Tottenham’s Slow Starts Are Costly

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LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-Min and West Bromwich Albion's Gareth Barry during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion at Wembley Stadium on November 25, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Time is running out for Spurs after they drew to West Brom thanks to Harry Kane’s late equaliser. Manchester City can open up a 13 point gap from Mauricio Pochettino’s side after the two dropped points against the Baggies.

This is caused by their slow starts, either conceding a goal early in the match or simply not creating enough of their own chances early on. The blame could be placed on the manager, but really, it is the player’s own faults. They must overcome a mental barrier in order to have any real chance of domestic success.

Tottenham’s Slow Starts Are Costly

Pochettino

It is all too easy to criticise a football manager for a poor start. Indeed, after losing against Arsenal, and now dropping two points against West Brom, he is under some mounting pressure. The main criticism is the lack of victories away at the ‘top six’ rival clubs, with only one win in 17 matches.

An argument to defend this would state that a team has to drop points somewhere, and thus, dropping them to the best clubs in the league, away from home, is the most acceptable area to fall down upon. Except, it isn’t. Even if Spurs were consistent in the league outside of that top six, which, following the draw to West Brom indicates they are not, it is imperative to beat rivals to earn those ‘six points’. For example, losing to Arsenal allowed them to catch up with Spurs, who can now go ahead.

However, it is ridiculous to even consider the stability of his position. For, Pochettino has been a revitalising figure, transforming the club’s progress domestically and in Europe. His overall project is worth taking a few seasons of adjustment. Although, the pivotal moment of victory and success must come soon. Daniel Levy’s well-honed axe may well fall again if in the next two seasons no trophy is lifted by the club. But, there is now a much larger pressure on both players and manager to respond to this slow start.

Europe

Tottenham’s European glory hopes shine brighter than ever. The club have won their first Champions League group, with a match to spare. However, the issue of slow starts hasn’t been completely extinguished.

This was particularly prevalent in the most recent match against Dortmund, in the 2-1 comeback. Spurs were left trailing and flailing before half-time. However, they quickly recovered in the second half. This is a repeating theme in the club’s matches across all their campaigns. In fact, it is an anachronism that has persisted for a long time, relying on late goals, preying on teams late in the day. Often, it is successful and clearly, there is some steadfast mentality amongst the players.

However, this is a mentality that only emerges out of this unneeded adversity. If only they could apply the same belief and might to their first-half performances!

Solutions

The players need to overcome mental barriers to grab the first goal and to take the ascendancy in matches. Playing catch up against West Brom, or even higher class opposition like Borussia Dortmund, is dangerous. Yet, how to bring a change about is difficult, since it is not an activity that can be recreated on the training ground.

One solution might be to overload the attack at the start of the match. This contains a high element of risk, but it promises directness. Whilst Spurs often aim to retain possession, it would be most beneficial against more inferior sides to attack them in this way. Quickly creating two or three chances sets a pattern to the match, and heaps pressure on the opposition.

The quality amongst the squad is exceptional, and thus, these resources should be exercised with all their power. Spurs really must make Wembley into a fortress, and frighten teams visiting there, like the unbeaten season at White Hart Lane. There is no Wembley curse, but similarly, there is no fear factor to play Tottenham at home. Transform this cavernous bowl into a lion’s den, where away teams are subjected to all kinds of pressure early on.

Verdict

Tottenham’s slow starts are costing them their hopes of domestic glory this season. Pochettino is not to blame, but the players instead must find a way to reassert their authority at home. This requires an all-out attack approach, in the old traditional ‘Tottenham way’ to punish away teams and make them fear their visit to Wembley.

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