Tottenham Hotspur have been in quite terrible form recently.
After breathing the rarefied air of the title race for so long, Spurs headed into a week that saw them face Burnley, Chelsea and Arsenal in quick succession. Win all three games and many believed that the battle for the title would become a three-horse race.
Instead, Mauricio Pochettino’s men lost to the Clarets and the Blues and drew with the Gunners. A loss to Southampton last time out put the cherry on top of a particularly sour cake for Spurs and they are now locked in a battle to qualify for the top four.
They are just one point clear of Arsenal in fourth and three clear of Manchester United, while they sit just four ahead of Chelsea.
Here at Football FanCast we’ve taken a look at how Pochettino can arrest the slump and ensure that Spurs qualify for the Champions League.
This is a difficult one, of course, such are the talents of Harry Kane.
But the fact remains that, since the England captain’s return from injury, Spurs have not won a game.
He has scored three goals while half-fit but there are no signs that his workload will lighten any time soon. Gareth Southgate has called him up for England’s Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro and he is likely to start both games.
Pochettino, then, should consider giving Kane a rest when he can.
The ability of Son Heung-min has been proven this season – he scored in every Premier League game that Kane missed – and he can step in at any time.
Kane is incredibly likely to play against Liverpool at the end of the month but, after that, Spurs face the likes of Crystal Palace, Brighton & Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town. There will be plenty of opportunities to give the forward some respite.
As mentioned, Son enjoyed some of his best form in a Spurs shirt while Kane was injured.
If Kane is to be put on the bench, Son has to be trusted to replace him.
Pochettino has a fascination with striker Fernando Llorente, routinely throwing him on in an attempt to rescue games when they are not going the club’s way.
But the South Korea international is a more multi-functional player and is a better finisher to boot.
Placing some faith in Son, allowing him to play through the middle, and giving Kane a rest kills two birds with one stone.
Pochettino should consider it, particularly with a soft run of fixtures to come after a tough encounter with Jurgen Klopp’s title-chasers.
Stop rotating the defence
There is too much uncertainty in the defence.
Supporters and players alike do not know which full-back will play from week-to-week, while Toby Alderweireld was strangely rested against Southampton at the weekend.
This is not sustainable if Spurs want to challenge at the top end of the league.
Pochettino has to make a decision on the club’s first-choice full-backs and central defenders and stick with it until the end of the season, fitness permitting.
Rotation leads to mistakes and it has cost Spurs all too regularly this term.
This long-term policy needs to end to re-establish defensive solidity.
Go for the jugular when leading
Spurs loss to Southampton came about after Kane had given his side the lead at St Mary’s.
Spurs also took the lead in losses to Watford, Wolves and Arsenal.
There is a complacency problem at Spurs; all too often they appear to take their foot off the accelerator in the hope that what they have done is enough.
Pochettino’s men often play down to their opposition too, allowing them to set the tempo of the game and appearing passive when confronted with problems.
That has to change. If Spurs take the lead, they have to double it, triple it and quadruple it to ensure that those three points are in the bag.
They have thumped the likes of Bournemouth and Everton this season so we know it’s possible. Pochettino has to ensure his players are going for the jugular in every game, regardless of the situation.
Play every game like a Champions League tie
Spurs have enjoyed a quite remarkable turnaround in Europe.
After losing to both Inter Milan and Barcelona in their first two games, a draw with PSV Eindhoven appeared to have consigned Spurs to an early exit.
However, they showed amazing fortitude to rally and beat both PSV and Inter at Wembley, before earning a creditable 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the Camp Nou to seal their unlikely qualification to the last-16.
A 3-0 win over Borussia Dortmund then earmarked Spurs as genuine contenders, and a 1-0 triumph at Signal Iduna Park added even more fuel to that particular fire.
If Spurs play with such discipline and flair in the Premier League, they will have little to worry about in the battle for the top four.
Playing every game as though it is in the Champions League might well see Spurs pick up a fair few points between now and May.