LONDON — The pressure is building at the top of the Premier League is building and cracks are beginning to appear among the title contenders.
Ahead of the North London Derby at White Hart Lane between Tottenham and Arsenal on Saturday (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) both teams lost in midweek.
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During their 1-0 defeat to London rivals West Ham United on Wednesday, Mauricio Pochettino‘s Tottenham put in perhaps their worst display of the season so far with a chance to go top of the table in March for the first-time since 1964 squandered.
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Spurs went behind to a fired-up West Ham outfit after seven minutes and never fully recovered, with plenty of bad giveaways in midfield and an uncharacteristic sluggishness in attack.
Did nerves take over?
“No, no, no, no,” Pochettino told the media after the game. “We made some mistakes that we don’t normally make and we repeat the first 20 minutes we played against Swansea [comeback 2-1 win last Sunday]. It was difficult to start the game against Swansea and today we started not so good and conceded the goal. West Ham were very good in the first half.”
Pochettino also claimed that Spurs were “poor in the first half” and they couldn’t recover, but they are still just three points behind leaders Leicester with 10 games to go. All is not lost.
Speaking on Thursday, Pochettino again dismissed his team is suffering from nerves.
“It was not nerves, it is difficult to play every game at the intensity we normally play but I am happy with the effort,” Pochettino said. “Our squad is confident, it was only one defeat. The most important thing is that we had chances in that second half, I don’t feel the squad feels pressure. We have 10 games, a lot of points to play for.”
As for Arsenal, they’re a further three points behind Tottenham and suffered two damaging blows on Wednesday.
Arsene Wenger‘s lost three-straight games in all competitions for the first time since 2010, as Swansea City rolled into the Emirates Stadium and won 2-1. That was a big blow, but ahead of the NLD, losing Petr Cech through a late groin injury as he ran up to attack a corner was even worse. He’ll miss the crunch clash with Tottenham on Saturday as Arsenal’s defense has lost its leader.
Saturday’s game at the Lane is a must-win for Arsenal. It’s as simple as that. A potential six-point swing in Spurs’ favor at this point of the season could be critical in Arsenal’s fading title hopes.
That said, with Manchester City losing three-straight PL games (the latest a 3-0 shellacking at Liverpool on Wednesday) for the first-time since 2008 to slip to fourth and even Leicester showing some signs of added pressure, we should expect plenty of slip ups from the title contenders between now and the end of the season.
Both Tottenham and Arsenal aren’t on their own in feeling the heat, but nerves are definitely jangling ahead of the NLD.