A week into the Premier League restart and the clock is ticking already for clubs at the right and wrong end of the table. Before football was suspended for the top-flight clubs, Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur were looking at a season that was doing nothing more than meandering along, limping to a conclusion.
Devoid of his top striker Harry Kane and some of his supporting cast including the likes of Steven Bergwijn and Heung-Min Son, Spurs were looking anything but challengers for a spot in Europe. After often getting themselves back into contention to claim that fourth Champions League spot, Mourinho’s side would then slip up and undo all the good work the previous week had provided.
Football taking a back seat for three months under the most difficult of circumstances has been beneficial for Spurs, more than for a lot of their rivals. The injury list has shrunk to that of just Japhet Tanganga, out with a suspected stress fracture to his back, giving Mourinho the time to work tactically and with a near fully fit squad possibly the first time since his arrival at Tottenham.
Despite all this going on, only Manchester City and Liverpool have picked up more points than the Portuguese since his arrival back in November and when analysing Tottenham’s record it’s a very patchy set of results which makes the points haul look much more impressive.
Four points from the opening two games is a fair return for a team still getting to know what their manager requires and still trying to rediscover the identity which turned them into consistent top four challengers. Mourinho in his own words since the start of the year had been waiting for 1st July when he could begin to mould the team into his way of playing and turn them into winners of trophies, now it’s a different situation where he still has a chance of getting Spurs into Europe for the eleventh consecutive year.
As with all the European leagues re-starting, the football hasn’t yet reached fever pitch levels. Granted none of the players have had a full pre-season schedule nor any friendlies, allowance has to be made for that for and another week should see the players get sharper and the edge returning to their play.
Spurs have shown in phases across both games that despite falling a bit flat at times they can still get enough out of their final seven games to land fifth spot. Of course though, it’s Tottenham and it’s never that easy, but with no home fans to cheer on their opponents every game lacks an edge to spur a team on. The counter attack is where the good pace in Son, Bergwijn, Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela can trouble any team while the guile that Dele Ali provides once his match fitness builds up would give Spurs the hope there is always goals in them.
A note of interest has to be paid to Mourinho’s choice of centre back pairing of Davidson Sanchez and Eric Dier, preferred to Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, more assured and confident against West Ham’s Michail Antonio than Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, two different types of player but equally able to play and pull centre halves all over the place.
A nine day break will give Spurs and Mourinho time to further cement the style the manager wants and a chance to test out further ways of playing, things are slowly coming together at the Tottenham Stadium and if they can maintain some form over their remaining games, that consecutive run in Europe will be going on a little bit longer.
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