The Tottenham Sickness

Full credit must be given to my father for the title. He coined the phrase a few years ago, when Spurs had a strong points gap over Arsenal back in 2012-2013 and ended that season below them.

It “almost” occurs every year. Like an uncontrollable force or invisible plague that sweeps over the team, the players (from whichever year) just simply cannot close out seasons. Fans of the team will say they get tired of hearing their team called “chokers,” or “bottlers.” But the fact of the matter is- it’s true! Despite a resurgence over the last two years, where Spurs have comfortably locked in Champions League football, it appears the spring slump of the early 2010’s is back on. And with still no silverware of recent, it’s troubling times once again.

Spurs started the season brightly, despite the shock losses from Watford and Wolves. They appeared on course to potentially challenge once again, being the dark horse in that 3-horse title race. But once they faced Burnley, the metaphorical wheels fell off. A win for the Clarets began the phase of uncertainty for Spurs, knowing that their next 3 fixtures were away to Chelsea, at “home” to Arsenal and away to Dortmund. While the win over the German giants was admirable, it doesn’t take away from the fact that just 1 point was gained from a potential 9 in the EPL.

And then onto Southampton…starting with a lead created thanks to Harry Kane’s efforts. But then another 2nd half folding that saw a defensive calamity and a James Ward-Prowse free-kick that was frankly world class. The loss now makes it 1 point from 12! With Arsenal triumphant over Manchester United the same weekend, and Spurs with the prospect of having to face BOTH Liverpool and city away from home…it reads not only like a 5th place finish but the first time in 2 years that St Totteringham’s Day will rear it’s ugly head.

Sure, a lot depends on the remaining fixtures – and never dismiss Wolverhampton’s ability over the Big Six – but the historical Tottenham sickness would tell you that the run-in doesn’t look good.

So the big question. WHY?! Why does this keep happening? Many spurs fan will still remember “Lasagne gate”, an ACTUAL sickness bought on by food poisoning that cost Spurs a Champions League spot back in 2006. Can we simply not shake off that metaphorical taste?!

Jokes aside, here are some other thoughts:

  1. Team fatigue. Once again, the players are looking and getting tired. Although they haven’t had as many different leagues to contend with this year, they still had to fight Chelsea in the Carabou Cup over two legs and are still fighting in the Champions League. Can we blame many of the players’ World Cup involvement as an excuse? Perhaps not at this point. But moreover, Pochettino just doesn’t have the players he can efficiently rotate in. With a lack of money to spend, he’s forced to pick from the youth academy pool and while admirable and always praised by others, it sometimes doesn’t pay off. Harry Wink’s work-rate is apparent, but he’s not the Riyahd Mahrez or Kevin De Bruyne you can sub on to steal the win. (Except against Fulham, but beside the point!) Equally, when Kieran Trippier, who looked like a world-beater is clearly looking leggy, putting on Kyle Walker-Peters, the young man outrun by a Saints attacker who crossed the ball for their equalising goal, isn’t the solution.
  2. Can’t compete financially. Daniel Levy has spent in the past, but everyone knows recently that Spurs spent £0 in the transfer marker last summer and in January. It’s now coming back to bite him. And with a shiny new stadium about to open, one might suggest that, much like Arsenal when they opened the Emirates, Levy is not going to spend lavishly for a long time now. And in today’s game, you have to spend like City and Liverpool to challenge.
  3. Harry Kane. Here’s what interesting. Before Harry Kane returned from injury, Spurs had won 4 in a row. As mentioned previously, his return has only yielded just 1 point from 12. Has the superstar upset the balance? When a team so heavily relies on their star man all of a sudden, there is a suggestion for a potential unbalancing.
  4. New Stadium/lack of home. While this somewhat ties in with club finances from point 1, having a place to call home makes a huge difference to players. Spurs have almost spent 2 full seasons without a home, and while their success at Wembley has improved, the mentality shifts when you play a North London Derby on a mutual ground.
  5. Poch’s rotation/system changes. Some would have hailed Poch as a genius at the start of the season, rotating his players to get comfortable playing time and time to rest. But has he over-rotated now? It almost seems like Poch doesn’t have the perfect system/players to rely upon anymore, and even rested Toby and Son in a Saints game that needed them! Does Poch know his perfect 11 at this point? Some might argue yes, but then why underestimate teams like Southampton that are fighting to survive relegation?

I guess a lot can change over the next few weeks and with the beauty of the Premier League, you never really know who’s going to upset who. As a Spurs fan, it’s sometimes hard to ignore the potential hopes of this team once again get dashed.

-JR

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