Problems are piling up for Tottenham Hotspur manager Ange Postecoglou following his dream start to life in the Premier League.
Injuries are shredding the Australian’s squad to pieces, and the timing couldn’t have been any worse.
November’s international break came at an opportune moment for Spurs, providing them with a fortnight to rally their troops after losing to Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
However, an ominously-looking injury crisis has not subsided.
What started like a fairytale is descending into a familiar sense of chaos and agony. The enthusiasm was sky-high during Postecoglou’s honeymoon period, yet it has fizzled out after back-to-back losses.
Coming into Sunday’s home encounter against Aston Villa, Postecoglou is awaiting injury updates from his medical staff with bated breath after numerous fitness problems decimated his troops.
It’s now a near-certainty that Tottenham will be without nine first-team regulars for the highly anticipated top-four six-pointer against Unai Emery’s side.
Micky van de Ven, James Maddison, Richarlison, Ryan Sessegnon, Manor Solomon, Alfie Whiteman and Ivan Perisic are in the infirmary. Cristian Romero and Yves Bissouma are unavailable due to suspension.
Destiny Udogie returns to the fold after serving a one-game ban against Wolves, but after missing several training sessions with a minor injury, his availability remains questionable.
Only one point separates fourth-placed Tottenham from their upcoming rivals in fifth. Villa will put Spurs’ squad depth to a stern test, and it’s only the beginning.
As per early prognoses, Postecoglou will be without his midfield metronome Maddison until January, with the same going for overachieving centre-back Van de Ven.
Richarlison went under the knife to fix a niggling groin problem and is unlikely to return to action before December, leaving the Tottenham boss with a selection nightmare going into a possibly season-defining stretch.
Spurs must be relieved to have missed out on European football for the first time in over a decade. Given the difficulty of tasks lying ahead and the extent of the injury crisis, a lack of continental action is a blessing.
After Villa’s visit to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the injury-hit London outfit head to the Etihad Stadium to encounter perennial Premier League champions Manchester City.
Even with all hands on deck, their chances in Manchester would be minimal, but with a depleted squad, it’s almost impossible to expect Spurs to go toe-to-toe with Pep Guardiola’s high-flyers.
Postecoglou can at least draw confidence from having Dejan Kulusevski fit and ready (at least for now), knowing the Sweden international has scored on Tottenham’s last two visits to the Etihad.
Four days after facing arguably the best team in Europe, Tottenham will host an all-London showdown against West Ham United, who, despite a patchy form, can be a tricky opponent.
If it’s any consolation, Spurs have gone unbeaten in their last three league matches against the Hammers. But with David Moyes walking a tightrope, United won’t go down without a fight.
Another upside for Postecoglou’s team is that they won’t need to travel again, as Newcastle United arrive in north London three days after West Ham’s visit.
Like Tottenham, the Magpies are facing a nasty injury crisis, with Eddie Howe’s understrength line-up slumping to a 2-0 defeat at relegation-battling Bournemouth on the stroke of the international break.
The next four games could define Spurs’ season. If they can weather this storm and protect their place in the top four, it would go a long way in affirming their Champions League credentials.
But if they can’t, Postecoglou’s history-making Premier League start could go in vain.
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