Tottenham facing prospect of all-too familiar collapse

LONDON (AFP) – As Mauricio Pochettino offered an explanation of why Tottenham Hotspur’s emerging Premier League title challenge had stalled so quickly, it was hard to avoid the view their bid for success on four fronts could once again leave the club empty-handed.

The 3-1 home defeat by Wolverhampton Wanderers last Saturday was utterly deflating for Pochettino’s side, who had thrillingly moved into second place on the back of a 6-2 defeat of Everton and a 5-0 thrashing of Bournemouth.

Their time spent as the nearest challengers to leaders Liverpool, however, lasted just four days and they travel to Cardiff City tomorrow (1.30am Brunei time) desperately seeking a win to revive the belief they can last the pace in the title race.

Pochettino, the Spurs manager, cited mental fatigue as a possible reason for his players’ lethargic second half display against Wolves and you could see his point.

The north London club had more representatives in the semi-finals of the World Cup than any other and it would be hardly surprising if the effects of a draining, exhilarating but ultimately disappointing summer campaign for eight of those nine players – France’s winning captain Hugo Lloris being the exception – lingered.

They certainly haven’t returned to a straightforward season with their club.

The delays to the opening of their new stadium means Wembley has unexpectedly remained Spurs’ temporary home.

And the drama that accompanied the Champions League group stage means Pochettino’s players have already endured more than their fair share of nerve-jangling cliffhangers as they qualified despite claiming just one point from the opening three games.

Tottenham’s progress into January’s two-legged League Cup semi-final with capital foes Chelsea was hardly sedate given they had to overcome a quarter-final visit to north London rivals Arsenal to claim a place in the last four.

Next Friday sees Spurs start their FA Cup campaign with a visit to fourth-tier Tranmere Rovers, a further addition to an already-congested holiday fixture schedule.

The counter to all that is that a club with ambitions of challenging for major trophies must expect to face those kinds of demands.

And that is where criticism of Tottenham’s failure to bring in any new players during the pre-season transfer window resurfaces.