It is almost a case of one step forward and two steps back for Tottenham as we go into the international break. After a fantastic win against Manchester United at Old Trafford, it is fair to say that it gave the club some much-needed optimism.
It was optimism that had many believing that this was a squad, even without new additions over the summer, that was capable of mounting a serious title bid. However, the mood would have been undoubtedly tempered after a somewhat shock defeat to Watford.
It’s a defeat that sees Mauricio Pochettino’s men go into the early season hiatus having lost their one hundred per cent record and it has upped the stakes even further in what is set to be an all-important clash against Liverpool when the Premier League season resumes on September 15th.
The fixture, which was meant to be the one that christened the club’s new stadium, is now having to be played at Wembley due to the delays that have hampered the construction of this highly-anticipated project. In addition to that it almost becomes a must win game for Tottenham.
It is perhaps a little too early to be talking in those terms, but should Jurgen Klopp manage to mastermind a win away from home, it would not only keep Liverpool top of the table but also open up a six point gap over one of their supposed title rivals.
Tottenham do have a habit of starting slowly and then picking up their momentum as the season progresses. However, you got the feeling this time around that those usual early season woes were now a thing of the past, especially after picking up three wins at the start of the campaign.
Looking at the fixtures that Tottenham were dealt in the opening month of the season, you would have to consider nine points a decent return. At the same time, though, it is fair to say that expectations would have been raised after that aforementioned win over Manchester United.
And, even though Watford went into the Vicarage Road meeting with maximum points themselves, there was a belief in the Tottenham camp that they would have the perfect points haul before their star players go off on international duty.
Defeats across the season will happen, there is no doubt of that. However, it is the manner in which Tottenham lost to Watford which will rankle the most with their fans. It seems as if this was one of the rare occasions in which manager Mauricio Pochettino got it wrong.
After a back four was so successful at Old Trafford, the lineup saw three centre backs deployed instead. This was a setup that saw Moussa Dembele operating as a sole defensive midfielder with an abundance of attacking talent ahead of him.
However, it was a lineup that did not quite pay off, as the result would suggest, and one that also revived the complaints about not signing a centre midfielder in the summer. The ranks are already considered lighter than required and now even more so.
That is because Josh Onomah, who spent last season on loan at a Championship Aston Villa that, as Oddschecker point out, were battling at the top of the table last year, has returned to the English second flight once more after securing a switch to Sheffield Wednesday on a temporary basis.
Whether he himself would have made a huge difference can be argued, but it is plain to see that Dembele can not hold the defensive fort all by himself. That’s not just because it is asking too much of him but also a consideration of his long-running battle with fitness.
Many felt that the Belgian international would depart this summer for a league that placed less demand on his body, so, although the fact that he has stayed put is a huge bonus, it is clearly evident that playing two Premier League matches in less a week is too much for the former Fulham man.
There is no doubt that Tottenham will go on to bounce back from this; one because they are too good not to and two because quite simply they have to. Should they go on to beat Liverpool in their next league outing, then defeat away at Watford will soon have been forgotten.