The Results Will Come for Tottenham

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Mauricio Pochettino, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur looks on prior to the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City at White Hart Lane on October 29, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Mauricio Pochettino, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur looks on prior to the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City at White Hart Lane on October 29, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) /

There’s a lesson to be found in Harry Kane’s debunked “sophomore slump” last season that should assuage the fears of Tottenham’s faithful after their run of middling form.

Most will recall how much speculation was cast on Tottenham’s precocious striker after his 30 goal haul in the 2014/15 season. Would he replicate that form or was he just a flash in the pan?

The opening weeks of the 2015/16 campaign seemed to confirm the doubts of England striker’s worst critics. In an opening day loss to Manchester United and three subsequent draws, Kane drew blanks. Even as Tottenham on the whole began to gradually improve in September wins over Sunderland and Crystal Palace, Kane stayed quiet.

His first goal came off a Christian Eriksen free-kick that bounced off the goalframe in the 4-1 rout of Manchester City, and even that didn’t change many people’s minds. An own-goal scored in the 2-2 draw against Swansea the following week only deepened his woes.

It would take a hat-trick against Bournemouth in late October for Kane’s season to truly start, two long months after the Premier League re-commenced. He would, over the next seven months, score twenty more times — enough to win him his first Golden Boot trophy.

What’s lost in that skeletal narrative is that Kane didn’t have to do anything to start scoring. Mauricio Pochettino didn’t switch his position and his role in the side didn’t change. He simply continued doing what he was doing until it all clicked.

This wasn’t some blind faith or a sign of insanity. It was plain to see to anyone paying attention that Kane was making all the right moves. He was shooting at similar or higher levels than he was the season before, and doing so with more or less the same accuracy. If those shots weren’t going in now, it seemed only a matter of time that they would. And sure enough, they did — and in a big way.

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Not every coach out there has the patience to wait out something like Kane’s slump. Perhaps if Pochettino had another proper striker at his disposal he would have benched Kane at some point in that run, and who knows when or if the then-22-year-old would have recovered.

Thankfully that wasn’t an option, and Tottenham waited until their golden child came good.

The same narrative can be seen unfolding in a wider way with the 2016/17 iteration of Pochettino’s Tottenham. Though the side remains unbeaten and there’s hardly cause for any legitimate alarm, over the last few weeks there’s been a noticeable dip in form.

Kane suffered an ankle injury, forcing Pochettino to find a solution to his striker woes with some combination of Heung-min Son and Vincent Janssen. Toby Alderweireld was next to be sent to the sidelines, followed closely thereafter with a three match ban for Moussa Sissoko.

That short list of obvious concerns doesn’t seem long enough to explain why Tottenham suddenly look so impotent though. This is still a side that feature Eriksen and Son and Janssen and Érik Lamela and Dele Alli, after all. Goals should come from somewhere

So what’s the deal here? Why can’t Tottenham overcome the middling teams like West Brom and Bournemouth and Leicester?

As unsatisfactory as it might be to say, there’s good reason to think that simple bad luck is once again holding Tottenham back. Just like Kane last season, Tottenham are making a lot of the right moves. They’re conceding the fourth lowest shots per game at 9.7, while leading the league in shots taken at 18.5. What’s more, their 5.9 shots on target per game are also among the best in the league, roughly in line with notably attacking teams like City and Chelsea.

That trend broadly laid itself out against Leicester on Saturday. Though Pochettino and company settled for a 1-1 draw, Tottenham spent the bulk of the match looking the side much more likely to find a way to a win. They took 21 shots outside of Janssen’s penalty, four of which were on target.

Next: Mauricio Pochettino: Tottenham's Performance Good But Not Enough

To those that watched the game, it might not be enough to say that patience is the best — and only — remedy here. There were players involved on the day that looked listless, including stars like Eriksen and Alli. Pochettino waited too long to bring in the substitutes like Georges-Kévin Nkoudou. There was, overall, a general lack of that unquantifiable quality: desire.

There are certainly tweaks that could be put in place related to both game and player management. More drastic measures — say, benching Alli or Eriksen — should be off the table. These are players and tactics that are proven, and deserve more time to see their quality bear itself out.