To fall from competing in the UEFA Champions League final in one season to being pumped seven goals at home takes some shocking backtracking. Well, Tottenham Hotspur have somehow managed to achieve this embarrassing task.
The drubbing to Bayern Munich validated their sudden vulnerability. While their shockingly poor away form in 2019 has been the talk of the town, many shushed opinions that they’ve gone downhill since that majestic night in Amsterdam.
Quite similar to Manchester United’s downfall following their Parisian delight in March, Mauricio Pochettino’s side has gone from among Europe’s best to operating like just another inconsistent Premier League mid-table side.
The pressure keeps mounting on the Argentine to face the sack if things don’t improve. With only a point in two games, Spurs need a small miracle to make it out the group. However, this worrying decline, which has been going on for nearly a year now, only manifested further after a brittle summer.
Daniel Levy comes up short in the transfer market AGAIN
Spurs were among the absolute rare clubs to not have spent a dime for three transfer windows stretching from the 2017 winter transfer up till the 2019 summer, when they started splurging again. Building a new state-of-the-art stadium posed an excuse, as Pochettino dug his teeth into getting the best of whatever he had.
Of course, he worked wonders for a certain period with the Champions League success. However, it was evident his thin squad needed more firepower. He soon made it clear it wasn’t him but chairman Daniel Levy-known for selling his star players for highly inflated fees- was handling the business.
Levy ended up securing three targets in Tanguy N’Dombele, Ryan Sessegnon and Giovani Lo Celso. When you look at how Sessegnon (a future star) still being injured and Lo Celso hasn’t even played an hour, the recruitment doesn’t seem that clever, does it?
Well, Levy’s inability to sign a top-quality centre-back or a replacement for the outgoing Kieran Trippier has clearly backfired. Spurs are conceding goals for days, looking unstable whenever having to defend and lack their explosiveness going forward.
They need at least two or three more players, including a feisty number #10 (Paulo Dybala rejected them in a last-minute deal) and a few strong defenders to mount a proper challenge. Levy took a risk trying to save money again, but his greed’s come back to haunt him.
Tactical & ego problems
Their off-the-field problems have integrated into their performance-levels this season, as Spurs have lost that hard-working mentality which allowed them to go past many obstacles last season. In a bid to complement lethal finishers Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son together upfront, Pochettino’s shifted to a two-man strike force this season.
As a result, we’ve seen a 4-3-1-2 or 4-4-2 formation be used on different occasions. While this does allow Son & Kane to link up smoothly going forward, it’s had a problematic effect on those behind them. However, these narrow formations has a toll on their midfielders and wing-backs, who tire out after being forced to put in extra shifts.
Their right-wing is posing to be a big problem, with the sloppy Serge Aurier consistently being wrong-footed and oppositions specifically targeting to attack via that side. Despite showing a never-say-die spirit last season, they get withered out too easily, allowing opponents to sit-back, soak in pressure and thwart them in swift breaks or counter-attacks.
How Spurs conceded five goals in the second half against Bayern, two against Leicester City and almost two near about the half-time break mark proves how their players switch off after a point. Hugo Lloris’ botchery doesn’t help and the ageing centre-backs can only do so much.
Adding to the problems is the fact that there are some tensed relationship between senior players. As per ESPN, some don’t think Spurs can go further after the UCL final last season and Pochettino recently questioning their mentality only proved not everything is swell in the dressing room.
Too many wantaway players
While Spurs have done well to overthrow the reputation for being a “selling club” over the last few years, they still aren’t elite enough for their top stars to commit themselves for life. Christian Eriksen, in particular, has been agitating for a move away.
He explained his wishes to leave North London in the summer but after Real Madrid simply ran out of money to sign him, the Dane was forced to stay. However, he’s almost guaranteed to leave soon with his contract running out in the summer of 2020. Moreover, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen’s contract are also expiring in May.
Unless a miracle, Spurs’ experience trio should be out by next summer. However, Eriksen’s pre-season antics and grumpy theatrics aren’t helping Pochettino. The Dane’s the enforcer in Spurs attack, but has seen himself benched on many occasions as Spurs prepare for life without him.
The fact that Dele Alli, who’s yet to score or assist this season, has gotten the nod over him on multiple occasions has also frustrated many senior figures. By having to deal with wantaway, disgruntled players on one side and underwhelming on another, Pochettino’s losing his patience.
All these problems have surmounted into a systematic issue for the Argentine. There are really no guarantees Spurs will be firing on all cylinders even if he calms down the storm this season. With big chances ahead, their manager’s future in potential and multiple stars slated to leave, it’s safe to say the high-flying North London giants have been brought back to the grim reality they lived in for years.