This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Tottenham Hotspur’s mentality has shifted.
Back in the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons, this was a team that never stopped, that consistently refused to give up, that went until the final whistle.
Per Understat, they scored 14 goals after the 76th minute in the former and 21 in the 16/17 season. In 2016/17, they rescued a draw against West Brom in the 89th minute, scored in the 89th and 91st minutes against West Ham in a 3-2 victory, beat Everton in injury-time, and scored all three of their goals in a 3-1 victory over Swansea City after the 85th minute.
This was a team that were absolutely relentless. Since then, it’s been slipping. They scored 14 goals after the 76th minute the season following and 13 in 2018/19. Okay, everyone might point to that game against Ajax, that incredible last-minute goal from Lucas Moura, but it was the exception to the rule.
This season, they have scored three goals after the 76th minute. Two of those goals came on the opening day as Spurs beat Aston Villa 3-1; the other came in the 1-1 draw with bottom-place Watford, Dele Alli prodding home in the 86th minute to earn his side a point.
Another problem has reared its head too: seeing out leads. Spurs were 2-0 up against Arsenal but drew 2-2; they were 2-0 up against Olympiacos in the Champions League but drew 2-2; Mauricio Pochettino’s men led against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium but lost; they even took the lead against Bayern Munich in north London in the Champions League but were beaten 7-2. And on Sunday, having gone ahead through Alli’s goal, Spurs conceded a 97th-minute equaliser against Everton to drop two points.
Now they lie 11th, with 13 points from 11 games. They are five points clear of 18th-placed Southampton and 10 behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
It is a troubling, depressing equation for a club that have suddenly reverted to type, that sit marooned in mid-table and already face a major fight to even be in the conversation to qualify for the Champions League.
One thing that absolutely needs to change, though, is the belief.
On Sunday, Spurs were, admittedly, unfortunately reduced to 10 men after Heung-Min Son was wrongly sent off for his role in Andre Gomes’ horrific injury. The red card has since been rescinded.
The problem is the inevitability that came with it. It wasn’t a question of whether or not Everton were going to equalise, it was when they were going to equalise. On 97 minutes is the answer and, given 12 were added on, Spurs could well have lost the game had the Toffees not run out of time.
Indeed, this season, Spurs have scored the majority of their goals between the 16th minute and the half-hour mark; if they are to improve, they need to start hitting the back of the net with regularity in the closing stages. If not for the sheer value of potentially decisive goals, then for proof of a mindset change.
As it is, they are just another mid-table team with no stand-out characteristics; they do not go to the end, they are not unbeatable, they are not pressing their opposition to the point of paralysis, they are not keeping it tight at the back and they are not ruthless going forward. They are just… well, average.
It remains to be seen if Pochettino can turn it around.