2016/17 Season Recap
Tottenham were, arguably, the best team in the Premier League in terms of the football they played, scoring the most goals, conceding the fewest and becoming the only side to have three players -Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son- to score over 20 goals in all competitions. However, they finished the season empty-handed.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men started the season extremely well and embarked on a 12-game unbeaten streak that took them to the top of the table, past 100% Manchester City after ten games. However, a run of four consecutive draws and a defeat to Chelsea, all without Kane, saw them drop out of the top four.
A loss to Manchester United followed, but Spurs them endured a brilliant run of form that saw them win 19 of the remaining 23 games of the season, losing only to Liverpool and West Ham. They pushed Chelsea almost to the wire and kept the title race alive, but they fell short once more.
In the cups, Spurs enjoyed a run to the FA Cup semi-final, but lost 4-2 to champions Chelsea at this season’s home, Wembley, but were dumped out of the EFL Cup in the fourth round. Continentally, their Champions League campaign was a disaster, with Spurs finishing third in the group and suffering a humiliating Europa League exit to Gent in the Round of 32.
That’s correct, yes. Spurs remain the only side in the entirety of English football yet to sign a player in the transfer window. With squad depth lacking and the season beginning this weekend, time is seemingly running out for Daniel Levy to make something happen.
In terms of targets and expected deals, Ross Barkley remains priority number one it would seem. Moreover, signing a right back has been made all the more important after Kieran Trippier’s injury versus Juventus.
Targets include: Ricardo Pereira (FC Porto), Jeremy Toljan (Hoffenheim), Benjamin Henrichs (Bayer Leverkusen) and Joao Cancelo (Valencia.)
Kyle Walker, RB (Manchester City, £50 million)
Nabil Bentaleb, CM (Schalke, £19 million)
Clinton N’Jie, RW/ST (Marseille, £7 million)
Federico Fazio, CB (Roma, £3 million)
Josh Onomah, CM (Aston Villa, Loan)
Given the fees raised over the summer, it makes it all the more surprising that Spurs are yet to dip their toes into the murky waters of the summer transfer market.
Most important player: Christian Eriksen
There’s actually a number of players that all make a case for Spurs’ most important player, but in my opinion it’s Christian Eriksen. Spurs coped well without Harry Kane whilst he was injured, with Alli and Son stepping up to the goal-scoring mantle, whilst Jan Vertonghen deputised in Toby Alderweireld’s absence.
Without Eriksen, though, the team cannot function. The Dane is so important to team coherency that’s imperative he stays fit. He’s the midfield metronome that helps Tottenham tick, providing a club-high number of assists (15) and creating the most chances in the Premier League (111).
When Eriksen plays well, the entire side raise the game, such is his importance. All play flows through him and when on form, he’s one of the best playmakers in the world.
One to watch: Marcus Edwards
With Josh Onomah having completed a loan move to Championship promotion hopefuls Aston Villa, it leaves a spot on the bench open for another young talent to try to break through into the first team.
Such is the strength of Spurs’ academy that there are number of players I could have chosen, but Marcus Edwards has that special something about him and has caught my eye frequently.
He cuts a diminutive figure, but Edwards is agile on the ball and retains possession extremely well. He boasts an array of tricks and has the ability to finish too, but needs to add a little more composure and maturity to his game, mental attributes that will develop.
The 18-year-old recently signed a new contract with the club, perhaps on the assurance of more first team opportunities, and looked impressive once more at the U19 European Championships, coming off the bench against Holland to set up the winning goal in style.
Biggest weakness: Squad depth
Chelsea may have won the title, but man-for-man, Spurs have the better starting XI, of that there’s no doubt. The reason the Blues won the league, therefore, is because of their superior squad depth, able to rotate players with ease without sacrificing first team quality.
Spurs will begin the season in a weaker position than when they ended the previous campaign. They’ve lost Kyle Walker, Trippier is injured and by Pochettino’s own admission, Kyle Walker-Peters isn’t ready for the first XI.
Squad depth harmed Spurs last season and categorically will do so again as it’s an issue Pochettino and Levy have not yet addressed. They need quantity to replace first teamers without losing any quality. A hard ask, but not impossible. It’s the only weakness Spurs have.
The brilliance of Spurs’ current personnel is that they’re versatile enough to work effectively in a variety of tactical systems.
Last year’s XI is still the strongest, given Spurs haven’t actually added any new faces as of yet. The only difference is Trippier comes in for Man City-bound Walker.
Spurs were at their best with a three-man defence and Victor Wanyama the defensive midfielder coming deep to provide the fourth defensive option.
It allowed the wing backs (Danny Rose and Trippier) to maraud forwards and get involved offensively, whilst it put Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen more central and closer to Harry Kane, where all three can influence proceedings in and around the box.
Pochettino, as was the case many times last season, could revert to a 4-2-3-1, with Heung-Min Son coming in as a third attacking midfielder. This formation is best against some Premier League opponents and will be utilised at times in 2017/18.
It sees Eric Dier drop out, as a midfield duo of Wanyama-Mousa Dembele is without doubt the strongest, but the weakness, for me, is at right back.
Trippier is best when he can focus on the offensive part of his game, hence in a back three/five with an additional centre-back for cover. He gets exposed in a flat back four more easily and it will be problematic against quick, tricky wingers.
First five fixtures
Spurs begin their season with a tough away tie to St James’ Park. Newcastle United may have just been promoted, but the Magpies aren’t a bad side at all and they’re well-coached by Premier League veteran Rafael Benitez. Spurs, too, don’t have the best of records in Newcastle and it’ll prove a difficult opening day test.
It’s almost as if the fixture list isn’t entirely random?! Spurs’ first game at Wembley, the venue nightmares are made of, is against the defending champions. In truth, Chelsea are far more vulnerable this year than last, there’s discontent in the camp and a strong chance Eden Hazard will be injured. If Spurs can put the curse behind them, there’s every chance they can win. However, it’s Wembley, and it’s Tottenham, which spells disaster. A flip of the coin…
The sort of opposition Tottenham would absolutely steamroll at White Hart Lane last year, but Wembley, again, is a different beast. Nonetheless, there’ll be plenty of space on the big pitch for the likes of Alli and Eriksen to exploit in behind the Burnley defence and Rose (or Ben Davies) and Trippier (hopefully) should use the width of the pitch to stretch them and create gaps for Kane. Theoretically a walk in the park.
Another tricky away encounter at the beginning of the season. Spurs drew this fixture 1-1 on the opening day of last season, but should be able to win if they manage to find some rhythm in the first three games.
However, Everton are well-drilled under Ronald Koeman, have reinforced their defence and seemingly added final third quality, proving a tough and unknown prospect. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of gelling to be done amongst the Toffees’ new recruits and it remains to be seen how the likes of Davy Klaassen and Sandro Ramirez will adapt. The sort of game Spurs find a way to draw though…
Swansea City (H)
Another game Spurs should put to bed within the first half. By this point, the nerves of Wembley should be over and done with and they’d have found some coherency in their game. Paul Clement organised the Swans well and they don’t go down without a fight, but theoretically another three points.
It’s hard to measure success with Spurs given the fact they’re playing out of their regular home for the season. Superficially, the club will project another top four finish as successful, citing their lack of financial might as a hinderance against the other Premier League clubs.
However, from a fan’s perspective, silverware is the order of the day. It’s important to capture a trophy to keep the promising group of players together and create some sort of legacy.
It’s unrealistic to suggest Spurs will win the Premier League, though it does remain an outside possibility. A top four finish, an extended run in the Champions League, plus the Carabao or FA Cup and most fans would be content heading into the new stadium.
RealSport prediction: 4th
RealSport have predicted that Spurs will finish in the top four, but just about in fourth place. The lack of squad depth will prove influential come the midway point of the season, whilst it remains to be seen whether Spurs will struggle at Wembley.
The Manchester clubs have gotten stronger, whilst Spurs have arguably got weaker collectively. It doesn’t look too promising, but hopefully a cup competition can provide some glory.
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