Tottenham struggle in first halves, how concerning is it?

Despite the "it's not over until it's over" mindset, the last few games have seen the team start slow in the first half, with more than their fair share of goals conceded.
Despite maintaining a "never give up" attitude, Tottenham has struggled in the initial halves of recent games, conceding more goals than usual.
Despite maintaining a "never give up" attitude, Tottenham has struggled in the initial halves of recent games, conceding more goals than usual. / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Worrisome trends pop up in any professional football team. All of the Premier League's Rich Seven have some flaws. Newcastle is missing Nick Pope and several key defensive players. Manchester United lack tactical cohesion. For Arsenal, it's maintaining their attacking output. For Tottenham, it's the first half of matches.

Spurs have been struggling in the first half of recent matches. Sometimes it is unexplainable, just a bad day at the office. Lately, though, it seems like Tottenham's first half is almost unwatchable. Players making poor decisions, a lack of attacking edge, defensive assignments blown, and poor possession.

While Tottenham have managed to come back most times – bar the games at Fulham and the home contest against Wolves – the slow starts are not something fans want to see. They have already lived through it once.

Under Ange Postecoglou's predecessor, Antonio Conte, Tottenham was notorious for playing awful football, particularly in the first half. They were often down by a goal or more, and when it wasn't Harry Kane rescuing them, it was Rodrigo Bentancur's heroics, or Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg doing something unexpected.

Yet those tepid starts were signs that the defensive solidity Conte wanted was not there, and the lack of attacking creativity made it impossible to watch. The nail in the coffin for Conte was the 1-0 aggregate loss to AC Milan, further compounded by the 6-1 drubbing by Newcastle, which ended Cristian Stellini's time as interim manager.

Since Ange has come in, the first-half problems seemed to cease, but have cropped up again recently. At least this time there is more possession and attacking intent. The other problem is the highline. Even though Ange made it clear that his play style would leave it open at the back, the players have stuck to the tactics. Without Micky van de Van's recovery pace, it is much harder to stop break-ins on goal, even with Guiglemo Vicario's excellent goalkeeping.

Micky van de Ven, Jarrod Bowen
West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Tottenham's first-half struggles continue despite multiple positive results

Some fans may see the last few results and believe there isn't much to worry about, especially because the team has fought to win tough matches against Brentford and Luton Town. Against Fulham on St. Patrick's Day weekend, the sloppy first half gifted the Cottagers the win, more or less.

Tottenham are not the only team to suffer from this problem. Plenty of teams have bad first halves but tend to rectify the issues in the next match. In the match away to West Ham on Monday, Spurs jumped out to an early lead thanks to Timo Werner and Brennan Johnson's well-worked goal. Then they conceded off a corner thanks to a bit of luck from West Ham's Kurt Zouma. This match was more than a fair contest, and saying Tottenham "struggled" in the first half isn't painting the full picture.

It helps to get an early lead on opponents. Chasing the game wears players out faster as they push forward. Conversely, opponents tend to pack themselves in to stop the Spurs attack. Nevertheless, creativity and work ethic have driven them to win.

Fans understand Ange-ball has risks, particularly in defense, and the results show more positive outcomes than negative ones. Still, not every game will be won, and having a bad first half is typically a sign of bad things to come. However, Tottenham have weathered the storm a bit here. The second-half comebacks are thrilling affairs and often show the gaffer just who is willing to run off the ball and press until their last breath.

Ange Postecoglou
West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League / Nigel French/Allstar/GettyImages

Fatigue plays a role in the slow starts, too. Even without European football or Cup matches midweek, the high-flying system wears players out. Some are still making their way back to full fitness. It's not as simple as telling them to play better in the first half of the next game.

While we don't know what is said behind closed doors, it is safe to assume Ange isn't telling the team, "Save it all until the second half." He has told the players they need to believe in themselves and then they will play better. Maybe that showed during the West Ham game, despite the dropped points.

The first-half woes may dry up, but should they continue, one has to wonder how Ange will fix it. With the season winding down, new tweaks to the tactics will likely follow, in addition to another transfer window to find more Ange-style players.

Johnson or Kulusevski? Who should start?. dark. Next. Johnson or Kulusevski? Who should start?

We can only hope Tottenham handle business early on against Nottingham Forest this weekend.