Who is to blame for Tottenham's striker crisis?

Jose Mourinho, Mauricio Pochettino or Daniel Levy? Who is to blame for Tottenham’s striker crisis which has led to four straight defeats and their worst run of form this season

  • Injuries to key men have left Tottenham Hotspur without a recognised striker
  • Top scorers Harry Kane and Son Heung-min will miss most of club’s final fixtures
  • Spurs have lost all four games since the duo have been unavailable for selection
  • Jose Mourinho, Mauricio Pochettino and the Spurs board have all been criticised
  • Sportsmail looks at their contribution to the crisis and who is most to blame 

Tottenham Hotspur’s season is stumbling from one crisis to the next with the FA Cup exit at home to Norwich City marking a fourth straight loss – their worst run of the campaign.

But the latest poor run of form has not exactly come as a surprise given the injury crisis that has left the north London side on its knees and without a recognised striker.

Spurs employed a risky strategy this season by only having Harry Kane in attack, with a back-up option consisting of the versatile Son Heung-min on occasions when the England captain was unavailable.

Harry Kane picked up a hamstring injury on New Year’s Day at Southampton as he is consoled by manager Jose Mourinho. Kane is set to miss most of Spurs’s remaining fixtures this season

However, once Harry Kane was ruled out for most of the second half of the season after suffering a hamstring injury at Southampton on New Year’s Day, the entire attacking burden was placed on Son.

It soon backfired. Spurs won four out of five games with Son in attack, with the Korean scoring six goals, but it came to an abrupt halt when he also picked up a near season-ending arm injury in the triumphant 3-2 win at Aston Villa.

With Dele Alli having had to play out of position as the attacking focal point, Tottenham have not won since and have not looked likely to either, leaving their season in huge danger of crashing and burning.

But who is to blame for the situation that the club now find themselves in? We look at the key men behind the crisis at the Lane and how they have played a role that has left Spurs out of luck, form, points… and strikers.

After netting a match-winning brace at Aston Villa, Son Heung-min will also miss a large remainder of the season leaving Spurs without a recognised striker to call upon

Dele Alli has had to play out of position as the main attacking threat – but has failed to score

Jose Mourinho

The buck stops with the manager and regardless of the crisis it will be Mourinho who will likely take the hit if he cannot turn around form and results.

But how much can he really be blamed for the existing limitations he is being made to work with? Parachuted into the club mid-season following a terrible start under Mauricio Pochettino, he has struggled to gain a measure of consistency during his first few months at the Lane despite an improvement in results.

Not only has he been made to work with the same poorly assembled squad of the previous regime, it’s one that has since lost its three best players in Kane, Son and Christian Eriksen, who was sold to Inter Milan in January.

But can he be excused for the striker crisis? Mourinho had a full transfer window to work with while knowing he would be without Kane for a significant chunk of the season.

Jose Mourinho has struggled to get a mis-match squad firing since taking charge at Spurs

Steven Bergwijn has boosted forward options but cannot play as a striker and by the time the transfer window had closed, the Portuguese opted to back the gamble of having to rely on Son.

But who could he sign? Options were so limited during January that Manchester United had to go to China for Odion Ighalo as an emergency striker. Barcelona also opted against moving in the January window to cover their lack of goal options before taking advantage of a LaLiga loophole last month to sign a Middlesbrough flop. There were hardly a wealth of attractive options.

Mourinho though is not blameless. After all he does have a striker in his youth ranks in Troy Parrott. He claims the 18-year-old is not ready, but he has already been capped at senior level for the Republic of Ireland.

Mourinho may be correct, but with his side unable to win a game and show such limited ability in the final third while doing so, what risk is there in giving him a run out?

Blame factor: 3/10

Troy Parrott was given a run out in stoppage time during Tottenham’s 3-2 defeat at Wolves

Mauricio Pochettino

So who left Mourinho with a squad in total carnage? Mauricio Pochettino did a wonderful job at Spurs to turn them into Champions League regulars which included a run to last season’s final.

But form under the Argentine, at least domestically, had been close to awful for almost the entirety of 2019 before he was sacked in November.

Despite being backed with over a £100million to spend in the summer, when you take into account the eventual option to sign Giovani Lo Celso permanently, Pochettino failed to use the funds to find a suitable back-up for Kane.

Maybe there was not a realistic option out there he thought was worth bringing in. A previous attempt to sign a back-up for Kane resulted in the failed Vincent Janssen experiment.

Mauricio Pochettino failed to find cover for Kane after opting to release Fernando Llorente

But Pochettino did at least have Fernando Llorente on his books. He proved on many occasions that while he was never going to challenge Kane for a first-team spot he could still chip in when needed – grabbing eight goals last term including a crucial strike against Manchester City in the Champions League.

However he was carelessly released in the summer, eventually joining Napoli, without a plan to bring in a replacement. The same could also be said of Kieran Trippier who was offloaded to Atletico Madrid, leaving just one senior right back in Serge Aurier, who has been wildly inconsistent. 

With the exception of Lo Celso, Pochettino’s summer spend up barley improved the side at all. Record £63m signing Tanguy Ndombele clearly has talent but the midfielder curiously looks knackered after 30 minutes and his fitness has been an enigma at the club all season. Ryan Sessegnon, £25m from Fulham, meanwhile has struggled to make an impact.

Pochettino had identified his side needed a ‘painful rebuild’ but his final transfer window not only failed to significantly improve the team, it left severe gaps leading to a very unbalanced squad at risk to a crisis in key positions – including strikers.

Blame factor: 5/10 

Despite offering decent back-up while at Spurs, Llorente was allowed to join Napoli on a free 

The board

Or do both managers get a pass? Tottenham’s reluctance to spend big has cost them the chance to sign key players – especially in the last decade.

Nevermind Mourinho and Pochettino. Predecessors Andre Villas-Boas, Harry Redknapp and even Juande Ramos have had plenty to grumble about when it comes to transfer dealings.

Sadio Mane’s wage demands put off a move for the Southampton forward before he joined Liverpool, while Villas-Boas was desperate to sign Joao Moutinho long before he became a star in the Wolves midfield.

A too high transfer fee also saw Spurs decide against a move for Sergio Aguero just months before he joined Manchester City.

Ramos may have recorded the infamous ‘two points from eight games’ stat before he was sacked at the start of the 2008-09 season, but he went into that campaign having seen the lethal strike partnership of Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov being sold from underneath him.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has often been conservative in his transfer market approach

Supporters were teased of a deadline day move in the summer over a move for Juventus forward Paulo Dybala but were not left that surprised when the move collapsed due to financial concerns over his image rights.

Daniel Levy handles the purse strings and he is perhaps still stung by the £100m that was wasted off the back of Gareth Bale’s sale to Real Madrid in 2013.

Only one of the seven players signed that season is still with the club in Erik Lamela, and he may be close to Darren Anderton levels of time out injured.

One of the other arrivals that summer was the highly regarded striker Roberto Soldado who flopped at White Hart Lane, and that also magnifies how poor Spurs’s scouting has been for well over a decade now – especially in attack.

With an arguable exception of Emmanuel Adebayor, Tottenham have not bought a striker who could be considered a success since Peter Crouch in 2009. 

Poor decisions mean Spurs have not had a striker seen as a success since Peter Crouch

Admittedly, Spurs during this time have been put under enormous financial constraints in building a world class training ground and stadium, but even then they recently announced world record profits recently of £113m.

For a long time the club have neglected investment into the side, as they often lumber near the bottom of the table when it comes to net transfer spend. In 2018 they became the first Premier League side ever not to sign a single player in the summer transfer window.

With so many Tottenham managers now having been left frustrated when it comes to transfer dealings over the last 12 years, there only appears to be one constant throughout the entire time…

Even Spurs fans have decided who they are holding to account. They changed the words to a chant they use on Champions League nights to: ‘Oh, what a night, watching Tottenham on a Wednesday night, we’ve got no strikers because the chairman’s tight…’.

Blame factor: 8/10 

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