Tottenham’s tough week ahead: Arsenal and City will test their potential

Questions for Pochettino as Spurs struggle to create

Tottenham Hotspur’s 2015/16 campaign looks to be finally back on track after a tough start as on Sunday, the Lilywhites secured their second win of the season — back-to-back at that — en route to their third clean sheet of the fledgling Premier League. By the statistics, Spurs have now conceded the second fewest goals in the league this season, behind only Manchester City.

It has been a good month of September for manager Mauricio Pochettino as he has done well to steer clear a side seemingly in crisis when the League Cup draw was announced last month which pitted them against their north London rivals, Arsenal. Things couldn’t have been better for Pochettino’s men, and considering the situation with injuries and suspensions Arsenal find themselves in, a Spurs win is what is written all over Wednesday night’s game.

The midweek League Cup game is followed by a massive game against Manchester City on Saturday. City are on the back of their first defeat in the league and Spurs would be foolish to take them anything close to lightly as the league leaders will look to recover from their loss against West Ham. But as recoveries go, Spurs are in the midst of one of their own, and they reached the top half of the table for the first time this season.

Their goalscoring problems have somewhat been solved following the arrival of South Korean attacker Heung-Min Son earlier this month, as the 23-year-old has scored three times in his last two games, netting his first Premier League goal in yesterday afternoon’s win over Crystal Palace, after his Europa League brace against Azerbaijani outfit Qarabag midweek.

Son’s impressive performances have quickly endeared him to the White Hart Lane faithful, and has also eased the mounting pressure on the shoulders of fellow youngster Harry Kane. Kane in a Spurs shirt has looked uncharacteristically out of sorts this term, after expectation levels soared following his 31-goal haul in 2014/15. Only Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez is ahead of Kane in the number of shots taken per game without scoring this season.

Kane’s average positioning on the pitch — coming short in search of the ball — has rendered him less effective in the 18-yard box this season, perhaps a sign of his trying too hard. That Son has carried his form from last season where he scored 17 goals across all competitions for Bayer Leverkusen has been of great significance for Spurs, and particularly, Kane. Very few would have envisaged the South Korean’s influence over Spurs’ current resurgence, given his unfamiliarity with English football.

While Son taking to the Premier League is being likened to a duck to water, another bit of good news is the return of the influential Christian Eriksen after his month-long layoff through injury. Eriksen was brought on for the final quarter of the game against Crystal Palace and immediately made the telling contribution by assisting Son’s winner. The Dane will hope to make his full return against Arsenal.

On the whole, things are looking up for Pochettino and Tottenham, but with two difficult fixtures on paper and considering the current unpredictable nature of English football, nothing could be taken for granted. The games against Arsenal and City are followed by a European trip to Monaco which will require squad management from Pochettino. Spurs’ midfield trio of Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentaleb and Mousa Dembele are currently injured.

This has left Pochettino with only young Tom Carroll as his option in midfield apart from Eriksen, Dele Alli and Eric Dier. Should Spurs upset the odds to secure wins over Arsenal and City, it will mostly be down to the managerial nous of Pochettino. Spurs are treading an upward curve, and most of the plaudits for their current upturn in fortunes can be attributed to Son as well as Pochettino’s shrewd management.

The decision to play Dier as a holding midfielder has somewhat hindered their attacking thrust, but the young Englishman has been a necessary shield for a defence that conceded 53 goals last season. His shift in role has also eased the need to buy a specialist holding midfielder following the summer sales of Etienne Capoue, Paulinho and Benjamin Stambouli.

It was perhaps the far-sightedness of Pochettino that has seen Spurs rejig in the back of midfield yet produce the goods required of the players. But one thing is certain, if Pochettino’s men contrive to lose against both Arsenal and City, all the positivity building up ahead of the season’s first north London derby will amount to nothing by the end of this week.

And for Spurs to have a shot at winning against their supposedly better opponents, Son will have a big part to play, and so will Eriksen and Dier, and to a greater extent, Kane too. And of course, they will need Pochettino to be at his A-game this week.

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