As the dust begins to settle from Tottenham Hotspur’s ‘almost’ perfect season, it’s time to look ahead to a new adventure. A new beginning. A new opportunity to do something special. A new Premier League season.
I’m not going to lie, the last ten weeks or so have been some of the most difficult weeks I’ve recently experienced as a Spurs fan – from having flashbacks of Craig Dawson’s header at White Hart Lane, to Eden Hazard’s equalising goal to officially put an end to our title bid, to being continuously reminded about ‘that’ final day of the season. It’s been horrific.
Everything that could have possibly gone wrong at the end of the season, did go wrong in every possible way. Even with the benefit of being a Spurs fan and always having that thought at the back of your head that something could go wrong even when everything seems to be going so right – nobody could have possibly foreseen us to have ended the season as atrociously as we did.
From the moment Hazard curled the ball into Hugo Lloris’ net, sending the Chelsea fans into raptures and jubilation, the Spurs fans into shock and horror, and officially crowning Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City as the Premier League champions, everything that was left there to play for, seemed to have now been lost in the Tottenham dressing room. So much effort, perhaps too much effort, had gone into that title race and once that was lost, all heads were dropped and that for me, could be the only explanation for our embarrassing end to the season.
I could spend all day moaning and complaining about the way we ended our season, but thankfully for you, I won’t. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still not recovered from last season’s disappointment and I probably still won’t until the first ball is kicked this month, but I’d much rather talk about the upcoming season and how we can improve on last season, instead of rambling on about the past which unfortunately can’t be changed, even though we’d give anything for such a great season to have ended a little differently. It’s time to look ahead.
Having seen some of the signings the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea have made, I’m aware some Spurs fans are underwhelmed with the two signings we’ve made so far in Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen. Sometimes it’s tough to remember that after last season, most of the bigger clubs will feel the need to rebuild and bolster their squads if they want to bounce back and reclaim their positions at the top of the table.
Do we need to bolster our squad like the other clubs though? Do we really?
I think it’s fair to say we don’t desperately need to improve our team like the other clubs do. After so long, we finally seem to have a settled squad where it’s difficult to improve unless a world class player becomes available and would perfectly fit into our side – there’s no point trying to add players into our team for the sake of it. We’re at the stage of making smart additions to an already settled team and we’ve already signed two players in two positions where we needed improvement. I always personally thought that our lack of quality in depth let us down in key fixtures last season – West Ham away is the first game that springs to mind. Mousa Dembele was ruled out with an injury in a game where we could have gone top of the table with a win at Upton Park. We looked like a depleted side without him in the team and games like those come back to you in May when the season has finished and makes you ask “but what if…”.
It should go without saying, but it is also hugely important that we begin and finish the season well. In our opening four games, we dropped nine points last season and we concluded the season by dropping another ten points. For a team that was chasing the title for a large part of the season, that is unacceptable – come to think of it all now, the title could well have been ours if it were not for a slow start and an even slower finish. Mistakes like that can only be seen as a good thing if we tutor ourselves from it, use them as a learning curve and prevent them from becoming a recurring theme.
I strongly believe that this season could be Pochettino’s biggest test that he’s faced so far as Spurs manager. The demand from supporters has always been meeting the requirements of bringing Champions League football back to the club and after two seasons, Mauricio Pochettino has delivered. A lot of people may tell you that we only made it into the top four due to the failings of other clubs instead of the progress of our own, but it is now Pochettino’s next objective to prove these people wrong. Whilst this season will undoubtedly be tougher with the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte all attempting to revive their clubs and bring them back to the top of the table, the benefit we have is that we have an already gelled team whilst a lot of the other bigger clubs are facing a transitional period after underperforming last season. If Pochettino does indeed match the successes of last season, it will portray that we done well last season, not through masking the failures of others, but through the progress of ours.
For me, an improvement on a (mostly) impressive last season would be to stay in the top four as well as having a nice run in the Champions League. I would love for us to be in a title race again and I would be amazed if we do end up being in with a shout for the league for two seasons running – it would certainly convey that last season was not a fluke as a lot of people make it out to be. I always try to make my pre-season predictions considerably realistic and I honestly think staying in the top four for two seasons running and cementing two successive years as a Champions League club should be classed as a good season.
One thing for sure is that we have the youngest squad in the league, under arguably one of the most wanted managers in Europe and that itself should excite supporters more than anything else. The pain of last season will be used as the strength of this upcoming season. As hard as it may be, especially after last season, we have to start believing again. There’s nobody at Tottenham right now that doesn’t wish to be there and doesn’t wish to be a part of Pochettino’s mission to make Spurs the best in the country once more.
So why not start to dream again?
For another nine months…