Jose Mourinho takes charge of his first full season at Tottenham this term | Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Feeling well rested? Ready to plug your eyes back into your television screens and laptops for the next nine months?
Good, because – especially if you’re a Tottenham fan – it’s going to be hectic. Almost too hectic. It’s going to be so hectic that it’ll be pure luck if Spurs manage to avoid falling into the same situation they were in back in March.
Son Heung-min fractured his arm at Aston Villa in February, played on and scored twice | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Around that time, the squad had been decimated by injuries, with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min sidelined with major issues.
But then it all kicked off. Y’know, this global pandemic that has rightly restricted the way in which people go about their daily lives. With that comes an intensely packed fixture schedule this term, with manager Jose Mourinho already up against it with a ball yet to be kicked.
There are already three Premier League games scheduled for this month and Tottenham also have a trip to Southeast Europe to face Lokomotiv Plovdiv in the second round of Europa League qualifying. They can thank Arsenal for that one.
There’s also the third round of the Carabao Cup to contend with, and if Tottenham beat Plovdiv they’d have another qualifying game in Europe. We’re only just approaching mid September, but Spurs may have played seven games by the month’s end.
So there we have it. As we can clearly see from the above, Tottenham are up against it. They’re underdogs. Lovable underdogs. They’re basically Rocky Balboa.
Well, maybe they’re not so lovable, but you’ve got to feel for them somewhat. A fixture list this congested could only be handed to a team like Spurs.
But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. There’ll hardly be any optimism for that Plovdiv game – it’s the second largest city in Bulgaria, if you didn’t know – if Mourinho’s side can’t get past a rag-tag Everton team which has been bundled together at the last minute.
Giovani Lo Celso’s shot deflects off Michael Keane and past Jordan Pickford | CATHERINE IVILL/Getty Images
The last time the two sides met, it was quite a turgid affair.
Tottenham had just been battered 3-1 at Sheffield United, while Everton had surprisingly slapped Champions League chasing Leicester with a 2-1 win. Not many neutrals were expecting that much.
So, for the only goal of the game to be scored by Michael Keane – at the wrong end, no less – seemed relatively fitting.
But a positive start is absolutely critical for Tottenham, and they must offer a better performance than the one which squeezed three points out of the Toffees back in July. Sure, we can all appreciate a Jose Mourinho defensive s***house masterclass, but with players like Kane, Son and Dele Alli fit and firing – or as fit as they can be at this point – a high benchmark needs to be set. If they flounder big time in the first couple of months, they’ll be down around tenth again come late November with little to no hope of a top four finish.
This is a sight Tottenham can’t afford to see if they want success in 2020/21 | Michael Steele/Getty Images
Realistically, that aim does seem a little ambitious, but it’s not a finish that should be entirely ruled out. There should be little focus from Tottenham’s perspective as to how the teams around them fare. Just keep the ball out of the net and give it to Kane and Son.
Everton will provide an interesting opening test for Tottenham. Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Rodriguez have all been snapped up in recent weeks, so the team Carlo Ancelotti fields will be fascinating.
As for Tottenham fans, it’ll most likely be the first opportunity to watch new signings Pierre-Emile HOJbjerg and Matt Doherty in competitive action. On paper, the pair are upgrades on what came before, but then again that’s what we said about Tanguy Ndombele last year, and the lad just can’t get a run in the team.
A smiling Mourinho is a fun Mourinho | Marc Atkins/Getty Images
All in all, a positive start is absolutely essential. The jury is still out on Mourinho, even if the conclusion to last season went better than expected. Tottenham have to hit the ground running and show they can hang with the big boys – even if no one believes that right now.
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