Tottenham has crashed out of the Carabao Cup, is 10 points off the pace in the Premier League and was just thrashed at home 7-2 by Bayern Munich. Is there reason to believe the season will turn around?

By 90Min
October 02, 2019

If you are an optimistic Tottenham fan, then you will point out that the club actually has one more point from its first two Champions League group games this season than it managed last season. That campaign turned out just fine. So perhaps things are not so bad after all? 

Oh, but they are. 

Tuesday's 7-2 loss at home to Bayern Munich was a new low for the team that had once promised so much under Mauricio Pochettino. Spurs are already 10 points adrift of Liverpool in the Premier League, went out of the Carabao Cup at the hands of lowly Colchester last week and look nowhere near repeating the run that took them to a European final last season. 

Where has it all gone wrong?

In truth, their struggles can be traced back to the summer of 2018. It has been well-documented that the club did not sign any players during that transfer window, yet they did not lose any either. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. 

Tottenham had achieved success with that crop of players, why change that?

The problem is that Tottenham's team did not need to change, it needed help. With France, Belgium and England all making the latter stages of the 2018 World Cup, many of Tottenham's side returned to Premier League action without a proper pre-season behind them.

It showed.

Dele Alli, Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose all picked up injuries early on in the season. Harry Kane suffered two ankle problems in the second half of the campaign. The team managed to cope until Christmas, possessing enough quality to keep in touch with Manchester City and Liverpool in the title race.

James Williamson - AMA/GettyImages

Yet things began to unravel quickly in 2019. The side looked jaded, like it was just trying to get through games in any way possible, rather than actually focusing on how it was going to win them. As a consequence, performances went downhill and results soon followed.

All of a sudden, it became more about finishing in the top four rather than challenging the top two. As the season went on, Spurs became more reliant on dominating short periods of games to get their wins as they were unable to control entire matches like they used to.

Think back to the club's amazing Champions League run. Tottenham was outstanding in the second half of the first leg against Borussia Dortmund in the last 16, held it together well in the first leg of the quarterfinal against Manchester City, survived the wild second leg thanks in large part to VAR and then produced a stunning comeback in the second half of the semifinals against Ajax. For large parts of those ties, though, the club was simply hanging on. It's not a sustainable approach for success.

For a team that had lacked quality for much of the second half of the season, it was still an excellent campaign for the club. It made the top four and got into a European Cup final. It needed a good transfer window, making calculated signings and letting go of some players who had served the club well but were no longer needed.

Only half of that happened. 

Instead, Pochettino made two major signings, both in midfield. Tanguy Ndombele joined for a club record fee from Lyon, and Giovani Lo Celso arrived from Real Betis on loan. Two good additions on paper, but were they really needed?

Tottenham's midfield is now packed with options, but Pochettino does not seem to have a clue as to what his best combinations are. Christian Eriksen, who appeared to be on his way out of the club in the summer, has one game in the starting XI, then drops back to the bench the next week. Dele Alli has had the same experience since he returned from a recent injury. 

Meanwhile, last season's Champions League hero, Lucas Moura, has only started two of the last seven games in all competitions, and must be wondering how he has dropped below Erik Lamela in the pecking order.

Surely defensive reinforcements should have been a greater concern. It was not difficult to understand why Spurs let Kieran Trippier leave for Atletico Madrid in the summer. He was dreadful for much of last season, and needed to get away to resurrect his career - yet not signing a replacement was astonishing. Serge Aurier has proven time and again that he is not up to the job, and playing Davinson Sanchez wildly out of position is just cruel.

On the other side of the defense you have Vertonghen and Rose, two more players who were linked with moves away during the most recent transfer window. Their performances have dipped ever since.

This has led to a disappointing start to the season in north London, with the patterns from the back end of last season clearly continuing. 

The team still does not look right, unable to press like it used to, although with most of the players having had the summer off there can be no excuses of tiredness this time. 

Again, when the team have played well it has been in short bursts. Spurs sliced apart Crystal Palace in the first half last month, going 4-0 up. The second half was goalless. 

They could have opened up a handsome lead against Bayern in the early stages of Tuesday's defeat, but were not clinical enough and were made to pay after the break.

It is fair to say that Tottenham are stuck in a rut. They have been playing the same way throughout 2019, and have been losing regularly as a result. Losing 7-2 on Tuesday was their worst result by far, but it could be argued that they have played worse this year. They were simply punished by a ruthless Bayern side.

Things look bleak for Pochettino. He hinted last week that the club will look to spend in January to rectify their current problems, so now he must think about how to negotiate the next few months ahead of the transfer window.

Could a return to a back three be the way forwards? It has worked for the side before, and would leave the likes of Sanchez and Vertonghen less exposed. Perhaps a switch to a 4-3-3 could be an option. The narrow 4-4-2 has meant that Tottenham lack width at times, with the play getting too congested in the middle of the park.

Yet for all this talk of different formations, it is time for Pochettino to figure out who is really willing to put the hard yards in to get the team through this tricky period. The capitulation on Tuesday night will have opened Pochettino's eyes to the fact that some players might not be up for the fight. He must now focus on the players who are.

The Argentinian has been in charge at Tottenham for just over five years, and for much of that time, his team have been a joy to watch. Right now, they are not. 

He knows that they need new players moving forward, but how he handles the next few weeks and months prior to being able to make those signings may define his legacy at the club.

He could either get the side back on track and challenging in the major competitions, or the team will continue on their downward trajectory, eventually leading to him leaving after a sorry end to his time at the helm.

The next few games will be a testing time for the club, starting on Saturday against Brighton. It is now crunch time for Pochettino and Tottenham.

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