Amidst all the talk of blips and crises at the two Manchester clubs, Tottenham Hotspur have been the shaky sandwich filling in fifth place. Defeat to Manchester United was hurtful, of course, but the damage was limited this weekend. As Mauricio Pochettino’s club strive for the top four, defeat for Manchester City and a draw for Liverpool must’ve brightened their weekend.
Spurs can now end 2017 in a positive mood. Two wins in eight Premier League games and Champions League elimination have made for an uncomfortable start to the winter, but a favourable run of fixtures in the endlessly-discussed Christmas period could change the tone around White Hart Lane ahead of the New Year.
Home clashes with Hull and Burnley are followed by trips to Southampton and Watford. Rotation will be necessary through a busy period, but four wins from those four games is not unrealistic, nor would it really be much of a surprise. Southampton have not looked their best of late – and are without Charlie Austin – Hull and Burnley will likely focus on games they’d probably expect to be more winnable, and Watford have suffered from their own inconsistencies this season. Four wins on the trot would surely change the mood around a dull White Hart Lane.
Dusting themselves off from a frustrating, if understandable, defeat to Manchester United, Spurs have not lost out on a great deal. Closing the gap further to Manchester City would have been preferable, of course, but they remain in a decent position as the season starts to run out of fixtures.
All is not lost for Spurs. In fact, they are in an altogether more positive situation than they were a couple of weeks ago. Stunning victories over West Ham and Swansea rejuvenated the fan base, while performances, even in defeat, against Chelsea and Manchester United were much improved. The returns of Harry Kane and Toby Alderweireld give Pochettino as close to his first choice squad to pick from now, too.
Tottenham have not won back-to-back league games since 2nd October, when they beat Manchester City. A slump since then has seen a title challenge drift away from the minds of the Lilywhites. It is time for Spurs to turn it around, they have a run of fixtures that are undoubtedly in their favour and they must take advantage of it. When Spurs face Chelsea on January 4th the league table will look markedly different, so Spurs must use their next four games to make sure they’re right in the company of the top four.
The significance of finding form, for both the attack and defence, is enormous. Anything less than 10 points across those games will be a missed opportunity. Kane will score goals, but he continues to need assistance from elsewhere. Christian Eriksen needs to continue his resurgence, whilst Dele Alli has been a less efficient player for much of this season, looking to the spectacular rather than sticking to the formula that made him such a success last season. The options are present in Spurs’ squad for Pochettino to change his approach if required and, after impressive cameos, we could see Moussa Sissoko and Georges-Kevin N’Koudou feature over the next few games.
Defeat to Manchester United was neither a shock nor a disaster. That result, however, must be forgotten. With Manchester City playing Arsenal next weekend and Manchester United showing signs of improvement, Spurs are about to embark on a period that will define their season. A top four challenge – maybe even a late title surge – will be possible with a run of form now, but failure to win at least three of the games will see Spurs left outside the top four once again.