In hindsight it was not a hot take to think Monday might have gone poorly, but it did feel appropriate that the first league loss came in the most spectacular fashion possible. There are plenty of positives that still exist for Tottenham Hotspur, though, including sole possession second place, a robust spirit regardless of circumstance, and a revamped system and approach.
With these bright spots — plus the objective comedy/intrigue that came from the Chelsea match — maybe there is a world where we all just laugh at what happened and move on. Unfortunately, Tottenham will be paying the price from this catastrophe for quite some time. If there was one way to derail this season it was going to be depth, and that gets put to the test immediately.
Cristian Romero misses the next three thanks to his red card, and Micky van de Ven will be out longer than that with injury. Destiny Udogie will have to skip Saturday’s visit to Wolverhampton Wanderers, while James Maddison could be out as well. That is a lot of key contributors absent in positions with not a lot of alternative options, particularly at center back.
Spurs can probably still get by 14th-placed Wolves this weekend, but the margin of error feels significantly smaller now. Even though Tottenham is just a point behind City, the dream of a title challenge has taken a major hit at Monday; securing top four is still a respectable objective. That means taking as many points as possible from the bottom half of the table, regardless of how depleted the squad may be.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (t-14th, 12pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (2nd, 26pts)
Date: Saturday, November 11
Time: 7:30 am ET, 12:30 pm UK
Location: Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton
TV: USA Network (USA), TNT Sports 1 (UK)
After finishing dead last in goals and xG last season, Wolves are faring a bit better, having scored 14 through 11 matches, including eight over the past five. They might not be a offensive juggernaut by any means, but a win over City and draw against Newcastle highlight a 2-3-1 stretch over the past six weeks, meaning this will not be a simple fixture.
Hwang Hee-chan is the team’s biggest threat, scoring six goals (tied for sixth in the league) on just 2.4 xG. His shiftiness and finishing ability are a concern against the surely piecemeal Spurs backline, and Wolves did not need a ton of opportunities to take points off City and Newcastle. The Tottenham defense cannot have any letdowns, which is a tough ask for a new combination of starters.
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As a result of the Chelsea fallout, three of the back four will be players who are not first-choice starters under Ange Postecoglou, and as mentioned above, this will not be the only time that some different faces will need to step in. All things considered, this is still a winnable match with a rotated side, but a second-straight loss would feel frustrating.
Saturday is a true test of how far along the system Postecoglou has built is coming. There was a ton of praise for the way the nine-man unit battled in the second half on Monday, but seeing how the team responds without several key pieces after a heated derby will be fascinating. Eric Dier is likely to start, with Emerson Royal expected to step in as well. Perhaps youngster Ashely Phillips will get the nod should Ben Davies not be fit; either way, this will be a much different looking squad.