Three reasons why Tottenham won’t finish in the top four

Dipak Patel examines why Tottenham Hotspur will fall just short of a top-four finish

By Dipak Patel

Lack of top quality midfielders

The most problematic area for Tottenham currently is in midfield. Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb have been the centre-midfield pairing in recent games, but there are concerns over their defensive attributes. Mason offers a lot of energy, but a lack of goals and assists suggest that is all he is really doing, while the Algerian is gifted but also very young. He has lapses in concentration and can concede possession too cheaply which could be costly in the run-in. Behind him either, Benjamin Stambouli or Paulinho could take their place, but Mauricio Pochettino doesn’t seem to have that much faith in either of them. Stambouli is a tenacious player that gives defensive solidarity, but for a team that wants to keep possession, his technical ability is adequate at best. Paulinho simply hasn’t adjusted to the demands of the Premier League and it won’t be a surprise to see him depart for another club in the summer. There are further issues in the three who play behind the striker. Erik Lamela has had flashes of brilliance but he is outmuscled far too often and his decision-making needs to improve. Moussa Dembele is another frustrating player because while his talent is undeniable, you question his desire and motivation in games. Nacer Chadli could start to feature again more prominently after getting himself back to match fitness. Nine goals and five assists shows he has plenty to offer but he lacks the pace of Andros Towsend, and isn’t as diligent in his defensive work either. So question marks over the midfield – apart from Christian Eriksen – mean it’s hard to envisage them finishing in the top four.

The reliance on Kane

The striker has been in wonderful form this season, scoring 24 goals in 37 games, and there is a real chance he will get called up into the England squad. But he is still only 21 and has never played a full season at this level before. The expectation levels have risen – and Danny Murphy even recently said that England should build their side around him. But that sort of pressure can affect a player and you have to wonder whether this has all happened too soon and too quickly. Only time will tell but if he were to get injured – then there isn’t really a good option to replace him. Roberto Soldado has managed just four goals this season, despite playing 31 times in all competitions. The Spaniard looks a shadow of his former self and is lacking conviction in anything he does. Emmanuel Adebayor is the other striker available to Pochettino but the fact that he made him available for a loan during January tells you what the Argentine thinks of him. The 30-year-old can be devastating when he is in the mood but it seems he needs to be mollycoddled or loved for this to happen. Pochettino’s refusal to bring in another striker during January to support Kane could prove to be a mistake and is likely to cost them a place in the Champions League.

A busy schedule

Tottenham are due to contest the League Cup final against Chelsea next Sunday and the north London side are still currently competing in the Europa League. Spurs have already played 43 games this season and all that extra effort and exertion from the players is very likely to affect them as the season draws to its conclusion. Pochettino does have a fairly large squad at his disposal, but it will be about prioritising competitions which has become difficult due to Europa League winners getting a place in next season’s Champions League. A recent example of how a busy schedule can disrupt a team was highlighted in the West Ham game which they drew 2-2. Eriksen was left on the bench and as a result Spurs lacked creativity in the first half. Pochettino was forced to bring on the Dane, who ultimately rescued a point for them, but it demonstrated how the manager couldn’t give his player a rest even though that was his intention. The demands and importance of every game is magnified – especially considering the financial rewards on offer.

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