BARNET, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 10: Alex Morgan of Tottenham Hotspur Women watches on from the stands drinking a cup of tea during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Tottenham Hotspur Women and Manchester United Women at The Hive on October 10, 2020 in Barnet, England. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)

The 2020 summer transfer window saw an abundance of American players join the Women’s Super League for the 2020/21 season.

Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle joined Manchester City, while their USWNT teammates Tobin Heath and Christen Press joined rival Manchester United. All four signings were met with great enthusiasm from fans, and all four players certainly impressed thus far, with Mewis and Lavelle leading Man. City to a Women’s FA Cup over the weekend.

But the most surprising signing of them all came on deadline day, when Tottenham Hotspur announced that Alex Morgan would be coming over from the Orlando Pride, on a contract that runs through the end of the calendar year and which gives Morgan the option to sign an extension until the end of the season.

Morgan got her first 20 minutes for the club this past weekend after a small injury set back her debut. Prior to that, Morgan had not yet made an appearance for Tottenham. In fact, she hadn’t played a competitive match in over a year, her last being the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup against the Netherlands back in July of 2019. After the final, an injury sidelined her, and in October 2019, she announced that she was pregnant, giving birth in May 2020, and taking maternity leave after.

In a recent interview, Morgan has stated that she is unsure as to whether she will stay in North London past the holidays, stating that it “depends on COVID, it depends on the NWSL” and that she is taking it week by week.

It takes time to regain full match fitness after even a minor injury, let alone giving birth, and the Spurs obviously were aware of Morgan’s situation, knowing that she wouldn’t be fit to start the season when they chose to sign her. But with the team struggling as they have to start the season, Morgan’s return to play can’t come soon enough. While one player alone can’t turn around a campaign, the Spurs will need someone with Morgan’s talent if they want to come close to achieving their goals for the season.

 

SPURS’ LACKLUSTER START TO THE SEASON

To say that Tottenham has struggled this season is an understatement. Five games into the season, and the Spurs sit ninth in the table with one draw and four losses; they’re only two spots above the relegation zone, only being ahead of West Ham on goal difference.

Their last match was a blowout 6-1 loss to North London rival Arsenal, who currently sits atop the table.

One of the main reasons Tottenham has struggled this season, specifically when it comes to scoring goals, is the fact that their 4-2-3-1 formation leaves whoever is playing in that striker position very isolated up top. The forward attacking players (the wingers, and the attacking midfielder) only contribute to the isolation of the striker whenver they struggle to transition from defense to attack.

So far this season, Tottenham has spent a lot of time without the ball. They have averaged 43.9% possession in league games so far, with their lowest possession game (32.71%) coming in their loss to Arsenal and their highest (52.68%) in a draw against West Ham.

Because they see so little of the ball, every attack for the Spurs must count; and when players lag in their transition from defense to attack, they struggle to make runs in behind, provide defense-splitting passes, and penetrate the opposition’s backlines. With only three goals scored this season, it’s clear that something needs to change.

 

WHAT MORGAN CAN BRING TO THIS TEAM

It almost feels like Morgan’s skillset was specifically catered to fix the Spurs’ attacking problems. The USWNT star has experience playing as the main focal point in attack, for both club and country, and she knows how to position herself not to be isolated on the pitch. Coming into the lineup, Morgan should encourage more link-up play, allowing for better penetration of the defense. Her goal-scoring rate speaks for itself with 52 goals in 122 club appearances across her career. Morgan, at her best, will provide an immediate boost to the Spurs attack.

The question is whether Morgan will be at her best, and then, whether she chooses to stay in England past the New Year. Morgan has hinted that her debut could be any weekend, but in terms of whether she’ll stick with the club, it’s anyone’s guess. Like the rest of the world, Morgan is taking things week by week, meaning we likely won’t know her plans until much later this year.

TOTTENHAM’S AMBITIONS

This is only Tottenham’s second season in the top division, but it’s clear that they are an ambitious club. Signing Alex Morgan was a statement; despite being new to the league, they want to compete with the best teams at the top of the table for silverware. If Morgan returns to form and then decides to stay through the end of the season, it’ll justify the team’s decision to sign her while doubling as a sign of better things to come.