The transfer window is closed, the September international window has passed, and Tottenham Hotspur sits second in the table. The path forward is about to get a whole lot bumpier, with Arsenal and Liverpool left this month, but first comes another ramp-up opportunity for Ange Postecoglou this weekend.
At the opposite end of the table sits Sheffield United, whose first four matches have been anything but positive. Hysterically, a draw against Everton before the break represents the first point any of the three promoted sides have earned this season, but the struggles of Luton and Burnley are not necessarily a comfort for the third team in the cohort.
In fact, Sheffield United sits worst among this group in xGD this season, 19th in the league thus far. It has been a forgettable return to the top flight for the Blades, and given Tottenham’s current form, the suffering is likely to continue for at least another week. The outlook ahead of the season was grim to begin and nothing shown so far has changed that.
Spurs took all six points the last time Sheffield United was in the Premier League, though the Blades did win the FA Cup tie last season. While this contest seems pretty lopsided, collecting points now provides a nice cushion with the fixtures on deck. Few would have expected Postecoglou to take 13 points out of his first five matches in charge, but Saturday can be the latest success from his fast start.
Tottenham Hotspur (t-2nd, 10pts) vs. Sheffield United (t-17th, 1pt)
Date: Saturday, September 16
Time: 10:00 am ET, 3:00 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
TV: Peacock Premium (USA)
With the departure of last season’s leading scorer, Iliman Ndiaye, over the summer it appeared that scoring would be a challenge for Sheffield United, and with just four goals through four matches that has indeed been the case. The Blades did bring in Cameron Archer from Aston Villa, and he scored the equalizer against Everton, but it will be a tough proposition for him to produce enough for the team to stay afloat.
The defense has been passable to start the season, but the midfield has been hurt by the loss of Sander Berge. This seems like the type of match where Spurs should be on the ball the whole time and command the middle of the pitch, with players like James Maddison facilitating opportunities in the final third. There is a huge talent discrepancy here, and Tottenham should feel confident in its stars being able to execute.
Lilywhite Spotlight: Substitutes galore!
Finally, Spurs have a manager who is not afraid to utilize his bench, which is both important for involvement (with not many competitions) but also not as essential (with so few midweek matches). Either way, Postecoglou has made five subs each of the past three league fixtures, strategically finding time for his rotation pieces.
One area that has been consistently changed mid-match is the front three, and this becomes even more relevant with the arrival of Brennan Johnson. There are a variety of permutations of the starting spots up top, but regardless of who gets the nod, it makes sense to get all five attacking options some minutes when possible. Personally, I would go back to starting Heung-Min Son, Richarlison, and Dejan Kulusevski for another week, but I am interested in seeing the pacy Johnson whenever he makes his debut.