By Jonathan Lewis | 12th MAY 2021
When Tottenham Hotspur beat Arsenal 2-0 on the 6th December 2020, they went top of the Premier League after 11 matches. Fans wondered if this was finally the year that Spurs would challenge for the title deep into the campaign. Fast forward six months and manager Jose Mourinho is gone, with Spurs trophyless and adrift of the top four in the Premier League. Now they face a scrap with other contenders to make any form of European football next season.
Scintillating on the counter-attack in that North London Derby victory, pundits everywhere began to factor Spurs high up in their Premier League predictions, which is continuing into the final leg of the 2020/21 season. Since then, a series of tepid performances have tanked Tottenham’s hopes of even making the Champions League. In that poor second half of the season, Spurs lost to just about every European rival, among them Chelsea, Liverpool, West Ham, Leicester, Manchester City and Manchester United.
Such a dismal record against their direct rivals eventually put paid to Jose Mourinho’s time in North London. The Special One never felt like a good fit at Spurs, taking what was once a terrifying attacking side and declawing them by playing defensive football. As usual, he found ways to make headlines off the pitch, too, including a high-profile spat with Gareth Bale over his fitness and relentlessly calling out the poor performances of Dele Alli.
Summer of Change Incoming
Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min have now assisted each other for 1️⃣4️⃣ Premier League goals this season…
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) March 7, 2021
Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min have been the bright spots in a season gone off the rails for Tottenham this year. A borderline telepathic relationship between the England and South Korea internationals has been unstoppable for Premier League defences, breaking the record for most goal combinations in league history. Kane leads all players with 34 goal contributions (21 goals, 13 assists) to Son’s 27 (17 goals, 10 assists) with three games remaining, and they have proven themselves vital. They are not to blame for Spurs’ failure to launch this campaign.
The issues at Spurs have been numerous. Where Alli and Bale have been rock stars in some games, they have been invisible in others. Tanguy Ndombele has shown flashes of brilliance but seemingly lacks the engine to keep a high intensity for 90 minutes. Matt Doherty has failed to usurp mistake-prone Serge Aurier’s position at right-back; left-back Sergio Reguilón has been lively going forward but a yard off the pace tracking back. Even with Mourinho’s defensive playstyle, Spurs’ old guard under Toby Alderweireld and Eric Dier have conceded more goals than any other ‘big six’ team.
However, this summer could change everything at Tottenham. Much has been made of Harry Kane’s impending decision – at 28, he is running out of time to win silverware in the prime of his career, and this is a team that appears to be trending in the wrong direction. Likewise, Son would walk into most teams in world football, and Spurs fans will be desperate to keep them both. The transfer fees for one or both, however, would give chairman Daniel Levy and his new head coach the freedom to furnish this team with young, exciting pieces across the starting eleven.
For Spurs, that may be what they need after yet another disappointing season.
Jonathan Lewis is an MFF sports writer