Tottenham’s Fixtures: Will February’s matches make or break the club’s season?
In Spurs’ next five matches, they face an incredibly challenging period. This includes playing three of the top six teams in the Premier League, an FA Cup replay, and Juventus in the Champions League. A dream run could see the club stay on track in all three competitions and begin to gain the upper hand, as their trophy hopes hang in the balance.
Manchester United, 31st January
Firstly, Spurs face Manchester United on the last day of January. United have been unstoppable in the league recently and haven’t lost a match since 10th December against Manchester City. Furthermore, they have won their previous three league matches. This is a kind of form that already sets up what looks to be a highly competitive encounter.
It will be interesting to see Alexis Sanchez play against Spurs for his new club. After his recent transfer, he will be hoping to impress Jose Mourinho, who recently signed his own new contract. What better way than to score against his old rival club? He is truly a player with the quality and talent to unlock any defence. And, now that he is installed in a club with such good form this season, he could thrive.
Liverpool, 4th February
In a similar vein, Liverpool recently had their own period of domination in the Premier League. However, that was ended with their 1-0 loss to Swansea. Furthermore, West Brom’s 3-2 victory knocked them out of the FA Cup. Thus, it could be argued that Liverpool are currently at their most vulnerable this season. But, it would be an error to misjudge a top team. It is often when a team has recently lost a match that they suddenly bounce back to win anew. Spurs must be wary of this, and try to turn their dismal Anfield record around.
With the departure of Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool has lost a key player. In fact, it could be argued that their main source of creativity has been eradicated. However, Liverpool still have a lot of firepower. Roberto Firmino has scored the most goals at the club. He will be assisted by the likes of Mohamed Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. These aren’t players of the highest level but have been known to plague Spurs in the past.
Arsenal, 10th February
The age-old rivalry will be reunited once more when Spurs take on Arsenal at home. This derby oddly features Tottenham in a much superior position. They are only three points ahead of their rivals but could extend this gap to much more comfortable margin. While Pochettino rises in favour at his club, Arsene Wenger takes more and more criticism from an increasingly divided fanbase.
This is, therefore, a huge game for both clubs. It is important that Tottenham ensure they beat their rivals, to turn the tide of recent domination of the Gunners. Regression may finally turn to progression.
Newport County, 7th February
Heung-Min Son’s sublime flick to Harry Kane was a rare moment of sharp, crystal clear quality in otherwise shambolic match against Newport. The conditions were rough, and Spurs were poor. In truth, Newport may have well walked out with a win. Nevertheless, they now face the prospect of going to Wembley. This is likely to be a more straightforward match, on paper. On a much better pitch, both in quality and size, Spurs really should make their quality count this time around.
Nevertheless, this fixture is amongst these other important League matches and thus could be problematic. This is because Pochettino will have to decide which players to rotate. Now, it is arguable that Spurs do have the capacity to field a second string team to match Newport. However, it required many of the top players to turn the first match around. Pochettino should invest in the FA Cup as a really good chance of silverware. It will be worth the tired legs and fatigue.
Juventus, 13th February
The last time Spurs faced Juventus, they beat them 2-0 in a pre-season friendly. This was a Juventus side that included much of their first team talent. And yet, this was a relatively well-contested match. Both sides had possession of the ball, Spurs dominating a little at home. The home team was the most clinical on the day, forging the clear-cut chances to take the friendly.
Of course, assessing a team by their performance in a friendly isn’t representative of their current form. For example, they haven’t lost a league match since the 19th of November and were unbeaten in their Champions League group stage. They are in a much healthier state to compete this time around. Nevertheless, the North London side must not fear. If they could overcome Real Madrid as they did to win their group, then there really isn’t a team they cannot compete against.
It all will depend on Pochettino’s tactics, though. Facing Madrid, there were tactical tweaks opting for a more counter-attacking style. Whilst this is less adhesive to the attacking Tottenham ideology, it was far more practical. Juventus carry a high attacking threat and must be treated with the same respect.
Should Pochettino prioritise any of the three competitions his team currently compete in? Ideally, yes, the FA Cup, as the most realistic chance of a trophy, should be invested in. However, this doesn’t mean that Spurs need to throw away their other important matches. Instead, the club must ensure they allocate enough resources to overcome Newport, whilst still being able to compete in the Premier League and Champions League. This could be a tough month coming up, or it may well just mark the beginning of a famous season.