There are many reasons for the neutral to like Tottenham.
They reached a Champions League final without spending a penny. They have mainly swatted away interest for their best players. They have one of the most impressive stadiums in world football. They have a likeable, progressive manager in Mauricio Pochettino.
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But sitting 11th in the Premier League with just three wins from 10 and one win in the last five, they have a huge job on their hands to make the top four, where they have been lodged for the last four years. Not for the first time, Spurs and Pochettino are being questioned, but this time it feels more serious.
It`s still early in this season, and Pochettino is no stranger to fighting back from spurts of poor form - but when does sustained poor form become your actual level? Has a fondness for the Spurs project clouded judgement?
On Super Sunday, they face an Everton side who have spent years wanting what Spurs have - regular Champions League football. In a mini-crisis of their own, they are still feeling the hangover from a hike in expectation. For Spurs, a reality is setting in.
At the moment we struggle a little bit in our confidence, Pochettino said last Friday. We`ve dropped a lot in our confidence. The most important thing is how we are going to finish, it`s not that moment.
Of course, it`s not nice to see you in the middle of the table but that is a reality we need to accept. Accepting your reality means you can improve. If you don`t accept the reality you are going to struggle. In our mind we know very well that we need time, to be strong, be solid and start to win because that is going to be the best thing for us.
For Spurs, the soul-searching has begun. Are they an underperforming top-three side? Or are they simply hard to separate from the five clubs fighting for two Champions League places? Or is it even worse than that?
Champions League dummy?
Spurs` run to the Champions League final was a joy to watch. But were we sold a dummy? After scraping through their group, they breezed past Borussia Dortmund 4-0 on aggregate in the last 16, before meeting Manchester City.
As underdogs, Spurs won the first leg 1-0 before the game of the tournament at the Etihad. It was chaos; Spurs were as brilliant in the final third as they were muddled in defence, and they scraped through via VAR.
In the semi-final against Ajax, Spurs were brilliant for one half, but stuck for the other three. In the final, Liverpool changed tack and made nullifying Spurs look easy.
One trait underpinned Spurs` run to the Madrid: character. If abundant, it trumps quality, and Spurs had tonnes of it. Today, it seems character is running low and Spurs` familiar frailties are being exposed.
Home and away struggles
On the pitch, weaknesses are becoming clear. They are without an away league win since January 20, at relegated Fulham, but their home form since moving to the new stadium has also been mixed.
Of the five home Premier League games they have played this season, Spurs have won three, drawn one and lost one, with all but one game - the 4-0 victory over Palace - coming against teams in the bottom six. In the five games, Spurs have registered 65 per cent possession. It seems the lesser teams can arrive at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with a sitting plan, with a good chance of it succeeding.
Going further back, since the turn of the year, Spurs` Premier League form has been wretched.
PL table since Spurs` last away win (Jan 20, 2019)
|2. Man City||25||64|
|5. Crystal Palace||25||42|
|8. Man Utd||25||35|
|10. West Ham||25||34|
Spurs have won just nine games out of 25 since January 20, and sit 12th in the Premier League form table over that period, behind Crystal Palace, Wolves, West Ham and Newcastle.
Time for a style change?
Comparing two periods, from August 2018 to January 2019, and from January 2019 to now, shows Spurs are not necessarily doing less, but are having less success in converting possessional dominance.
Spurs trying more, succeeding less
|(PL only)||Aug 18 to Jan 19||Jan 19 to present|
|Shots per game||13.04||14.60|
|Shots on target pg||5.43||4.28|
|Goals conceded pg||1||1.24|
In the period since January 2019, they have had more shots, far more crosses and registered a better duel success rate, as well as a similar possession and passing accuracy. However, they are having far fewer shots on target per game and their goals per game rate is way down.
The full-back position has been an issue; they are providing most of Spurs` width at present, overcompensating for the often-used diamond midfield. Pushing forward, they are then exposed defensively.
Pochettino, and Gareth Southgate for that matter, are giving Harry Winks game time as the pivot. He has those qualities in an attacking sense, but if he`s pressed and loses the ball, the opposition tend to be through. Tanguy Ndombele and Moussa Sissoko are impressive in an attacking sense, but are not providing the defensive cover.
Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama were the stoppers, but slowed things down going forward.
Then there`s Christian Eriksen. It looked like business as usual after the opening day win over Aston Villa. As Villa led 1-0, the Dane came on and changed the game, but his performances since have been poor.
He is consistently Spurs` biggest runner, but struggles to provide width. His presence also steps on the toes of Dele Alli, admittedly under-par for a while now, but playing deeper than he would like.
If Spurs cash in on Eriksen, it may bring a welcome change in playing style.
Time to make a judgement?
Eriksen recently dismissed the idea summer transfer speculation has led to his and Spurs` poor form, instead saying they have been unlucky.
He`s not entirely wrong. In September`s late 2-1 defeat at Leicester, Spurs were leading and had a second goal marginally ruled out by VAR for offside. And marginal is putting it lightly.
That would have flattened Leicester with a quarter of the game remaining, and it now looks like a six-pointer. It was a turning point in Spurs` season.
Have Spurs been unlucky? Time will tell, but it`s getting to a point where a judgement will have to be made on where Pochettino`s side are at.
Barely 12 months ago at Goodison they were dazzling, hitting six. It`s time Spurs made another statement.
Watch Everton vs Tottenham live from 4pm on Sky Sports Premier League on Sunday; kick-off 4.30pm. Match highlights available shortly after full-time on the Sky Sports website and app