There was something about the manner in which Heung-min Son fractured his arm at Villa Park on Sunday that seemed to epitomise what is going on at Spurs. The South Korean took a tumble early, played on and, despite missing a host of chances, ultimately scored a match-winning brace.
In other words, his side relied on inexplicable resilience, having realised far too late that they had a problem in the first place. There is now no hiding from that reality after Jose Mourinho confirmed Son is likely to be out for the rest of the season.
Mourinho’s options are extremely limited. As he put it wryly in Tuesday’s press conference, he used to be frustrated at having no attacking options on the bench; now he has few on the pitch either.
Troy Parrott, 18, is understandably “not ready at all,” the Spurs boss told the media. Ryan Sessegnon, he felt the need to remind them, is not a striker, despite having briefly, inexplicably been deployed as a left-forward earlier for a spell against Brighton.
That leaves using Dele Alli as a false nine as the most plausible solution, despite the England international’s misfiring in the 3-2 win over Aston Villa. Erik Lamela is being assessed for the latest in his litany of injuries.
Lucas Moura rarely enjoys success as a centre-forward, showing more and more all the time why Mauricio Pochettino famously declined to start him over Kane in the Champions League final. Steven Bergwijn is yet to be tried in a more central role, though he has impressed on the left.
The first leg of a Champions League last-16 tie is not the ideal time to be experimenting, but perhaps it is only a natural consequence of Daniel Levy’s approach; that is, to operate as if Spurs would have nothing to play for over the remainder of the season, until Kane will return.
And repeat, ad nauseum.
Kane’s injuries have arguably been exacerbated by Tottenham’s over-reliance on one striker, never having signed a consistently reliable back-up. Vincent Janssen proved a disaster in English football while Fernando Llorente’s moments of inspiration were fleeting.
The vice-captain has consequently been rushed back ahead of schedule at least twice in the last three years. There’s only so much one man’s ankles can take. It is Mourinho, as it was with Pochettino, who is left desperately trying to piece together a tapestry when all the key fabrics are being stripped away one by one.
Did he know that would be how he was operating when he took over, or as Andre Villas-Boas insinuated after being sacked in 2013, has this been another case of the chairman’s broken promises?
Son and Kane will return, but the fundamental problem – the one that underlies everything that has been wrong at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this season – is not going away.