Four Spurs players improving this season – and four to worry about

Four Spurs players improving this season – and four to worry about

Tottenham are having a strange season to say the least.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side are enjoying their second-best start to a Premier League campaign despite losing three games already, including home defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City.

Meanwhile, their European hopes are hanging by a thread; late wins over PSV Eindhoven and Inter Milan have just about kept Spurs in the Champions League.

With no new signings coming in over the summer, Pochettino has relied on what he already had at his disposal. And thankfully, some of those players have shown noticeable improvement.

However, others appear to be on the decline, which is worrying going into a gruelling festive schedule.

It’s worth looking into those players – those on the up and those not – and exploring the circumstances behind their rises and falls.

Here are four Tottenham players improving this season – and four to worry about.

Improving

Moussa Sissoko

Plenty has already been said about Moussa Sissoko’s turnaround at Spurs, particularly after the fans sang his name in the win at Crystal Palace before he was deservedly recalled to the France squad.

But since the international break, he has been even better. Sissoko played a vital role in the victory over Chelsea, constantly disrupting the Blues’ rhythm in midfield and starting attacks.

A few days later, he was just about the best player on the pitch against Inter Milan, bursting into the box in the build-up to Christian Eriksen’s all-important winner.

It was a surprise to see Sissoko stick around over the summer. Despite Pochettino’s faith in him, the majority of the supporters simply couldn’t get on board with his lacklustre performances.

But the Frenchman has shown immense character so far this season, becoming an integral member of the squad and arguably making himself a must-starter.

Key stat: Sissoko made more recoveries than any other Spurs player against Chelsea (10).

Lucas Moura

When Lucas Moura arrived at Tottenham in the January transfer window, it looked as if Pochettino had finally gotten the type of player he had long spoken about wanting.

The Spurs boss has often expressed his team’s need for tricky, quick attackers who can make things happen in the opposition box to complement the more reserved technical forwards already in the squad.

But Moura struggled to make an impact in his first six months in England. His only impressive performance last season came in a 5-4 victory over Leicester City on the final day.

Fortunately for Tottenham, that display was a precursor for the current campaign. Moura has been massively useful so far this term, especially when others were struggling with slow starts after the World Cup.

His goals have dried up somewhat since his stunning double against Manchester United at Old Trafford, but the Brazilian’s improvement since last season is hugely evident and he should prove to be a vital player for the foreseeable future.

Key stat: No Spurs player has completed more take-ons than Lucas Moura in the Premier League this season (19).

Juan Foyth

Juan Foyth was signed as one for the future in the summer of 2017, and that still appeared to be the plan at the beginning of this season; he wasn’t even registered in Tottenham’s Champions League squad.

But the young Argentinian was thrust into action against Wolverhampton Wanderers for his Premier League debut earlier this month because of a shortage of defenders.

He had played in a London derby against West Ham United in the EFL Cup a few days prior, but even that couldn’t prepare him for what would happen at Molyneux.

Despite an impressive general performance, Foyth gave away two penalties and almost gifted Wolves a point after Spurs had been leading 3-0. As is his wont, Pochettino kept faith in Foyth regardless, and that was repaid when the 20-year-old scored the winner in the next game at Crystal Palace.

Since then, Foyth has been excellent, playing a key role in the solid defensive display against Chelsea. His appearances in the cup last season were nothing to write home about, but he will have sent plenty of postcards this term.

Key stat: Juan Foyth has made more Premier League interceptions (4) since making his debut than any other Spurs player.

Paulo Gazzaniga

Due to injuries and suspensions to Hugo Lloris and Michel Vorm, Tottenham’s third-choice goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga has already played five times in all competitions this season.

His fine displays have seen him promoted to second-choice ahead of Vorm (more on him later). What’s more, the Argentinian received his first senior international call-up and made his debut for his country.

Gazzaniga made just one appearance last season, and while he kept a clean sheet in a 1-0 league win against Palace, he looked a little shaky – perhaps the result of being labelled the reserve for a reserve.

But his confidence has come on leaps and bounds in recent months because of his increased game time, which will be important if the Spurs squad continues to suffer so many injuries.

Pochettino is from the same Argentinian village, Murphy, as Gazzaniga, showing their kinship extends beyond the pitch.

Key stat: Gazzaniga has the highest save percentage of any goalkeeper in the Premier League this season (88.89%).

Decliners

Kieran Trippier

Kieran Trippier reached the very height of his career so far when he curled a free-kick into the top corner against Croatia in the World Cup semi-final.

It was always going to be a struggle for the right-back to replicate that level of performance and emotion in the early stages of the new club season, but he has actually fallen below expectations.

Poor defensive displays against Barcelona and Manchester City reminded onlookers that Trippier isn’t an elite full-back; rather, he’s a decent player who has been turned into an effective option under Pochettino’s management.

That’s not to say he suddenly isn’t a significant part of Tottenham’s squad. The 28-year-old has provided some of his trademark crosses this term, and his passing ability remains admirable.

His defending, however, has left a lot to be desired since the World Cup, and Trippier is suddenly at risk of losing his almost guaranteed spot in the side when fit.

Key stat: Tripper has misplaced 145 passes in the Premier League this season, at least 50 more than any other Spurs player.

Ben Davies

Not unlike Trippier, Davies is a capable full-back who has failed to truly excel for Tottenham in the way the likes of Danny Rose and Kyle Walker have in the past.

With Luke Shaw thrown into the conversation, it’s clear Pochettino has a way with wide defenders. Both Trippier and Davies have put in performances above their apparent level for Spurs, despite not reaching an elite status in their position.

But if Davies was putting in consistently dependable performances last season, we’re seeing the opposite this term.

The Welshman has really struggled to find form, misplacing countless passes and failing to get into effective attacking positions.

He has been slightly better in the last couple of matches, but there is a risk Davies is on his way to becoming a stand-in left-back again like he was when Rose was in his prime.

Key stat: Davies has completed one of six attempted take-ons in the Premier League, the worst success rate of any Spurs player to attempt at least two so far this season (16.67%).

Danny Rose

As alluded to above, Danny Rose is no longer the player he once was. It’s worth noting that’s through no fault of his own; injuries have taken their toll on the left-back.

He and Kyle Walker made up the Premier League’s best full-back partnership in 2015/16 and for half of the following season before a serious knee injury ended Rose’s campaign.

At the beginning of last season, a misjudged interview in which he criticised Tottenham’s transfer policy saw him partly lose the trust of Pochettino. A summer sale was rumoured, but Rose remains a Spurs player.

Given Davies’ form, it’s a good job Rose stuck around. But while he has shown glimpses of his past brilliance this term, niggling injuries have prevented him from getting an extended run in the team.

The 28-year-old may never rediscover his best form, and his fitness issues could mean he will only decline from here.

Key stat: Danny Rose has the lowest pass accuracy (67.63%) of any Spurs player to play at least 90 minutes in the Premier League this season.

Michel Vorm

Michel Vorm, stepping in for the injured Hugo Lloris, was debatably at fault for both of the goals Spurs conceded in their 2-1 defeat to Liverpool in the Premier League at Wembley.

The Dutchman is out of contract at the end of the season, and his recent displays have decreased his chances of earning a new deal with the Londoners.

Indeed, Gazzaniga appears to have cemented his place as Lloris’ new deputy; the Argentinian has been on the bench ahead of Vorm in recent matches.

Vorm has been a mixed bag for Tottenham since arriving from Swansea City, playing poorly as often as he has played well on the rare occasion he has been called upon.

Barring injuries to both Lloris and Gazzaniga, Vorm may have already played his final game for the club.

Key stat: Vorm conceded four goals from just 13 shots on target faced this season.