While perhaps not truly threatened by Wolves or Forest, Tottenham Hotspur’s draw at West Ham on Wednesday arguably makes it four less-than-impressive performances in a row. On paper a pair of draws in unfriendly environments and an unbeaten record through five matches is a positive, but the feeling from the actual play is much different.
That is because Spurs keep looking sloppy and are therefore somewhat fortunate to have earned these results. While possession is just a number and the xG has been trending the right way, the potential floor manifested against West Ham where the visitors simply looked unable to string together real threats. Add on top of that a reluctance to utilize substitutes, and suddenly the negative vibes from the pre-Antonio Conte times are creeping back.
Now Tottenham must right the ship against a Fulham side who has enjoyed a good start to the season. These are an important three points because up next are Group Stage matches against Marseille and Sporting with a trip to the Etihad in between. The leeway for subpar performances is quickly coming to an end, and objectively there is reason to think they might continue.
Tottenham Hotspur (3rd, 11pts) vs. Fulham (t-6th, 8pts)
Date: Saturday, September 3
Time: 10:00 am ET, 3:00 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur, London, England
TV: Peacock Premium (USA)
Fulham has wins over Brentford and Brighton and draws against Liverpool and Wolves to fuel a surprising August. Many expected this team to be in a relegation battle, and that still might ultimately be its fate, but the Cottagers are in good form right now, which is unfortunate for Spurs squad that is coming off a bad performance, has big matches coming up, and desperately needs rotation.
The one bright spot is that this is a bottom-four side in terms of xGA, and at some point Tottenham’s attack is bound to wake up, right? The start to the year has not even been that bad all things considered (t-4th in goals, 6th in xG) but everyone knows that this front three plus Richarlison is capable of a stronger and more consistent output than what has been shown so far.
Not really worth mentioning, but just for completeness, Fulham’s last appearance in the Premier League saw Jose Mourhino’s side earn four points across the two fixtures. That was the most recent contest between the London clubs; the Cottagers have yo-yoed between the top flight and the Championship in each of the past six seasons dating back to 2017/18.
Conte already committed to rotating the side this weekend with the aforementioned slate of matches coming up next, even with Cristian Romero and Rodrigo Bentancur back heathly. It was a bit surprising to see Heung-Min Son start against West Ham, but it seems inevitable that Richarlison should spell him for at least one contest. The only actual change to the starting XI during the midweek was Yves Bissouma, who did not have the strongest first start, but he may just need more minutes to get in form.
What other changes will occur remain to be seen. Clement Lenglet has played a total of five minutes this season while Oliver Skipp is finally back healthy — both seem capable of a solid sift against Fulham. The other spot for rotation is probably wingback, where Ryan Sessegnon has already made a couple starts and Emerson Royal is overdue for a spell off. Hopefully some of these changes can inject life into a side that really needs it right now.