Tottenham Hotspur's defense has been, well, let's just call it suboptimal for a few matches now. After Spurs' narrow 4-3 home win over EPL cellar-dwellers Leicester City on Saturday, Mauricio Pochettino stated that he's aware of his team's defensive frailties and that it will be a point of emphasis in training for the next two weeks.
We need to speak over the next few weeks about changes that need to be made to the squad, but now is not the moment... Now is the moment to try to improve our play. It's true, I was angry with the defending against Leicester and I am not happy about our record. But it's normal.
We are a club, a team that people expect a lot from, but in the same way we are a very young team and this is part of the process. It's important to keep calm and analyse, and try to improve our defensive game. We will try to improve that in the next few weeks. This is one thing we need to improve in the future.
Spurs have conceded 20 goals in its last ten matches, a staggeringly poor stretch from a team that under Andre Villas-Boas once had one of the EPL's best defensive records. This may only be compounded by the injury to Hugo Lloris in the Leicester City match; while Michel Vorm is a perfectly adequate keeper, he provides nowhere near the shot-stopping ability of Lloris, which puts even more pressure on Spurs' back line.
There are arguments to be made as to the roots behind this lack of defensive acumen. Spurs are a very young team, and relatively inexperienced compared to its EPL counterparts. Hugo Lloris is the "elder statesman" of the team at 28, and with the exception of Jan Vertonghen, none of Spurs' current starting 11 are older than 25. Young teams can be more error prone, and this club in particular has had less than a year to adapt to Pochettino's tactical system.
The center of midfield has also been problematic in recent matches, and the current first choice pairing of Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason can lead to big chances when Spurs' midfield press breaks down. Spurs have not played with a true defensive midfielder for a while now, and Pochettino has seemingly not favored either Etienne Capoue or Benjamin Stambouli. The addition a player like Morgan Schneiderlin, Ki Sung Yueng, or even Moussa Sissoko as a partner to Nabil Bentaleb, or a switch to a three-man central midfield could help in this regard.
Also, Pochettino favors fullbacks in Danny Rose and Kyle Walker who love to get forward when possible. The right side of midfield, where Andros Townsend, Ryan Mason, and Walker all play has shown to be especially vulnerable; Leicester in particular emphasized attacks down that side of the pitch to try and catch Walker high up the pitch and take advantage of an inexperienced Eric Dier.
Defense is clearly the weak point in this Tottenham side, and Spurs obviously cannot rely on hat tricks from Harry Kane to bail them out of every match. Spurs' defensive weaknesses could be equal parts personnel and tactics, but it's heartening to see that Pochettino recognizes that this is an issue that needs to be resolved. Tottenham are probably a couple of players and a tactical tweak or two away from having a defense as good as its offense. Work that out and they won't need a 30 goal season from Kane to stay in the Champions League conversation.