Slow Signings to Difficult Decisions: The Series of Poor Fortunes at Tottenham Hotspur


What a difference a few months makes. After an impressive 2018/19 season which featured a Champions League final and another top four finish, Tottenham now find themselves in a rut that they can’t seem to get out of.

Difficulties Galore For Spurs

Premier League Struggles

Spurs currently sit ninth in the Premier League table following a 3-0 loss at Brighton, already their third defeat of the league campaign, are coming off the back of an embarrassing Carabao Cup exit at the hands of Colchester, and now have to play catch up in their Champions League group after a 7-2 hammering by Bayern Munich and a 2-2 draw at Olympiakos.

The stats are damming. Tottenham have now picked up just 22 points from their last 20 Premier League games; their lowest points tally over a 20-game spell in the competition since January 18th 2009 (21 points). In addition, they have lost more games (17) in all competitions in 2019 than any other English top-flight side and have lost as many games as they’ve won (17) this calendar year. 

Such a run has again thrown manager Mauricio Pochettino’s future into doubt; however, an international break may give him and his a chance to regroup.

A short break is unlikely to fix several worrying issues surrounding this Tottenham side. They currently look weary, bereft of ideas and, as Pochettino himself described, ‘unsettled’. Here is a look at the evident problems proving to be the catalyst behind their wretched run.

Key Players Out Of Form

Due to Tottenham’s limited activity in the transfer market in recent years, reliance on their more established players has increased. The likes of Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen have all been an essential part to Spurs’ rise. This season, however, their form has declined.

Embed from Getty ImagesKane has eleven goals in all competitions and averages only three shots per 90 mins in the Premier League. He is not looking like his usual deadly self in front of goal. He is not getting much support either, with Son and Lucas Moura sharing just three league goals between them.

The form of Dele Alli, who missed the start of the season with a hamstring injury, has been a worry for 18 months. Meanwhile, the experienced trio of Eriksen, Alderweireld and Vertonghen look distant and inconsistent. The spine of their team is playing a part in their downfall.

Little Impact From Summer Signings

Following their reluctance to buy players the previous summer, Tottenham fans would have welcomed a fairly productive recent transfer window. Tanguy N’Dombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon all arrived at the London club.

The boost to the squad that those additions were expected to make has not arrived. N’Dombele has shown glimpses of promise but also being inconsistent. In addition, Lo Celso, who has played just 44 minutes for the club, so far, was ruled out for six weeks in mid-September after picking up an injury for Argentina against Chile and Ryan Sessegnon has yet to feature after injuring his hamstring at the Under-21 European Championships in the summer.

Defensive Issues

Tottenham’s defence has previously been a strong point. A defensive partnership of Alderweireld, Vertonghen and Eric Dier has previously been formidable.

However, the club’s defensive record, which had been the best in the Premier League in 2015/16 and 2016/17, has now dropped off significantly. Spurs have just two clean sheets this season and have conceded more league goals (11) than the likes of Sheffield United, Brighton, Crystal Palace and Burnley. They have also let in ten goals in their last two games.

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Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has looked fragile. Since the start of the 2016/17 Premier League campaign, he has made ten errors leading to goals. No player in the division has made more, with former Bournemouth goalkeeper Asmir Begovic level on 10. Lloris is now out until next year with a dislocated elbow; meanwhile, Alderweireld and Vertonghen, who are both out of contract next summer, have looked a shadow of the former selves.

Serge Aurier has been erratic at right-back and was sent-off during the Bayern thrashing, resulting in Pochettino having to draft in midfielder Moussa Sissoko and centre-back Davinson Sanchez in his place. On the left, Ben Davies and Danny Rose, who has made no secret of his desire to leave the club, have also been unreliable as the club wait on the return of the attacking Sessengon.

Lack of Creativity And Intensity

Another problem area facing this Spurs side is the creative side. Their go-to man, Christian Eriksen, who was the subject of transfer speculation during the summer, is badly out of form, with only one goal and one assist in all competitions this season. What’s more, the Dane’s average key passes per 90 minutes of 2.3 is the lowest it has been since he joined the club.

Eriksen is not receiving much support, either, with Erik Lamela (one goal contribution in his last nine games) proving an ineffective option and Lo Celso and Alli being sidelined through injury.

To go with their collapsing defending, the lack of attacking options provided by the full-backs is also a concern. Right-back Kieran Trippier and left-back Davies created more chances than any other Premier League defender in the 2017/18 season and provided reliable width for the likes of Kane, Son and Eriksen to thrive off. Now, with Trippier sold and Davies badly off the pace, no Spurs defender has reached ten chances created this season.

Elsewhere, the lack of pressing and intensity off the ball is having an impact. This season, Tottenham have won possession just 23 times in the final third – only three teams have done so on fewer occasions. Deeper into the midfield, the form of Dier, so often a combative defensive midfielder, has dropped off, while Harry Winks has looked vulnerable in a holding midfield position. N’Dombele and Sissoko have also failed to provide intensity and driving support alongside.

Off-Field Issues

Finally, is the squad together? Much has been made of Tottenham’s inability to tie down Eriksen, Alderweield and Vertonghen on new contracts. This could be proof of a negative impact on the pitch. “It doesn’t matter at all”, said Eriksen on whether contract issues are affecting his performances. “Everyone is professional and in all clubs there is talk of players going away. That side of the matter has no bearing on how we have performed so far this season.”

Despite his denial, Eriksen’s refusal to sign a new deal suggests that he may look for a new challenge elsewhere. In addition to Alderweireld and Vertonghen’s contract disputes, rumours have also increased their opposing tensions. It comes following allegations of an affair with the Dane’s wife. Both Vertonghen and Alderweield have denied the rumours but their distant on-field performances suggest there may be an issue.

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