Derby draw was encouraging but Spurs need this break and a fresh start against West Ham
PUBLISHED: 10:11 09 November 2016
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Eric Dier seemed to have something to get off his chest when he emerged to reflect on Sunday’s draw at the Emirates, having noticed a prevailing sense of negativity in the build-up to the derby.
“People started talking about Tottenham being in crisis - we haven’t lost yet in the Premier League,” he said. “Obviously the Champions League [defeat to Bayer Leverkusen] was very disappointing but I think it’s a funny crisis if you’re unbeaten in the league.”
Many supporters will applaud that sentiment. Spurs are indeed the only unbeaten side in the top flight and they are only five points off the top in a season where they are also involved in the Champions League. Most teams would swap places in a heartbeat.
Yet the last month has undoubtedly been a difficult and disappointing one, and it is sobering to compare the current situation with Tottenham’s standing in early October.
Mauricio Pochettino and his players went into the last international break on a real high, having won five successive games in all competitions, culminating in a mature 1-0 win away against CSKA Moscow in Russia and then that 2-0 home win over Manchester City at White Hart Lane.
At the time, the Lilywhites had made their best start to a league season since their title-winning campaign of 1960-61. They were also well-placed in their European group and were coping well without Harry Kane - the picture could hardly have been rosier.
Since then, however, Spurs have failed to win any of their last seven games and they have only scored once from open play in that spell - the other three goals have come from the penalty spot.
The Lilywhites had the chance to go top of the table at Bournemouth on October 22 but they now find themselves three points outside the top four.
They have also exited the League Cup, losing their best chance of a trophy, and the strength in depth does not seem nearly as strong as it did a month ago. The importance of key figures such as Kane, Mousa Dembele and Toby Alderweireld has only been emphasised.
Most disappointing of all is the club’s position in the Champions League. Spurs finished top of their group in 2010, above the reigning European champions Inter Milan after that memorable victory over the Nerazzurri at the Lane.
It has taken six years for the club to return to the competition but you wouldn’t know it from the performances at Wembley and Pochettino’s side are in real danger of returning to the Europa League in the new year with their tail between their legs.
To rub salt into the wounds, Leicester are showing the spirit that Harry Redknapp’s side displayed on their maiden voyage in Europe’s elite club competition and are fully making the most of their adventure.
After the confidence-shredding display at Wembley last week, Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Arsenal was at least encouraging - Dembele and Christian Eriksen looked notably sharper and more influential, while Kane’s return will give everyone optimism of a fresh start – and that is effectively what Spurs have now.
Since the first international break of the season, Tottenham have had two very different blocks of seven games.
They regathered in September with fire in their bellies, thumping Stoke 4-0 in the Potteries and ending up with a record of six wins and a draw. But, after the next pause, they returned to action with a 1-1 draw at West Brom, and that has been followed by four more draws and two defeats.
Those sequences have effectively cancelled each other out so Spurs will virtually be at square one when they return to action on November 19.
A few good results could propel them back into the upper echelons but further blows could quickly leave them on the wrong side of a widening gap – and it is ominous to see that Liverpool and Chelsea, who both missed out on Champions League qualification last season, are now first and second. As expected, the competition this term is fiercer than ever.
Some will bemoan the fact that the hard work done earlier in the season has been undone, and that the room for manoeuvre has now gone. Others, like Dier perhaps, will prefer to focus on the fact that the Lilywhites remain firmly in contention despite their winless run and are still one point better off than they were at the same stage last season, after 11 matches.
So is the glass half empty or half full at this stage? And, crucially, which team will turn up for the derby against West Ham at the Lane next Saturday? As recent history has shown us, the answer could define the following weeks and set the tone for the run-up to the Christmas period.
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs