Tottenham have gone under the radar this season, after a poor October and November saw them lose ground in the league and get knocked out of the Champions League. This came as a surprise as many individuals under-performed and their 4-2-3-1 formation that had been successful began to falter. Their main problem was in attack, as they went through a period of scoring just four times in seven matches across all competitions after the side’s victory over Manchester City. Although Harry Kane was missing for the majority of that run, there were bigger problems in the midfield and there were some Tottenham supporters that started to question Mauricio Pochettino. This was only a small section of the support, but it shows the short-termism that infects the game at times.
However, in recent weeks they have started to look like the side that excited on a consistent basis last season and there could be another title push over the coming months. Since their narrow defeat to Manchester United, they have won seven matches in a row and managed to score 17 goals in the process. They now look a team that is well organised at the back and carries a big goal threat in attack. If they can continue performing at this level as a team, there is no reason why they can’t challenge for the title.
They have been solid at the back since the beginning of the season and currently have the best defence in the league, conceding only 14 times this season. The defensive pair of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen have been excellent for the second season running, while they have remained compact since the change of formation to a three-man defence with Eric Dier joining them at the back. They have three centre backs that are good at launching attacks from deep and that has been a prominent reason for their recent success.
Despite their initial struggles in attack, they have improved hugely in recent weeks and that has been down to the decision to play both Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli in central roles. They have been given more freedom since the move to a three-man defence, which has allowed each to thrive. In the 4-2-3-1, they had to play one on the left wing, normally Eriksen and that stunted his influence. In the last five matches, Eriksen has contributed two goals and three assists, while Dele Alli has scored seven goals. If both can show some consistency over the coming months, Tottenham will once again have a devastating attack and will be much less reliant on Harry Kane.
Tottenham’s main strength is their full backs, as Danny Rose and Kyle Walker are defensively efficient and excellent attacking outlets. The move to a three-man defence has freed them up to be more attacking and that in turn has allowed Eriksen and Alli to play centrally together. It has accentuated their strengths, while improving their weakness in transition. Both full backs stretch the play, which creates space for the midfielders and attackers in central areas. They also have the option to change to a formation with two wingers, with Son Heung-min, Moussa Sissoko, Erik Lamela and Georges-Kevin N’Koudou in the squad. There are tactical options available to Pochettino to prevent his side from being predictable.
One problem for Spurs could be the Europa League as they will have to contend with playing matches on a Thursday after finishing third in their Champions League group. However, Pochettino will trust his squad and in they showed that they have strength in depth at the weekend with their 2-0 victory over Aston Villa. Only Toby Alderweireld and Eric Dier was recognised starters. Spurs are currently seven points behind Chelsea, but they could be the most convincing challenger to the Blues. They have the best defence in the league and have significantly improved in attack during recent matches.