How does Tottenham's start to the 2016/17 campaign compare to last season?
Tottenham have found a lot of success in continuity recently. After an initial strong season and a fifth placed finish under Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs finished third last season, and have kept much of the same squad together for another tilt at the title this campaign.
Another thing that also hasn’t changed is the lack of media hype surrounding them at the start of the season. Spurs were barely even tipped for the top four last season, and an influx of big name managers has seen many predict them to fall out of the top four again. However, Spurs look like they will prove a lot of people wrong again.
When the season got going, it looked like things might be tough for Spurs. A draw against a spirited Everton was followed by a narrow 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, and a fortunate draw with Liverpool, who honestly outplayed them at White Hart Lane. Since then, though, Spurs have consecutively beaten Stoke City, Sunderland, Middlesborough and Manchester City, the last victory a real statement of intent in marking themselves out as title challengers.
It has been Spurs best start for well over half a decade, so last season’s start will not look as good in comparison. Still, it was surprisingly mediocre when considering how well Spurs did last season. They failed to win any of their first four games, following a loss to Manchester United with draws against Stoke, Leicester and Everton. They did then manage to secure three wins on the spin, including another big triumph against Manchester City, but a draw with Swansea meant that they picked up 13 points from their opening eight games. This time around, they have 17 from seven.
The squad is not much different from last campaign, but appears to be more streamlined and efficient. Son Heung-Min is fit and firing, having had a year to settle in, his form making the absence of Harry Kane look like less and less of a disaster with each passing goal. Moussa Sissoko and Victor Wanyama have added energy to a midfield that was overly reliant on Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele, while Vincent Janssen, Georges-Kevin Nkoudou and Pau Lopez have added youth and talent to the bench.
Other than that, the squad is being rotated well by Pochettino, who is learning to balance Spurs league commitments with the Champions League, which has started with both a win and a defeat, leaving them second in the group. Still, the squad looks fresh and hungry, and destroyed Manchester City with their pressing last weekend.
Spurs have also managed to improve their already excellent defence. Last season they had the joint best back four in the league, sharing with Manchester United (although conceding five to Newcastle on the final day ruined their dominance at the back), and this campaign they have only conceded three in their opening seven matches.
Not only are they more stingy, but they have improved up front as well, putting more teams to the sword. After inital struggles in front of goal, they scored four times against Stoke, as well as putting doubles past Middlesbrough and Manchester City. All in all, they are a more efficient attacking unit.
Overall, Spurs have continued the trend they were on last season, making their attack more clinical whilst shoring up the defence even more. These tweaks have allowed a team who went very close to the league title last season to start the season even better. They were not tipped as real title challengers, but evidence so far suggests it would be very wrong to write them off.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Serg Hoholok
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