- Tottenham is working in new signings and remains unsettled as it relates to Christian Eriksen's future with the club, and it's all been reflected in a rocky start to the new season.
At the moment, all Spurs fans can do is sit tight and just trust Mauricio Pochettino.
Without triggering the early alarm, there’s a trend that has been simmering at White Hart Lane for a while now, a default position if you like.
Begin game, start slowly, spend a period of time looking quite lifeless in possession, fans sing ‘Come on You Spurs’ then get halfway through ‘Oh When the Spurs Go Marching in’ only to be cut off by the defense switching off for a couple of seconds and Tottenham going behind. From then, a game of catch-up plays out.
Sometimes Spurs find a way back, but when they do it usually feels like it could have all been a lot more simple.
On Sunday against Newcastle, Tottenham didn’t find a way through. They went behind to a well-taken goal from Joelinton, after a top pass from Christian Atsu, but they also went behind thanks to some criminal defending. Tottenham had been warned almost directly before when Sean Longstaff went through on goal and actually should have punished them there and then.
Pochettino had once again left Jan Vertonghen on the bench as well as Christian Eriksen–perhaps the club's best defender as well as its most creative force, the latter of whom remains at the center of contract and transfer talks.
Sanchez is one of Spurs’ best athletes. He has all of the attributes to be a top defender. Strong, tall, fast, excellent in the air and he’s actually better on the ball than people give him credit for. However, Sanchez does still have a particular habit of switching off at key moments, and those moments usually come after Spurs have had long spells of possession. Given that Tottenham’s attack is built on a possession-based game, it’s not ideal. On cue, 27 minutes in, Sanchez switched off, one time too many.
Part playing an offside trap, part pressing, part marking the man, part jumping to win a header but fully messing it up, Sanchez left Joelinton onside and through on goal, and Tottenham went behind. Again.
Newcastle defended admirably through until halftime, with five at the back and a deep four-man midfield, with Joelinton constantly looking physical and threatening on the counterattack.
At halftime, Spurs fans once more were asked to trust the manager and his decision making, with Eriksen on the bench. Having not broken Newcastle down at any point attention switched from lacking concentration at the back to lacking cutting edge going forward. Where Eriksen was able to make an impact against Aston Villa from 60 minutes onwards, it seems odd that Pochettino waited to the same mark that he so often does to introduce substitutes.
Newcastle sat further and further back with even less space between their defensive and midfield lines. And even though Spurs amassed 80% of possession, they did absolutely nothing with it - just two shots on target amidst some other wasteful finishing.
The most telling thing about the second half, though, is that there was incredibly little to report. Even with the introduction of Giovani Lo Celso and Eriksen, Spurs just seemed to telegraph almost everything that they did, and Newcastle deserve enormous credit for the way they ensured the game was played in front of them. The Magpies were disciplined and resolute throughout and looked rarely troubled such was Spurs lack of imagination. They almost cantered over the line to give Steve Bruce his first win of the season.
Depending on how you look at the north London derby next week, timing really couldn’t be much worse–or much better. With such an enormous amount riding on it for Pochettino and Spurs, fans will have to remain calm and place more faith than ever before in the manager. Particularly as in his post-match press conference he dipped his toe into the discussion around the idea of unrest amongst his squad.
A win against Arsenal will almost immediately put things right in the eyes of most fans, but for those who have watched performances closely so far will know, it’ll take more than just a big win on the board to fix what seems to be a fractured system. Behind closed doors, a style needs to evolve that caters for Harry Kane, but also allows Spurs to get the maximum from Son Heung-min. A style will have to evolve that finds a way to cater for Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko while also placing Tanguy Ndombele in the best possible position. And it will have to be a style that can adapt to potentially losing Eriksen, or possibly having both Eriksen and Lo Celso.
What is clear is that it’s something that could take a few weeks and matches to figure out, but, in order to do that, fans will have to continue as ever having faith in the man that has taken them this far.