Champions League final is a distant memory as Spurs stumbles

Tottenham players console Christian Eriksen after his missed penalty against Colchester.

(CNN)What a difference three months can make.

In June, Tottenham was 90 minutes away from lifting the Champions League trophy, the greatest prize in club football; on Tuesday, it was knocked out of the League Cup by Colchester United, a team ranked 70 places below it in England's third tier.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly where things have gone wrong so quickly for Spurs, although it's perhaps fair to say that reaching the Champions League final papered over some cracks that had started to show some time before.
Tottenham's away form since the middle of February reads: Played 26, won eight, drawn six, lost 12.
    With that appearance in the Champions League final coming amid a run of just four wins in its last 17 matches, it feels as though last season's European success came in spite of its form, not because of it.
    It should be mentioned that Spurs fielded a much-changed side in Tuesday's shootout defeat to Colchester -- 10 changes in total from the weekend's Premier League loss to Leicester -- but manager Mauricio Pochettino still ended the match with Dele Alli, Lucas Moura, Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela, Ben Davies and Son Heung-Min all on the pitch.
    Mauricio Pochettino will have to find a way to halt Tottenham's slide.
    Tottenham's away form especially has become a concern, with the team having won just twice on the road in its last 16 matches in all competitions, a run stretching back to the end of January. Those wins, somehow, came against Borussia Dortmund and Ajax in the Champions League.
    The manner in which Spurs has failed to secure what seemed to be certain victories on the road will be of even bigger concern, throwing away two-goal leads at Olympiacos and Arsenal and losing 2-1 from a winning position at Leicester.

    'Unsettled squad'

    Whether it's the individual personalized handshakes each member of the squad have for each other, or the passionate, almost fatherly, love Pochettino has for his players, its often been Tottenham's togetherness and team spirit that has helped it compete with its more financially powerful rivals.
    But now the main ailment afflicting the squad seems to be discontent.
    Pochettino has openly admitted that Eriksen's head had been turned by interest from Real Madrid, although no concrete offer ever arrived to prize Tottenham's playmaker away.
    One of the Argentine's main gripes this season has been the early closure of the English transfer window, which -- since last season -- now shuts before the Premier League campaign begins.
    Tottenham was one of 14 clubs to vote in favor of the early closure in 2017 but, as other major European leagues did not do the same, it left English clubs vulnerable to losing players and not being able to replace them.
    Some members of Pochettino's squad, including influential figures Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose, have made no secret of their desire to seek a new challenge elsewhere.
    Eriksen, Vertonghen and Alderweireld can leave Spurs for free at the end of this season when their contracts expire, while Rose's deal runs until the end of June 2021.
    Mauricio Pochettino has said interest from Real Madrid distracted Eriksen.
    "We need time again to build that togetherness that you need when you are competing at this level," Pochettino told reporters after the Colchester defeat. "When you have an unsettled squad always it's difficult and you lose time, then you need time to recover the time you lose.
    "That's where we are. Maybe our performances are good but you need this extra, which is mental, connection. It's energy to be all together, not to have different agendas in the squad.
    "We are in a period where it's a bit tough for us, but we keep working to find a solution. When this type of thing happens it's about staying clear and fresh and calm. We're trying to find solutions and we only need time."
      Next up for Spurs is an easier -- on paper at least -- Premier League match at home to Pochettino's former club Southampton, as the club hopes to improve on its haul of just eight points from six matches so far this season.
      Languishing in seventh place, already 10 points behind early pacesetter Liverpool, anything other than a win against a struggling Saints could leave Pochettino with one foot on the plank.