Tottenham Hotspur travel to Liverpool this weekend hoping to build on a stunning performance in their comprehensive 2-0 defeat of Manchester United on Wednesday.
Sunday's match offers Spurs the chance to move ahead of the Reds into the top four. Should Mauricio Pochettino’s men achieve this target, with the FA Cup and Champions League still to play for, this would represent another season of steady progress under his stewardship.
The Argentine has been rightly lauded for taking Spurs to new heights since his arrival from Southampton in the summer of 2014, but away games against Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal remain something of an Achilles heel.
This latest trip to Anfield will be their fifth trip to the stadium under Pochettino’s management and they have yet to taste victory. Questions, then, are being raised as to whether the Spurs manager has some deficiency in his managerial approach.
A litany of disappointment
Spurs have played 18 league matches away to fellow ‘top six’ rivals under the former Saints boss and they have won only once – a late 2-1 victory at Manchester City in February 2016.
They have lost all four visits to Old Trafford without scoring a goal, they’ve twice shipped four at City and have failed to record wins at either of fierce London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal.
Across the 18 matches, his side have mustered a mere 14 goals – a relatively paltry amount for a side often associated with swashbuckling high-pressing, attacking football.
But with 35 goals conceded in that spell, it isn’t only their attack which is failing to play to its potential in these games.
This league form has not improved in domestic cup competitions, where a League Cup final and FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea and last season’s EFL Cup exit at Liverpool reflecting the North London side’s struggles on the road against such opposition.
Spursing it up?
The main issue for Spurs in these fixtures has been a lack of personality and an inability to stamp their own style of play upon the games.
They have failed to rise to the occasion and too often get caught up by the atmosphere generated from the home crowd, with opponents also playing specifically to cut open their formation.
The most worrying of all these games for Pochettino was when they avoided defeat but lost a two-goal lead, and any chance of the title, at Stamford Bridge in 2016.
Leading by two goals and in control of the match, the home crowd were whipped up as their side pulled a goal back and Spurs lost control of their match and their discipline. Even the Argentine was caught up in proceedings, entering a scuffle on the field of play.
It is arguable that this poor record stems from a psychological cloud that hangs over the club which, despite all of the Argentine coach’s brilliance, also reflects upon him.
For example, he discards the importance of domestic cup competitions. However, until those trophies arrive, questions will be asked of players and they often come unstuck when the going gets tough.
This is not reflected in their home form, whether it’s at White Hart Lane or Wembley, perhaps another psychological indicator that they can cave under pressure from hostile fans and opposition tactics.
Their dominance over United on Wednesday was not mirrored in any of their last four trips to Old Trafford, where displays have been meek and below-par. Last season at Anfield, two quickfire Sadio Mane goals exposed a high visiting back-line and the game was as good as done within 18 minutes.
Spurs must adapt a greater level of awareness when it comes to managing these fixtures, otherwise a fantastically talented group risk missing out on any type of silverware.
Where do you think Pochettino is going wrong away from home against the top six? Let us know by commenting below.