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Erling Haaland of Manchester City celebrates with teammates. Picture: CLIVE ROSE/GETTY IMAGES
Erling Haaland of Manchester City celebrates with teammates. Picture: CLIVE ROSE/GETTY IMAGES

London — Assessing the current state of play at Tottenham Hotspur is complicated as the injury-hit north London side prepare for a trip to champions Manchester City this Sunday on the back of three successive Premier League defeats.        

In all probability a visit to second-placed City’s Etihad Stadium fortress will result in Spurs, who have slipped to fifth spot and are now four points off the pace, losing four league games in a row for the first time since 2004.

With local rivals West Ham United and Newcastle United to follow in quick succession there is a danger that Tottenham’s early season promise under new manager Ange Postecoglou will soon seem as distant a memory as the balmy days of late summer.

Yet despite accusations that they have reverted to their old “Spursy” ways after losing three games from 1-0 up — the first Premier League side to do so since Leicester City in 2014 — the mood among the club faithful remains remarkably upbeat.

Even when early pacesetters Tottenham took 26 points from their first 10 games — their best start to a top-flight season since the double-winning side of 1960-61 — few of the club’s supporters were crowing about a possible tilt for the title.

More importantly for the fans, Postecoglou had realigned the team to play a courageous brand of football more fitting of the club’s “To Dare is to Do” motto — a saying out of step with the tactics used by the Australian’s predecessor Antonio Conte.

There are also mitigating factors for the current slide.

It began with a riotous 4-1 home defeat by Chelsea in which Spurs began superbly before Cristian Romero and Destiny Udogie were dismissed while playmaker James Maddison and Micky van de Ven, Romero’s centre-back partner, suffered serious injuries.

A last-gasp defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers was followed by another 2-1 loss at home to Aston Villa in a game where midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur suffered a bad ankle injury weeks after an eight-month layoff following knee surgery.

Yet in the Villa loss Tottenham played some sensational attacking football in the first half and Postecoglou remained defiant, suggesting the high-pressing mantra will not be tweaked despite injuries and bans decimating his preferred starting XI.

Some call Postecoglou’s insistence on a high defensive line naive, especially without the pace of Van de Ven, and it could be described as a foolhardy approach at City. But Postecoglou’s side can be relied on to, in his words, “have a go”.

Spurs also do strange things to Pep Guardiola’s side, winning three of the last four league clashes and even in losing 4-2 at The Etihad in January they led 2-0 at halftime.

So Guardiola, whose team’s 23-match winning run at home was ended by a 1-1 draw with Liverpool last weekend, will be wary. That result cost City top spot in the standings, with Arsenal’s 1-0 victory at Brentford putting the Gunners in first place with 30 points from 13 games to City’s 29.

For all the talk of City and Liverpool gearing up for another title scrap, Arsenal have shown they will be in the mix again after pushing City hard last term until a late implosion.

Arsenal host Wolves on Saturday with the chance to put some daylight between themselves and the chasers who all play on Sunday, and they will be brimful of confidence after a 6-0 rout of Lens in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Liverpool, in third with 28 points, host Fulham on Sunday while fourth-placed Aston Villa, also on 28, visit Bournemouth.

Basement side Burnley will have no better chance to finally earn a home point as they face third-bottom Sheffield United.

Reuters

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