Five reasons why Tottenham can have mixed feelings about their start to the Premier League season
After falling narrowly short of a title challenge for the second season in a row, Tottenham will be praying that the old cliché of ‘third time lucky’ comes true in the 2017-18 Premier League season.
However, they haven’t quite managed to hit the ground running this year, with their form at their temporary ‘home’ Wembley stumbling out of the blocks and leaving them five points off the top.
But their away form has been flawless until now, and combine this with two wins from two in the Champions League group stages and there have been plenty of positives for Mauricio Pochettino.
The Boot Room assesses Tottenham’s start to the 2017-18 Premier League campaign.
Harry Kane continues to defy ‘one season wonder’ claims
What a remarkable start to the year it’s been for Harry Kane.
The 24-year-old couldn’t buy a goal in August, having 24 shots on goal in three matches against Newcastle, Burnley and Chelsea, striking the post three times in a turgid run of luck in front of goal.
This only served to carry on his infamous August goal-drought, with the England striker still incredibly without a goal in 898 minutes of action in the opening month of the Premier League season, and his critics started to creep out of the woodwork as Tottenham endured a stumbling start to the year.
Yet this drastically turned around once September came, with Kane scoring 13 goals in 30 days for club and country and making a very big statement about his world-class credentials whilst doing so.
To put it into perspective, his goal tally last month (13) matched the highest ever return from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for their respective clubs – and that’s not exactly bad company to keep.
The unlikely redemption of Moussa Sissoko
Whilst Kane’s performances may have been expected, the sudden redemption of Moussa Sissoko this year has surprised almost everyone – including Sissoko himself – after a string of good displays.
The £30 million signing from Newcastle was nothing more than a laughing stock at Tottenham during his debut season, failing to re-produce his sparkling form for France in their 2016 European Championship triumph, and he seemed destined to leave London over the summer transfer window.
But Mauricio Pochettino has admirably stuck by the 28-year-old despite the heavy criticism he has faced and it seems that Sissoko has turned a corner, finding consistent performances so far this year.
The long-term absence of both Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama has helped his cause a lot, slotting into a more central midfield role alongside Eric Dier, and he’s started to thrive in a deeper position by offering support to the likes of Dele Alli – rather than having the creative onus on his shoulders.
He would have been incredibly relieved to notch his first Premier League goal for Tottenham in the 4-0 win at Huddersfield and it’ll only help him continue to build his confidence back up after a bright start.
Davinson Sanchez adds new dynamic in defence
Moussa Sissoko may have failed to hit the ground running in his debut season at Tottenham but Pochettino got his recruitment spot on over the summer, particularly with young Davinson Sanchez.
It’s not the easiest task to come to the Premier League as a 21-year-old and make a name for yourself straight away but that’s exactly what the former Ajax man has done, and he’s made quite the impression.
He is a completely different style of player to his fellow centre-backs Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, who both like the ball at their feet and time on the ball, and Sanchez has well and truly stamped his mark on this Spurs side with a combination of brute strength, power and raw pace.
The Colombian is the definition of a gritty, battling centre-back, being strong and reliable in one-on-one situations, and the frightening thing is he already looks like a top-flight veteran after just five games.
To put it simply Sanchez is a brick wall in the heart of the Tottenham defence and no attacker will relish coming up against him, and expect him to be a huge part of this Spurs squad for many years.
Wembley hoodoo is hard to escape
Yet it hasn’t all been plain sailing in north London this season, and Tottenham’s infamous recent record at Wembley Stadium has seemingly continued into the 2017-18 Premier League campaign.
Continuous construction on White Hart Lane means that the Lilywhites are playing their ‘home’ matches at the home of English football for the immediate future, but whichever way you look at it there’s simply no way to escape that Tottenham have found it hard to secure results at Wembley in the league.
In their three Premier League matches there this season they’ve lost to rivals Chelsea, been held dramatically by Burnley and failed to grind down Swansea City, going without a home win until now.
It’s a far cry from their invincible home form at White Hart Lane last year, where Spurs went all 19 matches without defeat – winning 17 – and they need to turn it around to be serious title contenders.
Dele Alli hits the headlines for wrong reasons
One worrying factor that will be becoming a growing concern for Pochettino is the form of midfield talisman Dele Alli, with the England star struggling to hit top stride in Spurs’ opening seven matches.
The 21-year-old seems to be finding the headlines for all of the wrong reasons at the minute, whether that be for obscene gestures whilst on international duties or picking up a yellow card for simulation in the win at Huddersfield, and the youngster could do with responding with displays on the pitch.
He has found it hard to influence games as much so far this season, with Christian Eriksen taking on much of the creative burden, and Alli has only earnt one assist in comparison to his teammates two.
It is a far cry from the level that he was playing at last season when he scored 18 times, assisted seven and created 51 chances in 37 Premier League games, and he’ll know he needs to improve his current form.
With it confirmed on Thursday night that England will take their spot at the 2018 World Cup, Alli should be looking to fight for his starting role – and that starts with putting in displays domestically for Tottenham.