This season has been an incredibly entertaining one as viewers of the Premier League have been treated to a very entertaining campaign soon far. Manchester City’s unbeaten run in the league, coupled with the struggled of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal have been surprising, while the failings of Swansea City and West Ham have caught many off guard.
However, one team that have been the most surprising are Tottenham Hotspur. They started the season in fine form as they looked like the team to mount a consistent title challenge alongside Manchester City. It seemed as though Mauricio Pochettino had combined the perfect levels of youth and experience in the side, with Spurs picking up where they left off last year. However, recent weeks have seen their levels drop massively, with their campaign lying in ruins after just 15 games.
Their last five games read win, loss, draw, loss, draw, with Tottenham taking just four points from a possible 15. Incredibly, they are now 18 points short of Manchester City, and they are surely out of the title race already.
But what has gone wrong for Pochettino’s men?
First of all, the struggles of Dele Alli have been massive to the club. The youngster’s performance against Real Madrid in their 3-1 Champions League win was lauded by fans and critics alike. It was yet another game in which the midfielder shone, and it once again had the world sitting up and taking notice.
However, since then he has struggled massively. In their last five Premier League games, Alli has not scored, has assisted just one goal, and Spurs have drawn twice and lost three times. In the games themselves, Alli has been very poor. His passes have missed their man, his touches have been sloppy, and his decisions have been awful.
Despite his superb ability, it seems as though when a team is able to get under his skin early on, it can quite often knock him off his game. It means that it has become a common occurrence for the opposition to try to put in a firm challenge early on, or to put two men on him, with Alli then struggling to divert his focus back to the game itself.
Despite the fact that Alli is not Tottenham’s best player, he is one that could be seen as their most important. Although he is a world class striker, Harry Kane cannot do everything on his own, The forward needs quality service if he his to get into dangerous areas and score. While Christian Eriksen is a fine player, he cannot always be the man to create for the team, as he needs his attacking-midfield partner to shoulder some of the burden.
Alli has the talent to become a world-class player. However, the very best, such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in their prime, were able to impact upon almost every game even when they were struggling for form. Alli has not been able to add this attribute to his game yet.
Concede first and drop points
Against Watford, Spurs went a goal down and could only draw the game. Against Leicester, they conceded first and lost. Against West Brom, they conceded early and were held to a draw. Against Arsenal, they conceded first and fell to another defeat. A clear pattern has been emerging.
Of course, it is not outrageous for a team to lose when they concede first. The scoring side is given a massive lift, whilst the team that concedes are dealt a huge psychological blow. However, in Manchester City’s last three games in a row, they have found themselves battling for a win late on, with two of the three games seeing the leaders go behind. For Spurs, this would likely have ended in two points from a possible nine, whereas Manchester City took maximum points from those three games.
A great team is not made when they are at their best. Of course, this is important, but the best Manchester United teams under Sir Alex Ferguson were renowned for their ability to win ugly, and grind out a result. This is something Tottenham have not learnt to do yet, and they will not be a great team until they do so.
An over-reliance on Harry Kane?
Harry Kane is an outstanding talent, and he is a shining light of goalscoring excellence for both Tottenham and England. Over the last few seasons, he has been proving himself to be one of, if not the best striker in England. It is easy to see why a side may become over-reliant on him then.
In their last four Premier League games, Tottenham have not won, yet Harry Kane has scored two goals. The forward is clearly in fairly good form, but he is not being given the right amount of backup from those around him.
At first glance, Alli has been able to supply a good amount of support for Kane. However, as previously mentioned, the youngster has stagnated in recent weeks. Heung-Min Son has, as always, chipped in with goals, but other than that, it is clear there is a huge reliance on the striker.
Every player is entitled to a few games in which they struggle, and what is particularly impressive about Harry Kane is his willingness to drop in and participate in the build-up play, meaning he is able to have an influence on the game even when he has not got his scoring boots on. When this happens, Kane clearly needs someone else to step up and score goals to ease the burden on his shoulders.
The only other out-and-out striker at the club is Fernando Llorente. The former-Swansea man was superb for the Welsh club last year, but he has netted just one goal this season, and he was lambasted for his wasteful display against Leicester in the Premier League in their 2-1 defeat.
Of course, it does take time to bed in with a new team, but Llorente, like Vincent Janssen last season, is struggling in the shadow of Harry Kane. The English striker needs his deputy to score goals, and he is once again being let down. Mauricio Pochettino worked hard to bring Llorente to the club in the summer, but the signing has not worked yet, leaving Harry Kane with an enormous burden up front yet again.
There are a number of areas in which Spurs must improve. Their last two seasons have seen the club defy expectations to go close to the title twice, narrowly missing out on both occasions. However, it seems as though they have regressed this season, with key players struggling, and a seeming inability to win when they concede first.
Pochettino has a huge job ahead of him this campaign as it seems as though he will not be fighting for the title this year. This can often see players become demotivated, resulting in an even more disappointing season. The manager needs to ensure that he rejuvenates their waining confidence then, and helps Alli to rediscover the form that has deserted him, and quickly, or a Champions League place may slip through their fingers.