With Tottenham Hotspur undefeated in the league going into the second international break while having already secured positive results against fellow title contenders Manchester City and Arsenal, it seems that any other team would be considered genuine high-flyers at this point in the year. Yet surprisingly, an argument could be made that Spurs are nearing a mini-crisis for arguably just the second time in Mauricio Pochettino’s relatively short tenure in charge of the North London side – the less we say about events after Chelsea away last season, the better.
Undoubtedly, part of this originates from the fact that the Spurs fanbase is amongst the most pessimistic in the country, albeit with good reason. Tottenham have had several false downs in recent years, and several opportunities have been missed. The failure to push on in the league with players like Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart is perhaps only surpassed by a typically ‘Spursy’ capitulation in the January transfer window where Spurs were best-placed to challenge for the title; the signings of Ryan Nelson and Louis Saha didn’t exactly take Spurs to the next level.
So, it’s genuinely unsurprising to see that some fans are wistfully upset about Spurs’ best league start in goodness knows how long. Spurs haven’t gone unbeaten in the first 11 fixtures in the league since the famous 1960/61 side, and are a point better off after 11 games this season than they were last. Whether this justifies dropping points at West Brom and at home to Leicester is debatable, but whether it makes up for an abysmal start to the European campaign is beyond any kind of doubt.
Of course it doesn’t. Spurs have been unfathomably awful at Wembley, and that’s the sad truth. Losses at home to Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen are nigh on unexplainable, the performances even less so. Maybe it’s a mental block, maybe it’s just a settling period – we simply don’t know. But the lacklustre start to the Champions League campaign is a stark contrast to the previous, more enjoyable waltz into the quarterfinals of Harry Redknapp’s era, which included famous defeats to big clubs. Of course, the group has almost no appeal and could easily be a group in the Europa League, which must be a factor. There’s been no glamour tie for Spurs fans to get really excited about; there’s no Barcelona or Bayern Munich in town. This really is clutching at straws; it’s a pitiful excuse if it even is one. But the European campaign has, this time, left much to be longed for.
Naturally, this is absolutely no reason to panic. Spurs aren’t about to sack the man who nearly won them the league last year, nor are they about to sell their best players. The starting XI has been somewhat plagued with injuries; Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld, Mousa Dembele and Harry Kane have all played together just once so far, and they formed the backbone of the title challenge last season. Players have come in – Vincent Janssen, Victor Wanyama and a reinvigorated Heung Min-Son – and have all made a difference, but take any side’s four best players out and they immediately become weaker. Injuries aren’t symptomatic of a weak side – take Sergio Aguero, Kevin de Bruyne, Fernandinho and Vincent Kompany out of the Manchester City team and they lose their edge. What Spurs have so far failed to do is to scrape through wins consistently – the side must first be able to win before being able to win well, instead of vice-versa.