Tottenham: Thin squad beginning to crack under mid-season pressure

Defeats to Arsenal and Manchester United have seen Spurs’ strife overblown. Topping their Champions League group was not predicted by anyone (okay, there was probably one person), and Tottenham are still competing with the rest of the top six.

This is not the end of Tottenham as a serious Premier League contender. It is a major blip for Mauricio Pochettino’s side, though. One league win in five has left them closer to 17th placed Everton than league-leading Manchester City.

Spurs’ expected goals have shown no significant downturn. It was a screamer from Jamie Vardy that left them defeated at the King Power Stadium in midweek, and, if Fernando Llorente finished an easy chance, they would have still take a point from Claude Puel’s resurgent Foxes.

As we are so often told, such things go against you when you are desperate for points.  It is part misfortune, it is part a thin squad haunting Spurs again.

Christian Eriksen has been worked excessively, with the Dane in desperate need of a rest to regain his best form of earlier in the season. Dele Alli has not had quite the same freedom without Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama, and the injury to organiser-in-chief, Toby Alderweireld, has led to defensive problems.

Options from Spurs’ bench were an issue last season. Where Pochettino’s managerial rivals can turn to a collection of game changers, the former Southampton boss is distinctly limited. Spurs’ bench has contributed just a goal and an assist in the league so far this season.

As a result, Pochettino cannot rotate with the same confidence either. Erik Lamela’s long-anticipated return should mean Eriksen can have a breather, but injuries in midfield leave Spurs thin.

Without the Dembele and Wanyama shield, the defence has been exposed more frequently, and the attacking freedom of Alli and Eriksen reigned in at times. For what was a finely-tuned Spurs machine, the balance has been ever so slightly upset. When one cylinder fails, Spurs are short of a replacement at the same level.

Financially, Tottenham are just not on the same level as the rest of the top six.

Their success in recent seasons has been testament to a blend of excellent recruitment and masterful coaching. Fans naturally desire expensive signings, but Spurs must conquer their depth shortage with the methods that have served them so well under Pochettino.

For all the negativity, Tottenham are only marginally worse off than they were through the same fixtures last season. There is no need to panic, particularly with their markedly improved away form. These difficulties were predictable when the window closed, though.

Now the worry will be that fatigue and injuries drag them away from the top four.


Written by Sam Cox

Follow Sam on Twitter @SamRCox_

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