International breaks are typically a bore (and can only provide bad news), but at least Tottenham Hotspur spent the time away sitting right on top of the league. While only just over 20 percent of the campaign has been completed, by all measures Spurs and Ange Postecoglou have been off to an expectedly impressive start.
Spurs have yet to lose a fixture in the league, but did drop out of the League Cup to Fulham in Postecoglou’s fourth match in charge. This came thanks to an extremely rotated lineup — and was perhaps a beneficial result in the big picture — but how Tottenham looks on Monday will say a bit about how the new manager’s side have improved since then.
Indeed, even though Postecoglou has won four of the five matches since that evening, with the one draw being at the Emirates, many of the wins have been a little nervy. Now Fulham comes to visit, a club that sits in the middle of the table but is never a straightforward out. The Cottagers have been fairly chalky so far, beating the bat teams and losing or drawing to the rest, though they did pick up a result away to Arsenal.
Spurs took all six points last season in relatively low-scoring affairs. Fulham has only scored three and conceded four in the past four matches, but Tottenham has tallied multiple goals in every fixture except the 10-man victory over Luton last time out. It feels like the home side is in a great spot for this one, especially with the chance to go two points clear at the top.
Tottenham Hotspur (t-3rd, 20pts) vs. Fulham (t-12th, 11pts)
Date: Monday, October 23
Time: 3:00 pm ET, 8:00 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
TV: USA Network (USA), Sky Sports Main Event (UK)
Fulham has just one player with multiple goals this season, and the Bobby De Cordova-Reid-Carlos Vinicius-Willian front three is not exactly rolling right now. Replacing Aleksandar Mitrovic’s contributions was always going to be tough, but there is not any sort of clear solution at the moment.
Spurs will likely enjoy the bulk of the possession and should welcome the opportunities against a defense that sits in the bottom five in xGA. Chelsea took advantage against some shaky backline performances a couple weeks ago, so like the fixtures last season, this might come down to Tottenham converting when it gets its chances.
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If there is going to be a drop-off at some point this season, it likely comes due to questionable squad depth (as was seen in that awful League Cup outing). Yves Bissouma misses Monday after his sending off against Luton, putting Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in line to rejoin the starting lineup. Hojbjerg is a seasoned starter, but it will be curious to see how the absence of Bissouma impacts the match.
With so few remaining competitions, Postecoglou has been able to start his preferred XI most of the time, selecting the same seven defenders and midfielders every single week. This might just be one (forced) rotation, but a good performance by Hojbjerg provides a optimism that some moving pieces in the lineup are not a death sentence with inevitable injuries and AFCON departures lying ahead.