Saturday’s defeat at home to Bournemouth signaled that Champions League qualification for the 2023-24 season may be out of the picture for Tottenham Hotspur. With seven games left, Spurs certainly still have a chance of finishing in top four but it certainly does not look likely given the form and overall feel of everything in and around the club at the moment. Spurs’ next three matches include two tough road matchups at Newcastle and Liverpool with a home match sandwiched between against Manchester United.
It will be hard to find any optimists left among Spurs supporters considering Tottenham took just two points out of a possible nine against 20th-placed Southampton, 17th-placed Everton and 14th-placed Bournemouth. At this point, it may even be to the benefit of Spurs and their new manager next season if they were not to be in Europe at all. Of course, the board will prefer some form of European competition to be apart of next year considering the revenue as well as the additional home matches that the campaigns provide.
As it stands now, Spurs’ fight to finish in a European place will most likely come against Aston Villa, Brighton and Liverpool. So while the season feels dusted and morale amongst the fanbase is understandably at an all-time low, it will be up to Cristian Stellini and the squad to finish strong after a tumultuous season.
When Antonio Conte and the club mutually parted ways just about a month ago, there was some reason for optimism that perhaps Spurs could have somewhat of a bounce under the guidance of a different individual on the touchline. Sure Stellini’s ideas come from Conte given his history working underneath his compatriot, but it was not out of the realm of possibility that Spurs would benefit from the move considering the decent form they showed playing with Stellini as manager when Conte was spending time recovering from gallbladder surgery.
Three matches in with Stellini as acting manager and the tactics and style of play have not improved — much to the chagrin of many. Perhaps the one change Stellini has made has been playing Son a bit more on the shoulder which has him playing a bit more like himself. But still, Spurs’ attacking patterns look extremely predictable. They look unbothered and inclined to let the opposition play with the ball and through them.
Spurs are still utilizing the 3-4-3 shape and there really has not been much change in the squad despite unconvincing performances across the board from many. One noticeable drop in form shown this season has been from Dejan Kulusevski. After settling into the league extremely well last season, injuries as well as drop in overall productivity from the squad has affected Kulusevski’s form in the process.
It does not just stop at Kulusevski though. Defenders Cristian Romero and Eric Dier have been extremely inconsistent and the defensive incapabilities from wingbacks Ivan Perišić and Pedro Porro have been glaring. There are just so many negatives surrounding Spurs at the moment — it’s not even limited to just the squad and the performances from the players on the pitch. The crowd is becoming more and more restless, chanting “Daniel Levy/ENIC Out” while also expressing their desire for Mauricio Pochettino to return to the club.
With all of the negatives, there are not many positives unfortunately. Perhaps the main positive has come from Arnaut Danjuma who was really ostracized from the get-go by Conte when he came in on loan in January. In his first appearance with the club, Danjuma scored as Spurs beat Preston North End in the FA Cup fourth round in January. From that game until the Brighton match on April 8, Danjuma registered just 11 whole minutes in the Premier League — really just ludicrous to think about and write considering Danjuma was one of the best players in last season’s Champions League campaign.
In that Brighton match, Danjuma came on late in the match and immediately contributed as part of a well-worked team goal where he commanded space which gave way for Harry Kane to finish on net. Against Bournemouth on Saturday, Spurs moved to an all-out attacking lineup and despite the frenzied nature, Danjuma was cool, calm and initiated a lot of scoring possibilities. He put away a good finish near the end of match which at the time even the score at 2-2.
Before his loan started at Spurs, Danjuma was shifted to a peripheral role with new manager Quique Setién coming in as the new boss at Villarreal. Regardless of what you think about Danjuma and perhaps even the rumored concerns of his overall fitness, there was simply no reason why he was being kept on the bench with a player like Lucas Moura getting minutes instead. Despite his heroics with the club, Lucas is a player who will be leaving on a free transfer this summer. Danjuma, on the other hand, is still a younger asset at 26 who can play across the front line and can become a permanent Spurs player in the range of $25m.
With the squad and the mood around the club pretty downtrodden, there are still seven games remaining and Stellini has to find the right solutions to at least end this hectic season on a positive note. Due to the overall drop in form across the squad, it would behoove Stellini and Ryan Mason to take the positives and go from there as they enter Sunday’s match as underdogs. Giving Danjuma, who has looked extremely bright in nearly all of his opportunities, a rare start would be a step in the right direction.
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