Richard Buxton: Spurs’ naked ambition is finally exposed
The 2-1 defeat by Liverpool is their fourth loss in five Premier League matches, a new low in Pochettino's near five-year tenure
The Emperor's New Clothes have been sitting in Tottenham Hotspur's wardrobe all along.
From English Premier League title contenders to scraping a top-four finish in the space of barely three months, Mauricio Pochettino's side can no longer hide behind naked ambition.
Should Arsenal overcome Newcastle United this morning, the Lilywhites will find themselves clinging to the final Champions League qualification place by sole virtue of goal difference.
A 2-1 defeat by Liverpool both condemned them to a fourth loss in their previous five league games and recorded a fresh nadir during Pochettino's near-five years at the helm.
Their 10th loss of the season matches the combined figure recorded in successive campaigns between 2015 and 2017, when the call of glory beckoned but was crucially never answered.
In truth, the rot was always going to set in at some point; Spurs had successfully ridden the crest of a wave at a time when cumulative factors had predicted an imminent downfall.
Minimal squad investment over consecutive transfer windows invariably took its toll on a squad who have gone above and beyond over the past 12 months, for both club and country.
Taking marginal gains at the season's midway point was previously considered a hallmark of champions in waiting. The stark reality is that it was symptomatic of a slowing momentum.
At the World Cup, Spurs' players ran longer and harder than any others. That both Hugo Lloris and Toby Alderweireld, two of nine to reach the tournament's semi-final, were culpable in allowing the Reds to enjoy a fortuitous upper hand in the EPL title race is no coincidence.
Until their captain's poor judgment, Spurs appeared destined to take a hard-fought point away from Anfield and deal a potential hammer blow to their hosts' own domestic prospects.
In Russia last summer, Lloris was hailed as king of the world, but he has devolved into a court jester since.
Only Everton's Jordan Pickford edges out the Tottenham skipper for committing errors leading to goals since the beginning of the 2016/17 season.
Pochettino's persistence with the France goalkeeper is no longer vindicated.
Often in big games, Lloris' moments of mania resurface to undermine Tottenham's pursuit of perfection.
Lloris' personal belief that the belated move into their new stadium later this week will recalibrate a season which has lurched from promise to pitfalls is ambitious at best.
Thursday morning's (Singapore time) visit of Crystal Palace may lay to rest a nomadic existence - which had to be dragged out for two-thirds of the current campaign - but it does not constitute a quick fix.
Returning to the right place at the wrong time offers a potential sliding-doors moment.
Next week's Champions League quarter-final first-leg meeting with Manchester City could serve as a catalyst for their current top-four push, and even tangible progress in the competition itself.
Defeating the Eagles first would go some way to banishing misgivings that Pochettino's boys are now in decline rather than their previous ascendancy.
Anything other than an end to their barren run, however, merely adds fuel to the bonfire of condemnation.
The new White Hart Lane is supposedly a game-changer for Tottenham; one which will allow them to enjoy an elevated level in European football's hierarchical structure.
Pochettino possesses a team capable of mirroring that grandiose.
They need to prove it again.