason has rendered the north Londoners considerably more capable of defending from the front in echoes of Southampton’s style under Pochettino last season. Here’s a look at their stats this term compared to Tottenham’s other centre-back options:
And since they first partnered on November 23rd, the Lilywhites have won seven from eleven, conceding twelve and keeping two clean sheets, compared to their 17 goals conceded in their eleven fixtures prior.
In the absence of Gareth Bale, Tottenham desperately lacked genuine match-winners last season – the kind of talismanic entity with enough quality to decide results single-handed.
Rather miraculously, Spurs have discovered their ability to win matches late-on this season, which many have put down to Mauricio Pochettino’s gruelling fitness regime, and the Lilywhites have now won ten points this term with goals scored in the 88th minute or later – four more than any Premier League side.
And directly responsible for nine of those points is attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen, who is looking more and more like the next player to leave White Hart Lane for a ridiculous amount of money.
This term, he’s netted late winners against Swansea City, Hull and Leicester, some even coming in the final moments of stoppage time, and if the Danish prodigy can sustain his form until the end of the campaign, there will likely be even more last minute strikes to come. Here’s a look at the 22 year-old’s stats this term: