There have been many reasons to cheer for Tottenham Hotspur this season. They have played competitive football in the Premier League and they made a deep run in the Champions League as well. But for all of the recognition Tottenham has received, there seems to be something amiss. For the last few months, they have not played that appealing brand of football that they are known for in some time.
Ever since Tottenham thumped defending UEFA Champion Inter Milan in November, Tottenham was looked upon as being one of the best clubs in Europe. The media used that win to proclaim that Spurs would soon disrupt Manchester United and Chelsea’s grip on the Premier League title. That win also made Gareth Bale a household name throughout the world as he terrorized Inter’s backline for a hat trick. No longer was Bale just a good player, but he was now the “Premier League Messi.”
While that win was massive, it was only one win. It just happened that it came in the Champions League against a very well known club. But all that praise they received appears to be unjustified because since the calendar turned to 2011, Spurs have a record of 7-6-5 in all competitions. During that time, they have been outscored 19-22. Those numbers do not point to Spurs being a dominating club.
Looking at the numbers more closely, Spurs has not performed at the same level as last season.
As Table I. shows, not only have they not scored like the previous year, but also the defense has been considerably worse. In 2009-2010, Spurs was one of the better teams defensively. This season, the backline has been a major weakness. Also, there has been a change in Tottenham’s play at White Hart Lane. During the 2009-2010 season, they averaged over two goals a game as the home side. That was sixth best in the league. That number has fallen to 1.47 this season, which ranks as thirteenth place.
So what has led to these drastic changes? A big part of that answer deals with injuries. Defensively, players like Ledley King, Jonathan Woodgate and Younes Kaboul have all missed time this season. As for the offensive decline, Bale missed a significant amount of time after his explosion against Inter. Because of these injuries, Spurs faced a problem of depth when the fixtures began to pile up. Another aspect to consider is that opposing teams had an entire off-season to prepare for Spurs and rethink what tactics to use against the North London club.
The win against Inter Milan was great, but media certainly overreacted to it. Spurs shouldn’t be blamed because the media is overzealous when reporting a story. More importantly, that match made Bale so popular, so fast, that opposing sides were forced to commit more attention to him. Even with the struggles of the season, Tottenham are still competing for a top for spot in the league. They also gained valuable experience playing in Europe this season, but Spurs appear to be a year away from being one of the dominant teams in the continent.