Tottenham Hotspur enjoyed an intriguing first campaign under the tutelage of Mauricio Pochettino, with the club eventually finishing in a respectable fifth place. But there was an underlying sense that for Spurs, the campaign could have yielded so much more.
After all, not only did the north Londoners lose a League Cup final, they were in contention for a spot in the top four for large portions of the season before fading away late on. Subsequently, they also failed to take full advantage of the stunning and unexpected rise to prominence of Harry Kane, who emerged as a goalscorer extraordinaire. Ultimately, his superb tally counted for nothing.
There should be some positivity looking forward, though. After all, Pochettino’s bespoke principles do take a while to implement fully and those players he utilized last term will be better versed in the high-octane style he demands. After another full pre-season under the Argentine, expect Spurs to be replenished and raring to go.
Getting in the top four will be a major ask, but after finishing in fifth last season, crashing the Champions League party must be the aim for Tottenham. If Pochettino can facilitate that kind of finish, it’ll be one of the standout managerial jobs of the season.
Reasons to be Positive
There’s a talented first XI for Pochettino to tap into and the spine of the side, in particular, is very impressive. Toby Alderweireld looks a perfect partner for Jan Vertonghen at the back, Ryan Mason was a revelation last season in midfield and the interplay between Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane was a joy to watch throughout 2014-15.
Some of the club’s creative players really came on last season too. Nacer Chadli was a regular source of goals and assists, Erik Lamela showed major signs of improvement under Pochettino and Eriksen proved he can be a decisive influence in big games for the club.
Reasons to be Negative
While there is plenty of quality within the group, there are areas in which Spurs do lack depth. Roberto Soldado has shown he’s not up to the standard of the Premier League, which will be a worry given he looks set to deputise for Kane again. In orthodox central midfield, a commanding influence to complement Mason also wouldn’t go amiss.
The club’s pre-season has been a bit of a mess too. While the work done on the pitch will have been beneficial, Spurs will arrive back in the country less than 48 hours before they open the season against Manchester United. Granted, it’s just one game, but setting an early precedent against a positional rival will be so important if Tottenham are to make good on lofty ambitions.
Key Player – Harry Kane
Plenty sat back and admired the rich run of form Kane was enjoying last season, but underpinning the hyperbolic discussion surrounding the fresh faced striker was whether or not he would be a one season wonder. In 2015-16, supporters will discover that in earnest.
Kane’s growth in the previous campaign was nothing short of extraordinary, ascending from the fringes of the first team to becoming an England international in the space of a few weeks. All the qualities—anticipation, power, pace and ingenuity—seem to be in place for Kane to blossom again, but how will he cope with the pressure of leading the Tottenham line for a second season with defenders well aware of his quality?
Prediction – 6th
The team that finished a place behind Spurs last season, Liverpool, have invested heavily this summer and will be doing their utmost to usurp Tottenham and push on towards the top spots. As of yet, although the purchases of Alderweireld, Kevin Wimmer and Kieran Trippier all look good value, Tottenham have yet to add similar star quality.
But there’s still plenty to like about this squad and provided Kane can fire on all cylinders once again, Spurs won’t have to worry about dropping out of the top six. A couple more high calibre acquisitions are needed if Tottenham are going to be playing in next season’s Champions League, though.
Expert Opinion – Matt Lichtenstadter (World Soccer Talk)
Thanks mainly to the exploits of Harry Kane, and Liverpool’s cratering, Spurs were able to finish fifth last season without being close to a finished article. After a summer when the squad was cut down with surgical precision, Tottenham looks to take that one step forward that has eluded them for nearly five years. Problem is, that step is looking increasingly difficult and unlikely, and little of it coming from their own doing.
As of this writing, Spurs still don’t have the defensive midfielder they desperately need (Eric Dier isn’t going to cut it), nor do they have a true backup to Kane. Kane’s 2014-15 was no fluke, but he’s not going to be able to play every game of Spurs’ always glutted fixture list. Goals need to come from somewhere other than his and Nacer Chadli’s boots, and looking at the squad as of now that’s asking plenty. Spurs are deeper along the back four which should help some of the defensive issues, but the gaping holes in the squad are, as usual, going to be filled at the last possible minute.
Cracking the Top Four requires Spurs overachieving and another team going sideways. The former is possible, if unlikely, but the latter is something that seems hard to peg down. Arsenal and Chelsea will compete for the title, Manchester United’s signings should cement them back in the Champions League, and even though Manchester City is showing signs of age, they still have Sergio Aguero.
Bottom line: To reach the Champions League, Spurs may need a bit of luck. Anyone who has watched Spurs for long enough knows there’s not much of it to go around in N17.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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