Tottenham Hotspur enjoyed their most successful seasons yet as they finally established themselves as title contenders, chasing Chelsea all the way last season and coming close to pipping arch-rivals Arsenal in the season before, although this was easily achieved in the 2016/17 campaign. It’s no wonder fans are now standing up and taking notice of a side which has slowly grown into a success.
The rise of Tottenham Hotspur
Much of that rise from the ashes has come from manager Mauricio Pochettino, who had a few successful seasons with Southampton before making the move to North London. Not only has he immediately found success in taking the squad to the next level, he’s also retained star players and ensured his side plays attractive football, as a cohesive unit. Although there’s been the major success of Harry Kane, who has become one of England’s best strikers in modern time, a lot of what Tottenham have done is down to playing as a team, with many of the first eleven players now becoming household names such as Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Hugo Lloris.
So with such a rise in form over the past couple of seasons, seeing great consecutive improvement, 2017/18 was set to become the season that finally saw Spurs mount a serious title challenge. Instead of being the only team who can follow the leader, the North London side should now be overtaking first place and causing serious concern for the clubs that have won the league in recent times. Now almost halfway through this year’s campaign, cracks are beginning to show in what seemed like an impenetrable side. For a club who looked on the cusp of winning trophies, unfortunatemustly, in the league, they have not shown the right kind of form that could win titles.
So what has gone wrong? What is it that has been the downfall which has caused them to slip so far behind the leaders? There’s not a lot of blame if Manchester City cannot be caught as they have truly taken the league by storm, only dropping two points the whole season, but to be drifting in fifth place and going further behind the pace of Manchester United is not something that was foreseeable at the start of the season. With the risk of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool competing with each other for the remaining two spots in the Top Four, where does that leave Tottenham, who were expected to finish above at least two of those three clubs?
In reality, there’s been a real lack of pace on the flanks in this Spurs side, even with the likes of Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli. There’s not been a real attacking threat down the wings and with Erik Lamela only just coming back to full fitness, even he seems a bit of a disappointment considering his price tag. This could mean Pochettino now has to look into the transfer market and sign the star winger his team deserves.
Summer window failings
The last summer window went by with very little incomings for The Lilywhites as their only notable signings were Serge Aurier, Davinson Sanchez and Fernando Llorente. In fact, the biggest deal of Spurs’ window was selling Kyle Walker to Manchester City. Not only did the England international become a regular at his new club and looks set to win his first Premier League title, but his departure also set a precedent of what chairman Daniel Levy is prepared to sell his top players for, according to former player Jamie Redknapp.
“Letting Kyle Walker go in the summer looks like a huge mistake. I thought it was good business at the time but now what it’s done is set a precedent in the dressing room. It looks to me that the players know what the going rate is”, the Sky Sports pundit stated. “Once one leaves, then another one. It gives every player an out. They’ve still got a small club mentality there.”
It is with that ‘small club mentality’ that frustrates a lot of the fans who strongly believe Spurs should be taking their football to the next level, to the stage that can truly propel them above rivals Arsenal. Even with their short-term rise, Tottenham haven’t had anything to show for it, and with no trophies, they simply cannot merit finishing above Arsenal as a successful season. You could ask the question – would you rather win an FA Cup or finish second in the league? The only answer for me is, I’d take the trophy as nobody remembers a league runner-up. But if Tottenham can then take it to the next stage and win the league, there’s only one successful team then.
Who can Spurs bring in?
Pochettino will surely feel he now has to bring in a few faces to get their season back on track. It’s not out of the question to make the Top Four or to even push United for second place, as nothing is set in stone. They might not have the capacity to challenge a team like Man City, as evidenced by their 4-1 thumping by Pep Guardiola’s side but they certainly can close the gap with a few talented additions.
What’s needed at Spurs is a winger of real attacking pace and threat as well as replacements or even upgrades for players who could be on the move, such as Mousa Dembele and Danny Rose. The back four are in a pretty good shape, however, if Rose leaves, there needs to be a replacement but the real focus is on the midfield and wide positions which need strengthening.
In the media, there’s been a lot of speculation regarding Inter Milan midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, who is on loan at Valencia this season. Pochettino has been a long-time admirer of the 24-year-old who is playing a vital role in Valencia’s great season so far, which has seen them competing with Barcelona for the title. With a presence like Kondogbia who marshals the midfield and can help retain possession, Tottenham would instantly be a better side.
As good as Victor Wanyama and Dembele have been for Spurs, having someone like Kondogbia on the books is an excellent option to ensure things are kept tight at the back as well as allowing players such as Eriksen and Alli to thrive further forward.
Another player who can replace a man on the move is Benfica full-back, Alex Grimaldo. The young former Barcelona Academy player is making a name for himself in Portugal with Benfica and is someone who can come in and really cement his place as the starting left-back in place of Rose. It seems ever since being linked with Manchester United, Rose has seemed out of place at the Wembley Stadium and looks a shadow of the player we saw last season who was such a menace for the opposition.
22-year-old Grimaldo can compete with Ben Davies as the starting left-back, giving Pochettino enough rotation options should Rose leave. Yet the most important signing of all will be a winger, which should be signed in January to have an immediate impact.
There was a lot of rumours going around regarding Monaco winger Thomas Lemar, who quite simply had the busiest summer without actually going anywhere. The Frenchman played a sensational role in winning the Ligue 1 title with his side and was instantly the talk of the town considering the heroics he put on show. Teammates left, right and centre have left but Lemar was the only player who had not yet made his departure. A talented winger with the ability to ghost past players, Lemar is undoubtedly one of Europe’s hottest talents.
However, after a summer linking him away to the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool, the 22-year-old remained in France, and will likely be up for grabs again during January. If Spurs are looking for that edge, Lemar is the man who can simply provide an attacking threat that is different to anything they have at the moment.
What does the future hold?
Even with three options here, Pochettino is not too focused on short-term gains as he looks to acquire signings six months early, then wait for their arrival in the summer. With such a competitive transfer window, it’s no surprise that players are hard to come by in the middle of the season, as many players will only make major moves at the end of the campaign.
“In January it’s so difficult to find the right profile of the player to add in this transfer window to help you achieve what you want”, Pochettino explained. “You need six or seven months for the players to fit, adapt themselves to the team, the dynamics, everything.”
With that statement, it’s unclear whether the Spaniard will sign any players that will come into this side straightaway and will most likely look for players to bring in this summer. But by then, will it be too late?
If Tottenham do not make the Top Four, they will have regressed badly and when you have a bad season, your top players start to have thoughts of brighter futures elsewhere. If Pochettino cannot deliver Champions League football, why would players like Kane, Lloris, Toby Alderweireld or Alli stay? What’s stopping them from making those big-money moves abroad or to one of the Manchester clubs?
There is no doubt Tottenham are on the brink of success, but without making those big signings, they simply will not compete for any trophies to end the drought. It’s all well and good saying you’ve progressed, but with no medals, what brings the motivation for the top players to stay?