Tottenham have threatened to win the Premier League in recent times but have fallen short on each occasion. That is not about to change anytime soon. Here is why.
On Sunday Tottenham slumped to their second defeat of the season against top-six opposition as Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United fashioned a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford.
In the opening 10 rounds of this Premier League season, Tottenham have played some sparkling football. Emphatic wins against Liverpool, Huddersfield and Everton are testament to that.
However, with eight points already separating themselves and leaders Manchester City, the North London club seem destined to go yet another year showcasing an attractive brand of football but without achieving real success.
Mauricio Pochettino is a manager capable of delivering the club’s first ever Premier League title. The people around him don’t seem quite as capable though.
The playing group are short on proper grit and leadership, especially at the back and that’s where it is most important. A brief look at the last five Premier League-winning squads tells a tale.
Chelsea’s on-field captain when they won the league last season was Gary Hill. When Leicester City did the unthinkable the season before, Wes Morgan was their skipper. The 2014/2015 Premier League Champions Chelsea were led by John Terry. Manchester City lifted the Premier League in the 2013/2014 campaign and Vincent Kompany was their general. In 2013 when Manchester United secured their 13th Premier League triumph, Rio Ferdinand was at the heart of their defence.
There is a trend here. Teams who have won the Premier League most recently have had central defenders as their on-field captains – players who have massive personalities.
Spurs’ captain is Hugo Lloris who comes across as a nice enough bloke but he surely isn’t the leader to boss you to Premier League glory?
In front of him this season has been the trio of Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sánchez. Yes, technically sound defenders but not leaders in the same mould as Cahill, Morgan, Terry, Kompany and Ferdinand.
Maybe because of the lack of a solid leadership core, Spurs have oozed arrogance in big games.
There seems to be a refusal to travel to an Old Trafford or a Stamford Bridge and attempt to grind out a dogged 0-0 draw (those are the results that win you titles).
Instead, this team forces the issue and tries to win these games on the road and more often than not this approach has the reverse effect than what is intended.
John Wilkinson said as much as on The John Dykes Show on Monday.
“They [Tottenham] are not humble enough,” Wilkinson responded when asked to make sense of Spurs’ troubles away from home in big matches.
“Individuals in that side are not humble enough to roll their sleeves up and say ‘okay 0-0 at Old Trafford, 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, let’s just take that, sometimes we can’t play brilliant football.’
“At the moment, I don’t think there is enough humble within that group of players.”
Spurs have an undersupply of grit, leadership and realism but that isn’t the full story. They also lack a bit of quality. Or rather quality in depth. That much becomes glaringly obvious when Harry Kane is absent, as he was this weekend.
Manchester City can call on a number of different combinations to fill their attacking trio and can still expect goals. Spurs can’t.
Furthermore, not only does Kane find the back of the net at will when he plays but his mere presence also creates space for the likes of Dele Alli and Son Heung-min to get shots away. Without Kane, those two are not the same players.
The home grounds of Premier League champions are supposed to be daunting places to travel to.
Back-to-back home victories at Wembley in the league might well have dispelled the curse that was believed to have been cast over Pochettino’s men at their temporary stadium but visiting teams will still feel they have a chance there.
History has shown that it takes time to adapt to a new home. Arsenal are yet to win a Premier League at The Emirates. It took Manchester City nine years to win a Premier League trophy at the Etihad. Spurs cannot expect immediate results.
A Premier League season is played over 38 games. If there is unrest in a dressing-room, it will show.
Danny Rose’s comments about low salaries at Spurs during the summer suggest all is not well.
Pochettino and Daniel Levy have done brilliantly to limit the damage in the aftermath of that story but the real effect will only be understood in January when the transfer window reopens.
If one goes, many might follow suit. Never mind long-term contracts.
Tottenham’s narrative is a great one – a club in one of the biggest league’s in the world rebuilding itself around home-grown players and a passionate manager in the hope of one day becoming champions of England.
However, there are many, many pages that need to be turned before that happens.