The opening day defeat at Manchester United, followed by three consecutive draws against teams that some fans would expect us to beat, has culminated in a less than inspiring start to the 2015/2016 season for Tottenham. Slow starts is something that we have become accustom to over the years, but recording our first win of the season has to come sooner rather than later if we harbour any aspirations of challenging the big guns at the top. The international break will hopefully provide Mauricio Pochetino with plenty of thinking time to assess what area of Tottenham’s game can be improved, and also allow the new signings to settle into life in North London.
A significant increase in quality across the board in the Premier League means that there are no longer any easy games, but the upcoming trip to the North East to face a struggling Sunderland side presents a great opportunity for Spurs to register three points. These are the sort of games that we have to stop slipping up in, particularly if we take the lead as Tottenham have already drawn two games from winning positions this season. More importantly, putting three points on the board could provide the springboard and confidence boost that Tottenham need ahead of tough upcoming fixtures against Crystal Palace, Manchester City and Swansea.
History would suggest that Tottenham may struggle to come away from Wearside with a positive result, with only fourteen of the previous fifty-one trips to the North East resulting in a three point haul. However, history is there to be broken, and although both sides have not exactly started the season in the best of form, Coral certainly believe Spurs are considered favourites to win the game at 19/20. The odds would ultimately reflect that we should be too strong for a Sunderland side that appear no different to the side that barely held onto their Premier League status in May, but Tottenham have to deliver the sort of performance that many expect, make no doubt about it.
Coming up against a team that have already shipped ten goals in just four games is a great opportunity for Harry Kane to rediscover his shooting boots and become the striker that set White Hart Lane, and the Premier League, alight last season. It is just not happening for the lad so far this season, which was epitomised by the one-on-one opportunity he spurned against Everton; a fully-confident Kane would have tucked that away with consummate ease, but he needs to remember what made him so lethal in 2014/2015.
Going away on international duty with England may be the perfect tonic for Kane, with games against San Marino and Switzerland representing good opportunities for the 22-year-old to hit the goal trail again. He will also be helped by the acquisitions of Clinton N’Jie and Heung-Min Son who should take the weight off Kane’s shoulders to deliver upfront, although it remains to be seen if either start at the Stadium of Light alongside the Englishman. He may have been joined upfront by fellow international team-mate Saido Berahino, but West Brom’s resilience to sell their star asset on deadline day means that Spurs will have to wait another day to land their man in an on-going transfer dispute that we have undoubtedly not heard the last of.
Pochetino will be undoubtedly relieved to welcome Christian Eriksen and Andros Townsend back into the team at Sunderland, with both expected to be fit after recovering from a knee and ankle injury respectively. Both will undoubtedly inject more creative quality and flair into the midfield department, particularly Eriksen who is instrumental in how we tick under Pocchetino. The Dane may come in the team in place of Moussa Dembele who picked up an injury in the goal-less draw at the Lane against Everton and may not recover in time to face Sunderland.
It can be difficult to read anything into the Premier League table after just four games, but if results and performances are anything to go by, then Sunderland could yet another season of struggle. Dick Advocaat may already be regretting his decision to take his wife’s advice and stay on at Sunderland instead of retiring, as he has already held crisis talks with the players and begged his chairman for more money to spend in the transfer window – not the best way to start a campaign by any stretch of the imagination. Adding Fabio Borino, who excelled during a loan spell at the Stadium of Light during the 2013/2014 season, to their ranks on deadline day certainly improves their firepower upfront, but their inability to add real quality to their defence has already proved dear. Former Spurs player Younes Kaboul has been part of a backline that looks capable of leaking goals and unable to keep a clean sheet; considering they have conceded at least three goals in all but two of their five fixtures this season (including the 6-3 Capital One Cup victory against League Two side Exeter), the Frenchman will not relish the prospect of facing his former club if he recovers from a knee injury in time.
Sunderland will require the same level of fighting spirit that saw them come from behind to draw against Swansea and Aston Villa in their last two Premier League fixtures, but it may need more than that for the Black Cats to fulfil their odds of 14/5 to beat Spurs. It remains to be seen if Borini is fit enough to start against us, but he is undoubtedly a dangerous striker that we must keep on eye on, while Jermaine Lens and Yann M’Vila have impressed in midfield so far this season. Advocaat, however, will definitely be without the services of Adam Johnson and Adam Matthews, while Jordi Gomez may not be risked as he continues to recover from a fractured knee injury.
Cliché or not, the first goal could prove to be pivotal at the Stadium of Light, with Tottenham knowing that an early goal would deflate spirits in the stadium once again and result in the home fans getting on their team’s back. Sunderland fans have become increasingly frustrated and disillusioned at how their club have declined over the years, with the current team looking like potential relegation candidates. However, we have to ensure we go to the Stadium of Light and put in a professional performance, ensuring the complacency that has cost us so many times in the past does not rear its ugly head again. With tough fixtures coming up, it has to be valued as a game that Tottenham must win.