Progress report for Tottenham Hotspur’s first four games of the Premier League season

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For the first time since 2008-09, Spurs have gone the first four games of a season without a win. Three points is good enough for 16th in the table, but is the state of affairs in N17 that poor? They outplayed Everton and were unlucky not to score, played better than Manchester United at Old Trafford, collapsed against Stoke only after their talismanic striker was forced off due to fatigue/injury, and contained a Leicester side that is current third in the table.

And yet, it’s entirely conceivable that the best of this season’s Spurs squad has yet to be seen. Neither Clinton N’Jie nor Heung-Min Son have been in a matchday squad yet, and Christian Eriksen hasn’t played in the previous two games.

The best is certainly yet to come for Spurs, but can everyone afford to wait that long?

Best XI: Lloris, Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Dier, Mason, Son, Eriksen, Dembele, Kane.

It’s also entirely conceivable that the front four for Spurs changes game by game, but this alignment looks to be the most likely, which means the likes of Nacer Chadli, Dele Alli, Erik Lamela and Andros Townsend have to be content with places on the bench. There will be plenty of fixtures for them to prove a Ryan Mason-style point for league inclusion, but as of now, Mauricio Pochettino will likely settle on this alignment.

SEE MORE: Adebayor not registered in Tottenham’s Premier League squad.

Best Performer: Eric Dier

Without a new central midfield signing, many started banging their drums and ringing their alarms as loudly as possible about this development. But did Spurs find their defensive midfielder in their own squad? Dier began playing here in preseason and has never looked out of place; in fact, he’s grown into the role with each passing game and looks to be the answer, at least for now.

He’s been Spurs’ most consistent performer in the first four games, and has provided something the team lacked all of last season.

Most Improved: Eric Dier

If for the lack of little changing at least to start, Dier has also been the most improved player thus far for Spurs. Even as Dele Alli has showed form beyond his years, he is still new to the squad, as is Toby Alderweireld. Most everything else is business as usual, aside from Mousa Dembele, who has adapted well to a new role, even if it has blunted some of Spurs attacking impetus thus far.

Rating the Manager:

Mauricio Pochettino worked with a short deck last season, and has done the same in the first four games. During preseason, Spurs played a lack of public fixtures in exchange for more understanding of the press and defensive shape. So far, it looks like the training has paid off. The tactical discipline of the team is far better; they are not leaking chances in great numbers as they were last season, and the press that made Southampton so admired looks like it has made a return. It has come at the expense of verve going forward though, but with new signings making their debuts soon, that could easily change.

SEE MORE: Arsenal, Spurs supporters trusts lash out over lack of transfers.

Weaknesses:

This team is not deep at many positions. If one or two injuries affect the wrong players (as has already been seen), there could be trouble brewing. Pochettino’s emphasis on fitness meant Spurs didn’t have many injuries to contend with last season, so if the trend continues, that can only be a boon to the cause.

But luck swings both ways, and sometimes can be incredibly cruel. On the pitch, it seems that defensive structure and attacking prowess are mutually exclusive, which is a concern that needs to be fixed.

Forecast:

This team is not going to make the top four unless they overachieve and someone above them catastrophically fails. Since neither is likely to happen, so long as the young squad improves and matures with the manager and the club makes another deep cup run, supporters will probably be content. A trophy would be even better, but winning one is often a turkey shoot.

A finish anywhere between fifth and eighth is likely. Early signs are promising, but those signs need to be turned into wins. The game against Sunderland after the international break will tell us plenty about Tottenham’s future this season.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5.

 

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