Tottenham Hotspur face crucial end of the year
Sports Gazette looks at the North London side’s start of the season, and to what they are still to face in 2016.
Bournemouth fiercely held Spurs at the Vitality stadium on Saturday to deliver them a third consecutive draw in all competitions.
After a full-throttle start to the domestic season, Spurs are still undefeated but have slightly stalled in their race for the title.
Six years away from Champions League action has left its mark on the club as Tottenham's performances on the big European stage have been lacking.
A defeat, a win and a draw put them second in their group at the halfway point. However, all four teams are still within reach of the knock-out stage.
With Bayer Leverkusen, Arsenal, Monaco, Chelsea and Manchester United among the sides they face before Christmas, the next two months might be vital to Tottenham's season.
Last season Tottenham showcased their defensive superiority. At the start of this seasion the team again hold the best defensive stats. After nine fixtures they have the most clean sheets, five, and by far have the fewest goals scored against them with only four.
On the other hand, this season’s Spurs side have lacked offensively. With 13 goals scored in the league, they are the weakest scoring side in the top five. In their three Champions League matches they only managed to score twice.
It has nothing to do with a lack of opportunities. With main striker Harry Kane in the line-up Spurs averaged 19 shots per match in the league. After his injury mid-September, they have almost maintined that same pace by averaging 17 shots per match.
They were able to maintain that high average thanks to impressive collective play in their attacking waves. Although it only resulted in a great score line once in the Premier League when they scored four in Stoke, they always created enough to keep them in the game.
South Korean Heung-Min Son’s great goal scoring form, four goals in the first six fixtures, covered up Vincent Janssen faltering and it made sure Spurs maintained their position at the top.
Toby Alderweireld’s injury in the game against West Brom raised defensive alarms, but it was on the opposition’s half Spurs started struggling in his absence
In the last two weeks goals continued to dry up, they scored only once in their last three games, and it has gradually cost them points and spots.
Current leaders Manchester City also started to string together draws after their winning streak was ended at White Hart Lane. Spurs twice missed the opportunity to go top of the league.
Arsenal and Liverpool took andvantage enjoying an impressive strech of good form. They wriggled themselves in between City and Spurs on the league table.
Chelsea are on level points with Tottenham, both 19, but their four goals against Manchester United put them in fourth position. The Premier League’s top five is separated only by a point and goal difference.
Before Christmas Tottenham face North London rivals Arsenal at the Emirates, Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and Manchester United at home.
At the same time in mid-week Spurs will try to keep their Champions League dream alive. They play three crucial group matches against Bayern Leverkusen and CSKA Moscow at Wembley and against Monaco away.
Ahead of that busy span of games manager Mauricio Pochettino will be eager for Alderweireld and Kane to make their return.
Both players respectively lead Spurs’ defensive and offensive lines and are vital to the team’s performance.
Kane returned to the training pitch this week, and Alderweireld’s knock was announced “less serious than it looked”.
If all goes well, both will be back in time for the key Champions League face-off with Bayern Leverkusen at Wembley in two weeks’ time.
Early season's judgement
Getting knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage or dropping out of the domestic top five after New Year would be a huge disappointment.
However, with the squad at full strength there is no real reason to doubt their ability to cope with the challenge.
After all, the 1-2 defeat against Monaco is the only time this season Pochettino's players had to walk off the pitch empty handed.