Mauricio Pochettino expressed his love for Wembley at the start of the season and said using it as a temporary home while Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium is being built would be “magic” for his team. Three and a half months into the campaign and it is difficult to imagine the Spurs manager is harbouring the same level of affection.
In fact, following Saturday’s 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion at their adopted home, he seemed far more downbeat.
“It’s different to White Hart Lane, but that is our reality. We cannot escape from our reality. Our reality is playing here and waiting for our new stadium,” he said. “That’s not an excuse, the team is doing well. We’re only disappointed because the team dropped two points.”
Although the national stadium has so far been a fortress in the Champions League – Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid were both impressively beaten 3-1 – the story has been very different in domestic competition. Spurs thumped Liverpool 4-1 but, otherwise, Chelsea and West Ham United both claimed victories at Wembley and Burnley, Swansea City and now West Brom all left with a draw. Crystal Palace and Bournemouth, meanwhile, were in the Premier League relegation zone when they visited and both suffered only narrow 1-0 defeats.
Scoring goals has been at the core of the problem, with the win over Liverpool remaining the only Premier League home game this season in which Tottenham have netted more than once. Smaller teams have tended to defend deep and in numbers at Wembley and despite boasting creative talents such as Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen and a prolific striker in Harry Kane, Tottenham have struggled to break them down.
In the build-up to Saturday’s draw against West Brom, Pochettino said his side miss the skill and trickery of long-term injury absentee Erik Lamela when they face sides playing for a draw. Without Lamela, he said, “you can be stopped with the wall and you crash”.
It is surely no coincidence, therefore, that Tottenham have enjoyed most success at home against Dortmund, Real Madrid and Liverpool, all of whom played far more adventurous football and left gaps for the likes of Alli, Eriksen and Kane to exploit.
The upshot of their Wembley struggles is that Tottenham are now 10 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City, having played a game more, and are seemingly out of title contention.
“Yes, it’s true now that the gap is 10 points and it’s massive in the Premier League,” Pochettino said. “But now we need to be focused and try to improve ourselves and be more consistent at Wembley, and try to win more games here like last season at White Hart Lane.”