Over the last four weeks, Spurs have had to navigate a tricky fixture list with big matches against United, West Ham, Liverpool and Real Madrid, all while suffering from a long injury list.
On the 17th of October Spurs headed to the Bernebeau to face back to back Champions League winners Real Madrid. Pre-match, the talk was of how Spurs could possibly halt what was considered to be the best team in Europe at the time. Harry Winks was given a huge role in the middle of the park, while Sissoko was charged with breaking up Madrid’s passing game in midfield.
Spurs scored first, and could have won the game. Though the tone for their month was set by what has to be considered one of the best defences in Europe at the moment. Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris have been stand-out contributors in this department, while new signing Davinson Sanchez has made his mark and caught the eye of many admirers. Serge Aurier, however, cost Spurs the three points with a needless challenge on Toni Kroos in the penalty area.
It is these remaining elements of ‘Spursyness’ that are still costing this Tottenham side. We saw it later against West Ham as they threw away a two goal lead to lose 3-2 to their London rivals. A blessing in disguise perhaps to be out of the cup, but a poor showing from Spurs nonetheless.
Spurs also threw away points at Manchester United, an even game where it could have gone either way. A lack of clinical edge in the final third costing the North London outfit, partly due to the suspect form of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.
However, Spurs saw off Liverpool 4-1 in a comprehensive performance and, of course, nobody in North London will forget the 3-1 drumming of Real Madrid at Wembley. They also scrapped their way to a 1-0 win over a dogged Crystal Palace, three points that simply had to be taken, and were, courtesy of Heung-Min Son’s classy finish.
So what can we take from Spurs’ results over the last four weeks? Spurs have registered three fantastic performances, two against Madrid and one against Liverpool. Meanwhile they were awful in the 2nd half against West Ham, seemingly out of ideas against Palace and underwhelming at Old Trafford.
The defence, I believe, is what has made this a profitable month for Spurs. It has simply been sublime. The fact that nobody is crying their eyes out that Alderweireld has picked up an injury shows how much strength and depth Spurs have in that department. Eric Dier was a man mountain against Palace, and Jan Vertonghen has arguably risen above Alderweireld as Spurs’ best centre back.
The wing backs, too, have been simply exceptional. Davies and Trippier are now Tottenham’s most reliable consistent performers and the envy of the rest of the division. Serge Aurier offers speed and skill (albeit at the cost of recklessness), while Rose’s return has offered a timely boost. Hugo Lloris also has been back to his absolute best, making game winning saves against Palace and Madrid.
The glaring area of weakness, however, is going forward. Pochettino’s reliance on Alli, Eriksen and Kane has meant Spurs have lacked at times. That might sound strange to say after putting four past Liverpool and three past Madrid, but anyone who watched the games will have seen that those results were as much about the appalling defending of the opposition as it was about any creative brilliance from Spurs.
Reinforcements are needed! Son is starting to get himself back into form scoring the winner against Palace, but he is still half a yard off being the goal threat of previous seasons. Alli has been poor, yes he got goals against Madrid, but he’s trying to do too much on the ball and getting caught out. Eriksen too, having started the season so strongly, has dropped off a level.
Lamela can’t get back quick enough. He divides opinion among the Tottenham faithful, but nobody can question his work rate and energy. Meanwhile, Nkoudou needs to string a run of games together without a light breeze side-lining him. Whether he can make the grade at Tottenham is as yet unclear, my gut says no, purely because of his injury record.
Reports of interest in AC Milan’s Suso might be just what the doctor ordered for Spurs in January. They can’t keep relying on Sissoko, who frankly looks surprised on the odd occasion he controls the ball without it bouncing off his shin.
If Spurs want to go one further, they need to recruit in the forward areas of the pitch and provide legitimate competition to Alli and Eriksen. Winks looks promising in what is a pretty set midfield (Wanyama’s return will be a major boost), but the lack of options further forward will cost Spurs the title again this season.
Despite this, Spurs have already qualified for the knockout stages in the Champions League, and are sitting 3rd in the Premier League. The defensive unit has put in some extraordinary performances, one or two quality additions in the forward department might make this Spurs side one of the best in Europe. Spurs should be ultimately happy with the last few weeks, historic results for the club will be remembered far longer than the abominations. For Spurs now, it is time to kick on and start winning trophies.
Written By Chris Wyles.