Before beginning the grim job of dissecting a week where Tottenham Hotspur have lost three consecutive matches, it is worth remembering that the club is still in a top four place, and will be regardless of how Arsenal perform in their game in hand, and they are also in the quarter finals of the Europa League. Just as is it easy to get carried away with a victory, one, two and even three losses do not represent the end of the world.
That said, there are issues in the side that need to be addressed, and the worry has to be that the disappointing finish to last year’s season might yet be replicated this time around. In fact the problems that arose at this stage last year are strikingly similar, with Spurs seemingly jaded and facing a nightmare run of fixtures with a squad unprepared for the challenge.
This year it could be worse, with Europa League participation meaning at least two more Thursday – Sunday match weeks. Much was made of the fact that since the start of February, Spurs had played more than twice as many matches as Fulham going into Sunday’s game at White Hart Lane, and at points it was obvious that the squad is feeling the effects of that run of matches.
Kyle Walker and Jan Vertonghen have played nine out of ten matches since the start of February, and Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon have both only missed games when they were unavailable through suspension and injury. In the centre of midfield, Scott Parker and Mousa Dembele have started every match, with even the towering Belgian beginning to show the effects of this run.
It is not only a fitness concern, in fact the bigger issue has to be that teams now know more or less exactly how Spurs will line-up, especially in attack. The strengths and weaknesses of Spurs game are well known; press Parker and the odds are eventually he will 360 his way into trouble, stand off Dembele because he can take it past anyone regardless of how jaded he is.
The left flank will cut infield, if Lennon isn’t there the right flank will too, Adebayor and Defoe will mostly take care of themselves but look out for Vertonghen coming forward. Pressure Walker, and you will generally be handed one or two free kicks in a dangerous position. Bale? Double up and hope for the best.
These are all good players, and the Spurs game plan is not a bad one, after all it is what got the team into this position in the first place, but with so many matches in quick succession it is stale and the players are not fresh enough to make it work every time.
There are options on the bench, Lewis Holtby and Tom Carroll should see more time on the pitch, Clint Dempsey is now back from injury and has to have an impact, and Steven Caulker should start more matches. Spurs are not broken, but changes should have been made to the side even during the excellent unbeaten run, and now these changes are imperative if the season is to end on a high note.