What is there even to say at this point? Tottenham Hotspur returned from the World Cup and promptly picked up one point in two matches, sliding out of the top four and only widening the gap behind league-leading Arsenal. The issues are completely opponent-independent, and there is no fixture that feels easy.
Crystal Palace is the next team on the calendar, with a midweek trip scheduled across London. Palace sits nearly level with Brentford and Aston Villa — Spurs’ last two opponents — in points per match (1.38), so while this is a midtable side by performance, this level of opposition has clearly caused plenty of challenges for Tottenham.
In its two matches back, Palace went down to 10 men and lost by three to Fulham on Boxing Day before a 2-0 win over Bournemouth on New Year’s Eve. The London sides traded 3-0 blowouts last season, with Spurs conceding three goals in the final 15 minutes at Selhurst Park. Unfortunately, opponents have not typically needed 75 minutes to go up on Tottenham this season, though.
Crystal Palace (11th, 22pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (5th, 30pts)
Date: Wednesday, January 4
Time: 3:00 pm ET, 8:00 pm UK
Location: Selhurst Park, London, England
TV: USA Network (USA), Sky Sports Main Event
Palace has been...Palace to start the year. Having finished between 10th and 15th in each of the eight seasons since promotion into the Premier League, this one is right on track to fit that range again. Nevertheless, Spurs have not taken six points against the Eagles since the 2018/19 campaign and have not won at Selhurst Park since then either.
The one number that does stand out is xG, which has Palace just 19th in the league this season. While Wilfried Zaha and Eberechi Eze have outperformed their individual expected marks, the team as a whole only averages 1.06 goals per match; no excuses for the Tottenham defense on Wednesday.
Obviously nothing has changed for Spurs since returning from the break, as individual mistakes lead to goals far too often, the midfield fails to have any creativity or ability to thread key passes, and superstars in the final third are sparsely involved and largely ineffective when on the ball.
The only way things change is some sort of resolution between Daniel Levy and Antonio Conte, but even that would not materially impact what happens on the pitch for some time. Instead, supporters must enter every match with the hope that individual talent will win out eventually and that this squad can somehow muster a fourth-place finish when it is all said and done.
There are still a few lingering injury issues for Tottenham, primarily Richarlison, Rodrigo Bentancur, and now Dejan Kulusevski. This makes the weight on Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son’s shoulders even heavier, and if anything good is going to happen this season, it will be these two really carrying the load for their teammates. This will continue to be the narrative until it is not.