Tot­ten­ham re­turns to scene of ti­tle col­lapse af­ter set­back

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Rob Har­ris The As­so­ci­ated Press

Back at the scene of last sea­son’s Premier League ti­tle col­lapse, Tot­ten­ham will be pick­ing up the pieces from a fresh dis­in­te­gra­tion.

Af­ter spend­ing five years try­ing to mus­cle its way back into the Cham­pi­ons League, Tot­ten­ham is timidly ex­it­ing from the group stage, stalling the progress of an am­bi­tious manager and his rel­a­tively young squad.

And for the first time since tak­ing charge of Tot­ten­ham in 2014, Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino’s de­ci­sion-mak­ing is com­ing un­der scru­tiny ahead of Satur­day’s trip across London to Chelsea.

Play­ing in the Euro­pean Cup for only the third time in its history was the con­so­la­tion for Tot­ten­ham af­ter miss­ing out on a first English ti­tle since 1961.

Po­chet­tino’s side had been push­ing Le­ices­ter in the ti­tle race un­til a bad-tem­pered melt­down at Chelsea in May. A two-goal lead was sur­ren­dered and a 2-2 draw handed Le­ices­ter the tro­phy. Tot­ten­ham never re­cov­ered, los­ing its last two games to tum­ble to third be­hind Ar­se­nal.

As dam­ag­ing as the loss was, Tot­ten­ham failed to use the ex­pe­ri­ence to strengthen its team sig­nif­i­cantly in the trans­fer window.

Mis­fir­ing striker Vin­cent Janssen, signed in July from Dutch club AZ Alk­maar, has not been an ad­e­quate backup to Harry Kane. Moussa Sis­soko, a 30 mil­lion pound (then about $40 mil­lion) sign­ing, has not looked to be much of an im­prove­ment on Nacer Chadli, who was sold to West Bromwich Al­bion.

While Tot­ten­ham is the only un­beaten team in Eng­land’s four pro­fes­sional leagues, the team is fifth in the Premier League while Chelsea leads the way.

Tot­ten­ham’s fail­ure to kill off games has been dam­ag­ing, draw­ing half of the 12 league matches so far. But there was a spir­ited come­back against West Ham. A 3-2 vic­tory, se­cured through Kane’s two late goals, masked the de­fi­cien­cies ear­lier in the derby as Tot­ten­ham counts the cost of in­juries to de­fender Toby Alder­weireld and winger Erik Lamela.

Los­ing at Monaco on Tues­day left Tot­ten­ham with only one win from five Cham­pi­ons League games, in­clud­ing two losses at its tem­po­rary Euro­pean home at Wem­b­ley Stadium.

Leav­ing de­fend­ers Jan Ver­tonghen and Kyle Walker, and mid­fielder Chris­tian Erik­sen on the bench at Monaco showed that Po­chet­tino was al­ready looking ahead to the Chelsea game with his ro­ta­tion.

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