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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Aston Villa Preview: Panic! at the Lane

In a word: woof.

Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Whatever moral victories Tottenham Hotspur looked to have claimed in the first half against Chelsea quickly vanished into the North London sky last weekend. An absolutely embarrassing performance against Arsenal had Spurs down three goals to their bitter rivals less than 35 minutes into the match, bringing a sober reminder of where this team currently stands.

A late consolation goal by Heung-Min Son was the only thing stopping Spurs from picking up their third straight 3-0 defeat in the league; instead, the cumulative scoreline sits at a much better 9-1. There is no way around it, Nuno Espirito Santo and company need to turn things around fast, or this season will be over already and the managerial search may begin again.

Tottenham needs a win before next week’s international break, but Sunday’s opponent, Aston Villa, is no pushover. The visitors have started the season nicely; they snatched a late winner at Old Trafford last weekend and are near the top of the league at just 0.62 xGA/90 — not a welcome sign for the Spurs’ pathetic attack.

Tottenham Hotspur (t-9th, 9 pts) vs. Aston Villa (8th, 10 pts)

Date: Sunday, October 3
Time: 9:00 am ET, 2:00 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
TV: Peacock Premium (USA)

While Tottenham has lost its last three Premier League matches, it should be said there have been some slightly better results sprinkled in this stretch. A road draw against Rennes and a cup win over Wolves in penalties are not necessarily dominant performances, but Thursday’s 5-1 drubbing of NS Mura could inspire some confidence heading into the weekend.

It is not a great sign that Nuno had to bring on the cavalry against Mura to push a one-goal lead to a lopsided victory, but it was a good reminder of what happens when Harry Kane is in form. His partnership with players like Heung-Min Son and Giovanni Lo Celso has been disturbingly absent thus far, so hopefully his quick hat trick in the Conference League will translate on Sunday.

Raw totals are one thing, but expected numbers have both teams with low goal outputs on each end of the pitch. Spurs’ scoring issues have been well-documented, and facing a disciplined defensive side is not the remedy. As bad as the attack has been, it seems like the midfield has been the true culprit, and the heavy hitters in the middle of the pitch need to start controlling the match. Winning requires a team effort, but the stars of the side are going to have to drag the club out of this skid.

Three themes

  1. Life under Jose Mourinho was full of careless mistakes that would ruin otherwise solid defensive performances. While this season has not been quite as bad, Tottenham does need to ensure the backline is organized and fortified. Nine goals in three matches is simply unacceptable, and with how the attack currently looks, a completely unsurmountable situation.
  2. Covid-19 required some schedule rearrangements last season, and as a result, Spurs and Villa played twice in the spring. Carlos Vinicius’s first Premier League goal and a Harry Kane penalty fueled a 0-2 win on the road, but Tottenham could not hold onto the lead at home after a Steven Bergwijn banger, as Villa grabbed a 1-2 upset.
  3. Momentum may not be real, but morale is, and a fourth straight league loss heading into the break would be catastrophic. On the other hand, a second win in four days could bring some hope that the rough patch was just a momentary dip as Nuno was still settling into the side. Like last week, it seems so early to call matches must-wins, but this team is really not that far from a pretty precarious situation.