Injuries gave way to suspensions, which gave way to more injuries, which gave way to continental cups...but finally everything is on the upswing. There is no guarantee that Ange Postecoglou and Tottenham Hotspur will not have any more inconveniences this season, but (knock on wood), it is hard to imagine any stretch being more debilitating than the past few months.
Saturday’s visit from Brighton and Hove Albion might be full-strength in name only, with both Heung-Min Son and Yves Bissouma unlikely to be fully reacclimated, but even their return back to North London is a boost in itself. Postecoglou now has a surplus of options at most positions and is geared up for the stretch run, which is singularly focused on the Premier League.
Last weekend’s fumble against Everton was frustrating, but Spurs have no time to wallow. December’s trip to the Amex saw Brighton comically lead 4-0 before a couple late goals from the visitors, so three points in the reverse fixture will not come simply. Still, that is the requirement in most matches from here on out, and even in his early tenure, expectations for Postecoglou over the final few months will be elevated.
Tottenham Hotspur (5th, 44pts) vs. Brighton and Hove Albion (8th, 35pts)
Date: Saturday, February 10
Time: 10:00 am ET, 3:00 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
TV: Peacock Premium (USA)
Brighton followed that four-goal, 3.2-xG battering of Tottenham with performances on both ends of the spectrum, including 4-2 and 5-2 wins in the FA Cup, and a 4-1 victory over Palace last weekend, but also three straight goalless outings in the league. Defensively the results have been little better, with just five goals conceded in the four league contests since the win over Spurs.
That December match was not great by any means, but it is reasonable to think that the results will be slightly different with Micky van de Ven and Cristian Romero occupying the centerback spots instead of Ben Davies and Emerson Royal. Obviously the Tottenham defense had some poor moments last weekend, but there is enough talent and evidence to feel confidence in the first-choice back four going forward.
Lilywhite Spotlight: Holding on
A little play on words here. Primarily the focus is on protecting leads late in matches, which can often be a tricky task for Tottenham. Some final minute shenanigans end with no damage, but Everton’s comeback was not necessarily a rare sight for this squad — even with defensive substitutions, Spurs just have a hard time seeing out wins without any drama, and that could be a problem against a Brighton side that can be punishing at times.
The other big narrative right now revolves around Guglielmo Vicario and defending corners after a couple recent goals have come from these events. Regardless of if this physicality should be waved off or not, Vicario needs to understand the reality of the situation and work around it. He has been a good enough keeper elsewise to not be overly concerned, but I am curious to see if he will step up his aggression on corners and make sure to snatch the crosses in the air, or at least punch them away more than he has as of late. The criticism seems a little overblown, but I expect he will adjust nonetheless.