Tottenham Hotspur: 2018/19 Premier League Preview
Without a penny spent this summer, a fourth consecutive top three finish is on the agenda in North London as Spurs finally move into their new stadium.
Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
Hoping to finish in the Premier League’s top three for a fourth consecutive season, Tottenham get their 2018/19 campaign underway on Saturday afternoon away to Newcastle United, the same fixture they won 2-0 this time last year.
The pressure on Mauricio Pochettino’s side is high, however. It’s their first season in the new stadium — which hosts its first league game on September 15th against Liverpool — the club still haven’t won a trophy since 2008 and they’re yet to make a summer signing. These factors come alongside a depleted squad to begin the season, with nine players having participated in the World Cup semi-finals.
Especially with their top six rivals all spending hefty sums of money over the transfer window, finishing in the top four will be harder than ever, which is the minimum expectation yet again in North London.
2017/18 Season Review
After a second-placed finish in 2016/17, Spurs were expected to take the next step and compete for — perhaps even winning— the Premier League title, but proved vastly inferior to eventual champions Manchester City, who beat them 3-1 and 4-1 home and away, respectively.
The Lilywhites were outside the top four for a majority of the season, and didn’t truly break it until gameweek 28, but eventually finished third behind the Citizens and Manchester United. Despite finishing lower than the previous season, their campaign was nonetheless impressive, complete with some big results along the way.
For example, Spurs earned their first win at Stamford Bridge since 1990 when they beat Chelsea 3-1, Dele Alli scoring a brace, whilst Christian Eriksen scored one of the fastest goals in Premier League history in a 2-0 victory against the Red Devils.
There was also the 4-1 win over Liverpool at Wembley, as well as the 3-1 Champions League victories against both Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, though they were knocked out by Juventus in the Round of 16. Spurs also reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup for a second consecutive season, knocked out by United.
A large part of their domestic success was due to England captain Harry Kane — who scored 30 league goals — with Alli, Eriksen and Son Heung-min also essential. Jan Vertonghen also deserves mention for a phenomenal season — taking the reins off Toby Alderweireld — and won Tottenham’s Player of the Season award.
Despite Pochettino’s calls for the club to “be brave” and “take risks” this summer to reach the next level of their development, Tottenham are the only Premier League club — and the only side competing in this season’s Champions League — yet to sign a player this summer.
They’ve been linked excessively with United’s Anthony Martial, Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovacic and Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish, with negotiations for the Villan reportedly still ongoing as he played in their opening fixture of the Championship.
Time is rapidly running out, however, as the transfer window closes on Thursday.
Whilst no senior players have yet been sold, Toby Alderweireld continues to be linked with a move to Manchester United, and the club were keen to sell Mousa Dembele, whose contract expires next summer.
Danny Rose was also expected to leave at the beginning of the summer, though there’s seemingly no interest in the left back, with the England international likely to stay.
Tottenham had numerous first team players competing in the World Cup semi-finals — with club captain Hugo Lloris going on to win the tournament with France — and they’ve only just returned to training. This means that they’re unlikely to be available for this weekend’s opener.
If Alderweireld stays and is reintegrated, Tottenham could revert to a three-man defence that became their base formation in 2016/17, but assuming he doesn’t, Pochettino will stick with a 4-2-3-1. There is scope, however, given their current personnel and injuries to shift to a 4-1-4-1.
Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez will occupy the two spots in the centre of defence, with Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies the first choice fullbacks as it stands. Rose and Serge Aurier — who has had a decent pre-season — will be hoping to usurp them.
Victor Wanyama is believed to have suffered a recurrence of last year’s knee injury, whilst Harry Winks is still rehabilitating from an ankle injury, which leaves Eric Dier, Moussa Sissoko and Dembele as the club’s central midfielders.
Son departs for the Asian Games from August 18th, but this paves the way for Lucas Moura, arguably Tottenham’s best player at the International Champions Cup. After signing from Paris Saint-Germain in January, and with a full pre-season under his belt, the Brazilian is expected to have a big impact this season.
The Key Question: Will Tottenham suffer at their new stadium?
Hark back to the beginning of the 2016/17 season and the atmosphere at the London Stadium was toxic. West Ham fans were fighting amongst themselves and they’d won twice in their first seven games in their new home.
The Hammers struggled, and the concern is the same might happen to Tottenham come September when they move back. However, the Lilywhites put doubts over their ability to win at Wembley to bed when they beat Liverpool 4-1 at the national stadium, going on to lose just twice at their temporary home — to Manchester City and Chelsea.
It proved they can cope with the adaptation to a new stadium, and, as such, moving to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium — as it’s currently named — shouldn’t be problematic.
Manchester City seem certain to retain the Premier League, whilst Liverpool are perhaps best-placed to challenge them for the title, so the best Spurs can hope for is another top three finish, a deep run in the Champions League and a piece of domestic silverware to satisfy an expectant fan-base.
Without sufficient squad depth, a run of injuries could harm the Lilywhites and — coupled with Arsenal and Chelsea’s expected improvement — they could struggle to finish in the top four.
A season without Champions League football could result in the departure of a number of key names next summer.
Tottenham will most likely finish fourth. Although they’re yet to sign a new player, the squad is unchanged from last season, which will benefit them against the tumult of Chelsea and Arsenal.
Once the World Cup participants are fit again, Spurs do have the quality to maintain their foundation of the previous three years.
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