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Why Tottenham’s away form against big clubs continues to be poor

Under Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs have improved dramatically in so many ways, though there is still one area of performance that still feels like the old Spurs — performances away from home against the teams around them in the table. The performance at Anfield brought back nasty reminders of the flaws Tottenham still has, and how far they have to go if they really are going to be consistent title challengers.

After multiple knockout performances against big clubs at home, many thought Spurs could finally translate that form away from White Hart Lane. But in 2016-17, that elusive away form has been hard to find. Against the other teams in the top seven after 25 rounds, Spurs end the season with three draws and three losses. Unlike last season, in which Spurs won two games away from home against other teams in the top seven, Pochettino’s men never looked likely to win any of those contests this season, and often needed some good fortune in order to escape with a point.

In Pochettino’s tenure at Spurs, away against teams that finished in the top seven of the Premier League table, his teams have two wins, seven draws and nine losses in those games. In comparable home fixtures, Spurs have seven wins, five draws and three losses, with three games still to play against teams in the current top seven (Everton, Arsenal and Manchester United). So why does this staggering difference in form away from home versus at White Hart Lane continue to grow more and more pronounced with each passing game?

Like with Pep Guardiola, Pochettino wants his teams to play out from the back, even while under an intense press. Against teams that force the issue, such as United, Chelsea and Liverpool, this forces mistakes and catches Spurs out when normally they have such a good shape. Since Spurs play with their fullbacks as auxiliary wingers, they can be hugely susceptible to quick counter-attacks if they lose possession in the wrong areas, especially when they are playing a back four. Pochettino’s back five experiment had to be halted because of injuries, so it’s unknown as to whether that formational tweak would have made dividends against Liverpool, but the basic problem of Spurs not being able to break a press has held over from Pochettino’s first season still remains regardless of the formation. For a team that presses as well as Spurs have done and still do, it’s a bit shocking to see them fail to deal with a press as well as they should.

As with every team, Spurs do make mistakes in these big atmospheres and when they do, they’re often punished for them. However, that clinical nature that they themselves show at White Hart Lane never does not seem to travel with them, nor does that intense press that puts even the best teams to the sword. Is it because the White Hart Lane pitch is that much smaller, allowing for Spurs to compress an already tight space even further? It’s possible, considering their struggles at Wembley with a much wider pitch. But by now, one would expect Mauricio Pochettino to adapt his team for those small changes, even if it means going long on goal kicks or preparing to absorb more pressure and nick a goal or two on the counter. Since that hasn’t happened in any of these big away matches, Spurs have been punished for these mistakes and haven’t had any way of punching back.

SEE MORE: Schedule of Tottenham games on US TV and streaming

There is a silver lining to this otherwise dour note: Spurs have played all of their away fixtures against teams in the current top eight, and while their away form hasn’t been fantastic this season, they have been able to win away from home convincingly at times. If that does stay true, and their home form is maintained, Spurs should still be able to finish in the top four once again. But with this lingering doubt about the one last puzzle piece needed for title contenders, one does wonder if Tottenham will ever put the entire jigsaw together to mount that full-on title challenge consistently, and maybe even one day take the trophy home.

Maybe this does sound like a nitpick for a club that has grown so much under their current manager. But with success comes greater challenges, and as of yet, Spurs haven’t met those greater challenges, despite evidence that says they should have by now.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ray

    February 14, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Is the pitch at White Hart Lane that much smaller than other clubs in the EPL? I think that you’ll find it isn’t. The main reason Spurs lost so tamely at Anfield was due to the fact that Danny Rose was absent as was Jan Vertonghen. Two crucial ingredients to the side. Ben Davies was inept in coping with Mane’s speed and quickness. When the two sides met at WHL earlier in the season, Rose had him in his pocket and Spurs should have won that game. Away from the Lane, Spurs at times can be too gung-ho for their own good. Sides that Spurs have beaten in their sleep managed to get a result at Anfield yet Spurs failed miserably. And that’s down to bad tactics. Until the management recognises that they have got to be more defensively dogged away to these so called bigger teams, they will suffer. It’s amazing that Pochettino and his staff don’t recognise this and if they have, it means that the players aren’t paying any attention to his words away from home and only in isolated cases such as Manchester City last season is a case in question. It always makes me laugh when journalists and would be journalists use the term bigger clubs than Spurs as if Spurs are minnows and newly promoted to the league. It would be wise to do some research before committing to writing an article. Manchester City hadn’t won a bean for almost 50 years prior to the Arabs buying them and the league with their billions in very recent years and prior to them, almost the exact same could be said about Chelsea with the Russians money. i wonder how both those sides would fare today without their wealthy benefactors behind them.

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