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Spurs 2015/16 season: A stepping stone to greater heights


Waiting on the dust to settle from the disaster at St. James Park will take some time for Tottenham Hotspur supporters, but when it does, the 2015-16 season will be looked back on as one that could be a stepping stone to a new era for a club that has found itself too often playing from behind in the crowded Premier League.

The club’s appearance in the 2010-11 Champions League, and their amazing run to the quarterfinals, turned out to be the exception not the rule in recent club history. Ever since, multiple managers and a countless list of players have tried to bring Spurs back to that point and until this year failed to do so. There weren’t many indications that this season was going to change those fortunes either. Questions were littered everywhere throughout the squad, including at defensive midfield, fullback and even at striker. All of them were answered emphatically, including Harry Kane proving he wasn’t a one season wonder by winning the Golden Boot. How would Mauricio Pochettino evolve as a manager after his first season in charge? He became one of the better and most coveted mangers in the league with the way Spurs pressed, defended and attacked consistently all season.

So this Spurs team, the team that many expected to finish outside the top four once again, ended up giving Leicester the biggest run for their money in the title race, and only ran out of steam at the tail end of the season. Certainly, finishing behind Arsenal will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of many Spurs supporters as it should, but that shouldn’t diminish any of the accomplishments for what was a campaign that should let Spurs supporters dream again. They are in the Champions League group stage without having to play a qualifying two legged tie, have most of the key members of the squad including the manager locked down for the foreseeable future, and are in an enviable position as most of their competitors will probably undergo some significant squad turmoil this summer.

When Spurs played at their best, they were the best team in the league consistently. Eric Dier has evolved from centerback cum fullback into one of the league’s best defensive midfielders, and alongside him Mousa Dembele became one of the best box-to-box midfielders in Europe with his own renaissance of a season. Even while Jan Vertonghen missed two months with injury, Toby Alderweireld became a steadying hand as one of the Premier League’s best centerbacks and lead Spurs of all teams to have the best defensive record in the league. Kyle Walker and Danny Rose both became more complete fullbacks this season, which is not something most Spurs fans expected to see after up and down performances for multiple seasons from both men. Erik Lamela, once considered a massive transfer flop evolved into an integral part of the Tottenham pressing machine while still showing some of the guile that made him Tottenham’s most expensive transfer purchase ever. And Dele Alli only went out and won PFA Young Player of the Year with his jaw-dropping performances after starting the season on the bench.

For the future, this team needs more depth across most positions, as the last four games of the season indicated. Mauricio Pochettino needs more options in midfield beyond Dier and Dembele, as Ryan Mason proved he’s not quite up to this level of play. While it’s going to be almost impossible to replace what Dembele does directly, there are certainly players available for Paul Mitchell and company to scout and sign that would deputize for him so he doesn’t burn out again next season. Nabil Bentaleb figures to play a role next season after his campaign this year was scuppered by injuries, but behind him there needs to be someone else to play important Champions League and cup matches. Harry Kane also needs someone to help deputize for him up front. If he was ever injured and out for a significant stretch, this Spurs team has no one to directly replace him in the squad. There could be depth added at almost every positon, but it doesn’t appear that there will be many purchases this summer outside of possibly two or three, but those buys have to be spot on if Spurs want to cement their place in the Champions League.

In this wild Premier League season, Spurs benefitted massively from most of their rivals being off the pace and took advantage of it to once again qualify for the Champions League. Next season with Antonio Conte at Chelsea, Pep Guardiola at City and a re-invigorated Liverpool, combined with the other traditional powers as well as Leicester, West Ham, Southampton and the massive influx of cash coming into the coffers of every team, cementing a Champions League place might be incredibly difficult. While there is every reason to be incredibly optimistic and excited about this Tottenham team’s future and potential as they get ready to move into their new stadium, this upcoming campaign could be a tricky one as they try to balance all of those interests on a very thin tightrope. Mauricio Pochettino seems to be exactly the right man to do that, but he has one of his biggest managerial challenges ahead of him to balance everything.

While that bitter taste will linger in the mouth of every Spurs supporter for some time, don’t let that tinge the overall sweetness of what was the best and most exciting season for the club in recent memory.

The next challenge will be to see if they can sustain this new success on a consistent basis. On the evidence of this campaign, there’s no reason to believe Tottenham Hotspur won’t be able to.

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