With a short pass from an indirect free kick, Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Tanguay Ndombele sent an airborne pass directly to his teammate Heung-Min Son’s feet. The South Korean national buried the ball between the goalkeeper’s legs with his next touch, pulling Spurs into the lead just four minutes and twenty seconds into their match against Manchester City on Saturday.
Meanwhile, City manager Pep Guardiola’s face seemed to fall; a testament either to City’s lackluster start to the season, or Tottenham’s explosive one. An hour later, Spurs Giovanni Lo Celso, assisted by Harry Kane, scored the final goal of the game and cemented the 2-0 win for his team.
With most clubs in the Premier League having played nine matches so far, about a quarter of the way through the regular season, Spurs are sitting at the top of the standings with 20 points on six wins, two draws, and a single loss. Although they share the number one spot, in terms of points, with defending champions Liverpool, the London-based team has the edge in goal differential.
It is still fairly early in the season, but with their win this Saturday, the words “title“ and “Hotspurs“ have begun to find their way into the same sentence. It would be a first since 1961. They are the only ‘Big Six’ team — among Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Tottenham — that hasn’t won a league title since the turn of the century. The team has not been able to bring home a major trophy since the League Cup (Carabao Cup) in 2008.
Hotspurs’ struggles to win titles has become somewhat of a running joke among Premier League fans, especially considering how close they have come. In 2019 they were second in the UEFA Champions League and they also came second for the Premier League title in 2017. Maybe that will change soon.
The promising start to the season has not only come to the team as a whole, but also for individual players. Heung-Min Son’s goal against City was his ninth of the season, making him the second most prolific scorer in the league. Harry Kane, Tottenham’s main striker, has added seven goals this season along with an equal number of assists; the highest combined total in the league.
The latter of the two stats is something that may come as a surprise. Strikers are typically the players who bring the most goals to their teams. They are the farthest forward, waiting for the right moment to strike swiftly and decisively. In previous seasons, Kane has been an exemplar of this kind of play and now he is bringing something new to the table with his frequent assists.
“Maybe he will change the way people [look] to a striker,” Tottenham coach Jose Mourinho said in a post-match interview on Saturday of Kane. He spoke of the tendency for people to value a striker by the number of goals they score, referencing the Golden Boot award that is given to the player who scores the most goals each season. “A striker can be the man of the match without scoring a goal.”
The Spurs manager was hesitant to discuss the team’s success this season, though. “I prefer to be top of the league,” he said, “but it is not an obsession.” Mourinho said the focus has been more on the individual matches.
Despite this promising start to the season on the pitch, problems for Tottenham have been brewing. In a financial report released on the 23rd, the organization posted a loss of almost 64 million British pounds (more than $85 million) from June of last year to the same time this year. Because of the COVID-19 restrictions that were beginning to be enforced at the end of the Premier League season last year and continuing into this year, the club has lost large sums of matchday ticket sales, and other revenue from “stadium tours and conferences and events.”
This issue is perhaps exacerbated by the fact that the club has been unable to utilize their newly built stadium amidst this pandemic. Daniel Levy, Chairman of the Tottenham Hotspurs, said in a statement accompanying the report, “This is compounded by the loss of third party events such as NFL [and] concerts.”
The estimate is that if fans are unable to return to stadiums by the end of the fiscal year, Tottenham’s losses could increase to 150 million British pounds ($200 million). “Clearly this would be an irrecoverable loss of income,” Mr. Levy said.