By Jack Malone

Tottenham’s performance in Moscow on Tuesday showed maturity far beyond that of a team playing their first Champions League campaign since 2010/11.

CSKA Moscow are no pushovers; they have featured in the group stage in seven of the last ten years, but Spurs ran the game from start to finish, boasting two thirds of the possession and more than twice as many shots as their Russian counterparts.

Here we take a look at how this vital win demonstrated three key signs of growth and improvement from last season.

Strength in depth

This was always going to be pivotal to Tottenham this year as they competed on Europe’s biggest stage for the first time in half a decade.

On Tuesday night they found themselves without three key central midfielders in Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele and Moussa Sissokho, all of whom played a part in the group opener against Monaco.

However, they were still able to put out a midfield full of internationals, with Victor Wanyama, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli starting in the middle of the park.

Rotation is going to be key for Spurs this year; last season they could bring in some reserves and youth players for the Europa League, but the Champions League demands greater respect.

Realistically, if Tottenham have European ambitions to match their title aspirations, then they will need to have at least 15 or 16 players of first-team standard to choose from in every match.

Mauricio Pochettino is known to be a shrewd operator in the transfer market and it looks as if he has strengthened well over the summer.

Son continues to shine

It is a mark of how far Son Heung-min has come already this season that few were surprised to see him net the winner in Moscow.

The South Korean showed only flashes of his true talent last year, but he has hit the ground running in this campaign, notching an impressive five goals in as many appearances.

With Harry Kane struggling for form and now out injured, Son has stepped up to the mark and shouldered the goal scoring responsibility.

A superb striker of the ball, the former Bayer Leverkusen man can play up front or out on the wing, but perhaps his best position is in the number ten role.

This makes him an excellent option for Pochettino, as he can cover for Kane when he is out and complement him when both are fit.

If Son can maintain this purple patch and Spurs can get the England forward firing again, then they have the makings of an excellent strike partnership on their hands.

No mental hangover

Tottenham’s collapse at the very end of 2015-16 was worrying and could have scarred a young and relatively inexperienced side.

They failed to win any of their final four Premier League matches, leaving Leicester City to claim the title and surrendering second place to fierce rivals Arsenal.

Despite this, there seems to have been no lasting negative impact on the team, who maintained their unbeaten start to the domestic season with a 2-1 victory at Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Their only defeat in all competitions came against Monaco a fortnight ago, but if anyone needed further proof of their mental strength, then the win over Moscow put any doubts to bed.

This game became a must-win after the previous defeat, but Spurs produced a controlled performance and could have won by a greater margin as they moved to within one point of the group summit.

Showing no signs of panic, they bided their time, striking the killer blow with 20 minutes remaining.

Tottenham haven’t attracted as many headlines as the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool this season, but the signs are that they are ready to build on the success of the last campaign.

1 COMMENT

  1. If this was end of April 2017 and we are doing what we should be doing then I would be happy, however its only Sept; we have not won anything as yet! I would lik eto win ugly that for pundits to say ‘good crop of players’ they were ‘unlucky’ etc so I hop ethat real spurs fans keep it sane, and not get excited so fast… its not how we start but how we finish.. we still have some glaring weaknesses, lack of ball control, too many long balls which require 100% accuracy, too many sideways and back passes, we lack a serious ‘Gazza’ in midfield to beat people and pass the ball that is what we require, together with putting our changes away, kill off teams, those are my real issues/concerns with my team….. COYS

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