Two months in and it’s already starting to feel like another one of those seasons for Tottenham. Without Harry Kane’s exceptional form of last year, they have been struggling to score goals, and it’s hard to see this being the campaign when they break back into the top four.
Spurs have not shown the performances or individual quality to muscle in on that coveted territory. Kane, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, midfielder Christian Eriksen and perhaps full-back Kyle Walker aside, none of their players would walk into the teams above them.
Of the others, new £22m signing Heung-min Son has looked really athletic, very sharp and has shown fantastic movement in his first few appearances, scoring three goals in two outings. Youngster Dele Alli has also shone, though it’s too early to judge his talent; he could have ups and downs like Spurs winger Andros Townsend.
TURNING ON A TAP
But I strongly believe that winning matches is one of the key drivers of momentum. There is more than bragging rights at stake in tonight’s derby with Arsenal; it is also a chance for Tottenham to build a Capital One Cup run that can improve their form in general.
If manager Mauricio Pochettino resists the urge to make many changes for what is a third fixture in seven days then, as long as the players’ attitude is right, they can go far in this competition. And that, in turn, will only have a positive effect on their consistency.
Spurs look like a team who need to get on a run. But in football summoning great performances is not like turning on a tap; it’s built piece by piece.
Pochettino should not feel the need to rest players. Too much is made of the workloads on players in the modern game, who don’t play anything like the 50 or 60 matches that I and most of my team-mates did each season – nor in the sort of sapping, muddy pitches.
I think the time has come for Pochettino to decide to go for a trophy – for him, for the club’s stature, and to prevent them becoming nothing more than also-rans in the race for Champions League places.
It’s amazing what a cup would do for the morale of fans and players.
Arsenal, who have won back-to-back FA Cups, can testify to that. They can afford to make more changes than their north London neighbours this evening at White Hart Lane because they have greater strength in depth, but they desperately need to restore some discipline.
The Gunners have lost successive matches after having men sent off, more out of stupidity than violence. They can beat most teams when it’s 11 versus 11 but you don’t win many games with 10 men, and they run the risk of creating a big problem if they don’t end this pattern now.
Trevor Steven is a former England international who has played at two World Cups and two European Championships. He now works as a media commentator.