Football Features

How inconsistent Tottenham can get their top-four charge back on track

By Will Evans | Twenty3

Published: 16:03, 17 April 2024

Tottenham’s hopes of securing a top-four finish have taken a significant dent.

Ange Postecoglou’s outfit were in the driving seat prior to last weekend, but a damaging 4-0 defeat at Newcastle — coupled with Aston Villa’s surprise victory over Arsenal — has seen them fall three points behind the Villans with a game in hand.

Although the situation is eminently salvageable, Spurs will need to overcome the inconsistency that has plagued them in recent weeks.

Here’s how the North Londoners can get their campaign back on track.

Richarlison return

Richarlison has not started a match since February’s 2-1 loss to Wolves after struggling with a knee issue — and the Brazilian’s absence has highlighted his importance to Spurs.

He was in fine form prior to that injury, scoring nine goals in a run of eight Premier League fixtures from December to early February.

But it is the forward’s hold up play that Spurs have missed most, as they struggle to make the ball stick up front without him.

That was particularly evident against Newcastle, when Spurs were repeatedly hit on the counter after losing possession, allowing the Magpies four fast breaks and eight direct attacks at St James’ Park.

Postecoglou will hope to have Richarlison back by their next game against Arsenal, where his presence in the final third could be crucial.

Maximise Maddison

James Maddison’s Spurs career started in sensational fashion, with three goals and five assists in his first nine league matches.

But his campaign was derailed by an ankle injury in November and he has struggled to regain the same form since returning to fitness.

The 27-year-old is actually attempting and completing more passes — and passes into the final third — following his enforced absence, but they are not translating into clear-cut opportunities.

His chances created per 90 minutes have dropped from 3.14 to 2.25, and it has been a similar decline when it comes to big chances created (0.61 vs 0.31).

Maddison’s shooting boots also look to have deserted him, with his shot accuracy falling dramatically from 53.57% to 26.32%, despite attempting fewer shots overall.

Postecoglou needs to find a way to get one of his star men firing again.

Defensive training

Spurs have over a week until their next match, when they host Arsenal in the North London derby.

But they face a potentially bruising run of six fixtures until the end of the season, with games against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City over the coming month.

A similar defensive display to Saturday’s performance at Newcastle will be ruthlessly exploited by the Premier League’s top sides, so Postecoglou will have to maximise his upcoming time on the training ground.

That should help cut out mistakes like the two errors that led directly to a goal against the Magpies.

If he can drill Spurs’ soft-centred midfield to be less penetrable — and increase organisation in their rearguard — then a top-four finish could still be within their grasp.