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News

02 May 2018

Tottenham: Victims of success or perennial underachievers?

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In the beginning

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Stunted growth

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Ongoing issues

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Relativity

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Success?

(Photo credit: REUTERS/Dylan Martinez)

Harry Kane stated his belief that Spurs season should be considered a failure if they failed to win the FA Cup earlier last month. Mauricio Pochettino claimed after Monday night’s win against Watford that a top-four finish constitutes a very successful campaign. 

While both statements ring true, they can’t both be simultaneously correct and such is the Tottenham paradox. 

As Pochettino completes his fourth season in charge of the North London club, Tottenham’s evolution has hit a grey period. 

There are many ways in which success can be defined but without any discernible achievements this term, can Tottenham’s season really be declared as successful?

In the beginning

Back in August, there was little belief that Spurs could lift the Premier League title this season. 

The prospect of playing half of their matches at a stadium which seemed to hold a hoodoo over them did not bode well for their ambitions. 

(Photo credit: REUTERS/Dylan Martinez)

A squad packed full of quality but lacking significant depth meant that a sustained challenge for the league title was too much to expect, as was a simultaneous attack on several competitive fronts. 

Despite historically being a club built around success in cup competitions, modern football now dictates that a place in the top-four is equally, arguably more important to a club’s success.

Stunted growth

Pochettino’s three season’s to date have seen a steady progression in the club’s relative fortunes. 

Having flirted on the edge of the top-four since the 2009/10 season, Pochettino’s arrival saw them climb to fifth, third and then second last season. 

The FA Cup also returned increasingly longer runs which culminated in a semifinal defeat to Chelsea last April which felt unjust, while European results also improved under a cloud of could-do-better.

(Photo credit: Reuters/Paul Childs)

This season’s Champions League campaign provided much the same. They progressed through the group stages for the first time in this format of the competition only to be beaten by a well-weathered Juventus side who made their experience at this level count.

Another semifinal defeat in the FA Cup and what’s looking like a drop to 3rd place in the league hints at stagnation rather than progression. Under the circumstances of this season, treading water may not be a bad thing overall but are they losing their forward momentum?

Ongoing issues

The loss of Kyle Walker to Manchester City proved a big but not insurmountable problem for Spurs to deal with this season. 

It appears next season could carry more of the same with both Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose becoming more distant from the first team throughout this season. 

(Photo credit: REUTERS/Dylan Martinez)

The main problem with treading water, however, is the loss of time. While there are plenty of younger players in the squad who won’t be significantly affected, Hugo Lloris and Mousa Dembélé will both be 31-years-old at the beginning of next season and both have shown worrying signs of losing consistency in recent weeks. 

Despite this, Tottenham should arguably enter next season with a healthier squad than previous years. 

One of Pochettino’s greatest strengths is undoubtedly his micro-management skills which have developed many of the players at Tottenham. There is no longer a feeling that Spurs’ first-team is short-staffed, rather that it “only” requires strengthening in one or two key areas. 

Relativity

But all of this is relative.

With Spurs currently trailing Manchester United by six points and on a rough parity with Liverpool, the two club’s from the North West have made significant improvements from the respective 17 and 10 point advantages Tottenham held over them last season. 

(Photo credit: Reuters/Paul Childs)

It’s easy to lose sight of the larger picture when focusing on the smaller details and Tottenham need to look at the bigger picture.

It can be argued that Tottenham are at a disadvantage financially over the likes of the big-spending Manchester sides.However, this is the playing field that they are on. While it offers a reason why they don’t advance as quickly, it should not be held as an excuse for not being able to compete with their rivals. 

Success?

This was the season which offered little in the way of tangible targets which could be used to qualify success. 

Cast from their home into a Wembley wilderness, improvements were expected to continue but the Premier League title appeared to still be out of reach while a domestic cup was on their wish-list rather than viewed as a necessity. Next season this must change.

The problem is, Tottenham must now must make another major leap forward if they’re to deliver the long-promised goal of winning silverware. 

With pressure increasing on them to deliver with each empty-handed year that passes, Pochettino needs his team to mature into cold-eyed killers rather than a perpetual cycle of would-be assassins.

Whether they’ve achieved any muted success this season will not be fully known until we know what develops next. For success to come next season, Spurs need to take the risk of setting big targets and thriving or falling by these goals. 

Does anyone currently expect them to win the Premier League next season? You can’t score if you don’t aim.

Could Spurs be title contenders next season? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.