Few clubs will have weeks as turbulent as Tottenham Hotspur have just endured. From late London derby success against West Ham to Champions League elimination, things were rocky even before Mauricio Pochettino’s side visited one of Europe’s form sides, Chelsea. Even that game was turbulent, from an early period of first half dominance and taking the lead to an eventual collapse that saw the Spurs suffer their first Premier League defeat of the season.
Any slump at all – and Spurs’s slump is a juicy one, having won only one of their last 10 in all competitions – brings about calls of ‘crisis!’ from all corners. Those sorts of reactions are often over the top and can be manufactured. But Tottenham’s run of form is poor, that is unquestionable. For a team who were so close to the Premier League title last season, their run in those last 10 games – which started immediately after an excellent performance against Manchester City – is worthy of scrutiny. Other clubs would be challenged on such a demise, so Spurs should be too.
The fixtures in this time have been tough, yes, but that is the standard that is expected from a club of Spurs’ strength. They must be able to compete with the best both domestically and in Europe, they are expected to have the squad depth to rotate without a notable impact on performance. That has, in part, been the greatest failing for Spurs this season. The backup players are not trusted by Pochettino for the most part, or have not delivered. This has only increased the fatigue of the first choice players, too. A seemingly disorganised summer transfer window is now looking costle, and has been made all the more evident by the exclusion of Moussa Sissoko from the matchday squad last weekend.
A thin squad is susceptible to injury woes more than any other. If Spurs were asked which two players they felt were indispensable last season, they would probably have diplomatically said ‘no one’. They would have been lying, of course – we know that the answer is Harry Kane and Toby Alderweireld. And that suspicion has been emphatically confirmed this season, as the defence fell apart in the absence of Alderweireld and Spurs’ attacking players looked incapable of scoring while Kane was unavailable. Dependence on key players, however, is natural. It would be interesting to see how Chelsea would cope with Diego Costa and David Luiz, or how Arsenal would fare without Alexis Sanchez and Laurent Koscielny.
Last season shows Spurs’ current run of form in a dimmer light. The reality is, though, that this is a young, highly talented Tottenham squad that is far from the peak of its powers. Failure in the transfer market is the real culprit for the current downturn, although some particularly underwhelming performances have caught the eye. Compared to the investment of their rivals over the summer, Tottenham were hesitant (perhaps due to the building of their new stadium) and it is currently costing them more than anything else.
Intensity is required to play the way that Pochettino demands – a deep squad is required. The drop-off in that intensity in the second half against Chelsea was clear to see, but it should be the first half display that is focused on. This is not a point of crisis for Spurs, and all is not lost. Still only four points short of their North London rivals in fourth place, consecutive seasons of Champions League qualification would be as telling a reflection of Spurs’ improvement as anything else is.