A mixed bag of results in the early months of Tottenham Hotspurs’ season delayed their current rise into the Premier League top four. Spurs are hoping to pick up where they left off last season, eyeing the summit of the league in 3rd after enjoying a rich vein of form; five straight wins where they’ve scored 15 goals and beaten Chelsea 2-0 in a result that ended Chelsea’s hopes of matching Arsenal’s 2002 record of 14 Premier League wins in a row.
Tottenham found great disappointment in their first Champions League campaign since 2011, losing at home to Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen in games that proved decisive to their early exit. As far as European competition goes, Tottenham are now forced to look forward to a knockout round clash with Gent in the Europa League in February. It remains to be seen how seriously Mauricio Pochettino will take the competition, that in part probably depends on how Tottenham’s title ambitions take shape in the latter stages of the season.
Transfers – In
Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko joined the club in a £30 million switch after an impressive showing for France at Euro 2016, but unfortunately for Spurs fans, the Frenchman has replicated little of those performances in a Tottenham shirt. He’s started just six games in the league and one in the Champions League, making little to no impact or return on investment. To be fair to Sissoko, though, he’s never going to live up to his price tag by constantly coming in and out of the side. Needs a consistent run of games to prove himself, otherwise he will surely end up on the list of transfer flops come the end of the season.
Victor Wanyama had three seasons with Southampton to acclimatise to Premier League football, meaning it’s little surprise to see the Kenyan hit the ground running with Spurs after an £11 million transfer. A powerhouse in midfield, Wanyama provides immense physicality to compliment the more precise and adept distributor in Eric Dier. Dier may possess more in his overall game, but Wanyama’s current form makes him a lock in Pochettino’s starting XI, as shown by Pochettino’s decision to start him in all 20 of Tottenham’s league games so far.
Ajax scoring machine Vincent Janssen joined Spurs for £17 million after a stellar season in Holland, but perhaps the franticness of Premier League football has come to soon for the 22-year-old. The striker hasn’t quite settled in to life in England, scoring just three goals (all penalties) from 23 games in all competitions.
Transfers – Out
Limited playing time made Nacer Chadli search for a way out of the club, eventually landing a move to West Brom for £10 million, while DeAndre Yedlin left for Newcastle after playing just 11 Premier League minutes for Spurs.
Ryan Mason was allowed to leave for Premier League strugglers Hull City for £8 million, while an injury-plagued 2015-16 halted the progress of Nabil Bentaleb, who moved to Schalke on a loan deal.
Transfer Grade: C
A combined £47 million outlay has been made by the club for essentially two bench-warmers. That is enough of a sign to suggest this window has been poor in the short-term, but one must remember that Janssen is only 22 and Sissoko a 27-year-old with 50 games-worth of international experience, meaning there’s time for development and adjustment on the part of the former and a level of expectation that the latter will be desperate to live up to. As for Chadli, he’s scored four goals in the league for his new club already; that’s more than he managed in the entirety of last season for Spurs.
Most Improved Player – Dele Alli
Dele Alli has improved not in the sense that he was under-par last season or couldn’t hold a starting spot, but in the sense that he has risen to such a high level at a very early stage of his career, which makes for interesting comparisons with former players and predictions as to just how good the former MK Dons player can be. He’s already scored 10 goals in the league this season, including two decisive headers against Chelsea, to push him right alongside Harry Kane as Tottenham’s top scorer in the Premier League.
Moment of the Season – Dele Alli vs. Chelsea
Don’t worry, there’s other things to talk about besides Dele Alli, but his headed brace against the league leaders could prove a key moment in the context of Spurs’ season and future for several reasons. First, it helped lift Spurs back into the top four. Second, it re-entered them into discussions of viable contenders to Chelsea for the Premier League title. And last, it brought about a level of recognition that the young Englishman deserves for just how quickly he has risen through the ranks. Alli has now scored 20 Premier League goals in 52 appearances, a tally that took goal scoring legends like Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard well over 100 games to achieve.
Moment to Forget – vs. Monaco (Away)
Perhaps Spurs’ entire group stage could be listed here, but it was their dismal showing in France that epitomised their Champions League campaign. The Monaco fixture had importance hovering over it; Spurs needed at least a point to keep their hopes alive before a final group stage match against CSKA Moscow. What followed was a comprehensive beating from a Monaco side that constantly peppered Hugo Lloris, who was in fine form and saved Spurs from a potentially embarrassing score line. Pochettino rested some key names ahead of a trip to Stamford Bridge on the coming weekend, but the changes appeared to unsettle a defence that looked disjointed and was punished by Monaco’s rampant attacks.
Goal of the Season – Christian Eriksen vs. Chelsea
I’ll be honest; I thought about putting Dele Alli here for the importance of his goal against Chelsea (either of his headers), but I think I’ve made that point already. Heung-Min Son also scored two delightful goals that easily could have taken this spot, but it was once again a goal against Chelsea that will receive recognition.
Eriksen’s thunderbolt against Chelsea in the first league meeting between the sides, scored with his supposed ‘weaker’ foot, was a rare moment of technical brilliance that just nudges ahead of the previously mentioned strikes. Strangely enough, it was the first time the Dane had found the net in the Premier League since March.
Overall Grade: B+
A disappointing exit from the Champions League is what drops Spurs down from an A to B+, but there is still plenty to be excited about this season for their fans. Recent results have pulled them back into the title race and the goal scoring form of Harry Kane and Dele Alli will be vital to just how far they can go. In Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker, Tottenham may have the finest back-four players in each individual position in the Premier League; well reflected by their goals against tally of a meagre 14 from 20 matches.
In regards to a potential disadvantage Spurs may have compared to their rivals, they do not have the luxury (if you choose to call it that) of no European competition as Chelsea and Liverpool do. In fact, all of Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United will have to manage European and Cup competition while the top-two placed sides only have to deal with added Cup games. A potential difference maker that pundits will undoubtedly bring up as the season progresses.