Tottenham out of sorts? It must be early doors
What's going on at White Hart Lane? The construction process is taking longer than expected, much longer. There are reports about the emergency alarms not working, labourers doing coke and what not. The new stadium's construction hasn't gone according to plan. Neither has anything else for Tottenham Hotspur.
No summer signings, contract issues still not settled and three consecutive defeats for the first time in Mauricio Pochettino's reign. Spurs just had to slip up. With so many distractions, players were destined to lose focus and go on a bad patch. It was just a matter of time. Worse, it happened in the most Spursy way possible. The Lilywhites gave away the lead in two of their last four defeats.
Although they won against Brighton, Tottenham must string together a few dominant results before this start can be forgotten.
When Mauricio Pochettino's men won 3-0 at Old Trafford, it appeared to be a stepping stone towards title contention, to inspire confidence, lift morale. They'd long struggled to win the big matches. Suddenly, it's the little ones. Losses against Watford, Liverpool [not a little one] and Inter followed.
Spurs are a joy to watch when everything's fine. They play attractive football, score goals aplenty. When the going gets tough, Tottenham can't get it going. Against Watford, they gave away two goals on set pieces. They respected Liverpool too much. Inter was struggling before they arrived at San Siro. Poch's side managed the game poorly.
In all fairness, they should've pulled at least two draws from these fixtures. This Spurs side is no different from past editions. They can't grind out results when not at their best. Little wonder they're starving for trophies.
Perhaps, they're following their North London rivals. Arsenal's form declined when moving into their new stadium. The Emirates syphoned a large chunk of their future transfer budget. The North Londoners' inactivity this summer suggests they're feeling the same pinch. Tottenham became the first Premier League club to forego a full summer window since they were installed in 2003.
Pochettino needs additions in central midfield and depth across the field. Twelve Tottenham players went to Russia for the World Cup. Nine remained involved in the last two days. Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Aldewereild. All had little or no preseason. All played to begin the campaign. Son Heung-min pulled double duty for South Korea, going the distance in the Asian games to escape military duty. Emotionally fatigued, mentally drained, players are left with no time to recover.
CEO Daniel Levy's emphasis on finance rather than competition's to blame, but the manager bears some responsibility.
Pochettino's done a great job on a minimal budget. His tactics have been effective. He's mixed in different formations this season while attempting to rotate players. Fans have seen a 3-5-2, 4-2-2-2 and a 4-2-3-1. In all, the blueprint's similar. Press high; play out from the back; dominate possession; create multiple chances for the strikers.
Against Liverpool, Poch went with the midfield diamond. It worked wonders for the Lilywhites at Anfield last season. The players were on song, then. This time, they're out of tune. Eric Dier was sloppy, so was Christian Eriksen. They missed Dele Alli's trickery, captain Hugo Lloris' command.
At San Siro, Jan Vertonghen and Ben Davies were nervy in possession. The decision to leave Toby Alderweireld at home became more peculiar by the minute. Spurs couldn't function as they have for the past few seasons. Harry Kane missed an open goal. The defence let Matias Vecino free in the box in the 92nd minute. The players and manager could've done better.
Tottenham face a favourable run of domestic fixtures on which to bounce back before the Man City game at October's end. They must still find their best. League Cup opponents Watford know they're beatable. Cardiff have nothing to lose. Spurs possess the quality to brush both aside.
Pochettino hasn't changed how he wants his squad to play. The thinking and planning are correct. Execution must follow. Spurs were always slow starters, but this patch is rougher than previous ones. It'll take a special effort to get back.