Analysing Tottenham’s last two fixtures
Tottenham Hotspur enjoyed their best start to a Premier League season in over six decades, sparking murmurs of a potential title challenge just ten games into the campaign.
However, the wheels began to come off for the North Londoners following their comprehensive 4-1 defeat to Chelsea at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Spurs are still one of the teams to watch this season, employing an attacking brand of football that resonates with fans and neutrals alike. Tickets to watch them in action and more are available at seatsnet.com.
Dejan Kulusevski had given Ange Postecoglou’s side the lead six minutes into proceedings following a fast start that saw the Swede’s shot cannon off Levi Colwill and nestle past a helpless Robert Sanchez.
Tottenham had Chelsea on the ropes in the opening 20 minutes until Cristian Romero was sent off for an overly ambitious challenge on Enzo Fernandez, with Cole Palmer slotting home the resulting penalty.
The situation worsened for Spurs when Destiny Udogie, who had controversially avoided an early bath for a lunging tackle on Raheem Sterling, was finally sent off for two bookable offences.
Amidst the chaos in North London, the major talking point was perhaps the fact that Postecoglou’s side maintained a ridiculously high defensive line despite being reduced to nine men.
They were eventually picked apart by a relentless Chelsea side as Nicolas Jackson bagged a hat-trick to end Tottenham’s unbeaten start to the season.
Postecoglou was branded as ‘brave’ for sticking to his guns despite the numerical disadvantage, but his decision was nothing short of naive and half-witted.
At the time of Udogie’s sending-off, Spurs had a point to fight for with the scores level at 1-1 while their hugely impressive unbeaten streak was also on the line.
They kept the Blues at bay for the next 20 minutes and may have escaped with a point if they’d dropped the line, considering Mauricio Pochettino’s side have struggled against sides employing a low block.
Instead, Postecoglou charged Eric Dier, who was making his maiden appearance for the season, and a rusty Emerson Royal with handling Chelsea’s pacy attackers from the halfway line.
Postecoglou’s tactical decision cost Tottenham a high-profile game, and to add insult to injury, they lost key duo James Maddison and Micky van de Ven to long-term injuries.
Both players have had a transformative influence on Spurs since they arrived during the summer, establishing themselves as crucial components in Postecoglou’s dynamic attacking system.
Maddison has formed a formidable partnership with Son Heung-Min at the top end of the pitch, and his remarkable numbers suggest Tottenham will struggle without a player of his calibre.
The same applies to Van de Ven, who contributed to Spurs’ exceptional start to the season, establishing a near-impenetrable partnership with Romero at the heart of the defence.
The impact of Maddison and Van de Ven’s absence was evident in Tottenham’s shocking 2-1 defeat to mid-table Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Spurs took the lead through summer acquisition Brennan Johnson inside the opening three minutes, showing no signs of a hangover from their London derby defeat.
But they subsequently failed to impose themselves on the tie, with Wolves establishing themselves as the better side, although profligacy threatened to be their undoing.
A defensive pairing of Ben Davies and Eric Dier did their best to limit Wolves. But they eventually crumbled under the weight of relentless pressure at the dying embers of the game.
Introduced in the 87th minute, it only took Pablo Sarabia four minutes to pick apart Spurs’ makeshift backline with a sublime touch and volley before setting up Mario Lemina for a deserved winner.
Not only were Spurs awful across every phase, but they lacked conviction and never looked like building on their fast start in the absence of their key players.
The scoreline flattered Postecoglou’s side, who recorded a paltry XG of 0.70 against Wolves’ 2.15, suggesting that Gary O’Neil’s side could have increased their goal tally if they were more clinical in the final third.
Tottenham wilted in the absence of their star players, and if their last two games are anything to go by, there could be worse days on the horizon with a couple of high-profile fixtures ahead.
Spurs will be in action nine times, including high-profile games against Manchester City, Newcastle United, and Manchester United before the start of the new year, when Maddison and Van de Ven are expected to return.
A glance at the squad reveals the lack of a like-for-like replacement capable of filling the void left by Maddison and Van de Ven’s absence, meaning they would be lucky to be in and around the top four at the time of their return.
Are they serious challengers for Arsenal?
It’s early days in the Premier League, but the looming question for Tottenham is whether they could emerge as title contenders. However, the answer is a resounding no.
Not only are talks of a title challenge ridiculous, but Tottenham will struggle to keep pace with North London rivals Arsenal, who returned to winning ways with a 3-1 win over Burnley.
Nevertheless, the impact of Postecoglou at Spurs has been nothing short of remarkable. He has swiftly orchestrated change, shaping a new-look side that could transition into a formidable force in the future.
In the aftermath of a mid-table finish, no European football, no manager, and the departure of their talismanic striker, the outlook for Spurs seemed bleak.
However, Postecoglou’s appointment, although not one that may not have brought about the same excitement as his predecessors, has injected positive optimism at the club.
A summer littered with changes across every department, coupled with the implementation of an attacking and free-flowing brand of football, has rekindled enthusiasm among the club’s faithful.
Tottenham may not be title contenders, but it matters little. The signs are there that with proper backing, Postecoglou could transform Spurs from perennial laughing stocks into genuine challengers.
For now, they have neither the squad depth nor the mentality to go head to head with Arsenal, talk more of the juggernaut that is Manchester City for the league crown.
Injuries remain a very prominent threat to their aspirations, and the absence of Maddison and Van de Ven has revealed the concerning frailties in Postecoglou’s particularly thin squad.
Tottenham can be hopeful of returning to the Champions League places, but they will need significant reinforcements from the transfer market to further their ambitions.
With no European football distractions and their early elimination from the Carabao Cup, Spurs’ only chance for silverware this season lies in the FA Cup.
Having extra time to prepare for each fixture may provide an advantage against top-four rivals.
However, overcoming consecutive defeats and formulating a plan to face high-flying Aston Villa without their playmaker and first-choice defensive pairing remains the immediate challenge for Spurs.