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08 Mar 2018

Tottenham: Does the Juventus loss mean the season is a failure?

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Contextualising the Juventus defeat

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What now?

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Focussing on positives

(Photo credit: @cfcunofficial)

The circumstances of Tottenham’s elimination in the Champions League will undoubtedly leave a bitter taste. 

After getting a good result in Turin and playing excellently for most of the second leg, questions of “what if?” are only natural when progression was so close.

In a global context in which the winning of trophies is considered paramount, Mauricio Pochettino's side continue their hunt for silverware.

Whether or not this is a fair assessment of success, it is remarkable how the Argentine's tenure at the club has produced nothing in the way of trophies. 

In fact, across the Spurs squad, the players have only accrued nine trophies between themselves: seven Eredivisie titles, a Coupe de France and a Copa Libertadores. By comparison, the Juventus team have managed an incredible 148 trophy haul.

For Tottenham, this could all change if they go on to win the FA Cup this season. But will this be enough to adjudge their season to be a success?

Contextualising the Juventus defeat

This is a young team, with little European experience. Juventus under Allegri have reached two of the last three finals, and been knocked out by Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. 

That Tottenham nearly joined that group of superclubs is a credit to them. In knockout defeat to Allegri's team, they join the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona, Real Madrid and last season’s exceptional Monaco team - by no means a disgrace.

Detractors will churlishly take glee in labelling Tottenham’s exit a "bottling" but the fact is Tottenham’s campaign was a bigger leap forward in European competition than anyone could reasonably have expected. 

If, for example, their North London rivals want to mock their exit, they should be reminded Tottenham’s performance over the two legs was more impressive than any of Arsenal’s in European knockout competition for nearly a decade now. 

Spurs topped their group by beating Real Madrid, the reigning champions and went unbeaten in trips to the Signal Iduna Park and Santiago Bernabeu. In the knockouts, they went toe to toe with last season’s other finalist, Juventus, outplaying the experienced European heavyweight for 80% of the tie. This campaign undoubtedly signifies progress and they can have pride in defeat.

Had they got through, Tottenham will rightly have considered themselves with a shot at the trophy, but they would still have had to navigate three more rounds and with so many exceptional teams still in the competition, it will have been a tall order. 

They can still consider their European exploits as a tenet of a successful campaign. 

What now?

With the dust settling on their European exit, Tottenham now have to assess the rest of their season and what would constitute a good season.

In the league, the title is beyond them but Tottenham can have ambitions of another second-place finish. With Liverpool into the Champions League quarterfinals and Manchester United likely to join them, they have an advantage over their rivals. Consolidating their top four positions, especially five points ahead of a falling apart Chelsea, is the least they can do. 

A strong finish to their Premier League campaign is important, but focus should shift to the FA Cup. Winning the trophy - a first under Pochettino - is something they should be targeting, especially without the distraction of European football. 

With Liverpool and Manchester City out of the competition, they are arguably the best team left in it. It is on them to corroborate that. 

Swansea are in good form, and a trip to the Liberty Stadium for the quarterfinal could prove tricky. However, Tottenham now operate at a level where no excuses could be made in defeat. Beating them is imperative. The same applies should they meet Brighton, Leicester, Southampton or Wigan. 

Progression would also give them a quasi-home-advantage at Wembley in the semi-finals and the final. 

Focussing on positives

Knocking out Juventus might have been an unreasonable expectation but, under Pochettino, Tottenham have shown an ability to beat - and crucially, outplay - both Chelsea and Manchester United. 

Maintaining their status as a top four team and putting in creditable performances in Europe would make this a perfectly adequate campaign for Pochettino’s team. In fact, in a wider fiscal context that is still an overachievement. 

But now is the time to add a trophy, because Tottenham have shown they are good enough to win this FA Cup.

What do you think constitutes a good season for Spurs? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.