As another season in the top 4 draws to a close, Tottenham Hotspur can reflect on what did and didn’t go well this season.
Although this season saw them miss out on trophies once again, there are notable improvements in Tottenham’s performances, that allowed them to compete with the other big clubs amidst an onslaught of big spending and managerial merry-go-rounds.
A League of Highs and Lows
Spurs had a relatively slow start to their season, drawing 6 of their first 11 games. But they were quickly established as a hard-to-beat team, especially at home. Their unbeaten start to the season was almost immediately followed by away losses to Chelsea (2-1) and Manchester United (1-0) that brought Spurs down to Earth.
Afterwards, Tottenham went on a dominant winning run that would see them drop points only 3 more times in their next 19 games, all in away performances. Some of their most impressive results came against Chelsea (2-0) and Arsenal (2-0), the latter result playing a big role in allowing Spurs to finish above Arsenal for the first time since 1995.
Ultimately Tottenham can feel satisfied losing out on the league title to a dominant Chelsea side. Especially, considering Spurs have been consistently better than all of the other top 6 sides that would’ve hoped for a convincing title push this season. Their string of wins against the bottom half of the table and their difficult-to-beat nature against top teams played a massive role in nearly securing second place.
Juggling the Domestic Cups with League Success
Now Tottenham may have had another scintillating top 4 finish to be proud of, but their season must also be judged on their cup performances. As far as domestic cups go, Spurs had an early exit in the 4th round of the EFL Cup to Liverpool and a 4-2 semifinal loss to Chelsea in the FA Cup.
The poor showing in the EFL Cup may disappoint some fans, but it is clear that having one less competition to push for helped Tottenham this season as their high-pressing style makes it difficult to play so many matches in a season without heavy rotation. Choosing the EFL Cup as the lowest priority was certainly the most logical decision.
As far as the FA Cup goes, Tottenham need not be disappointed either, as they proved themselves to be one of the top 4 teams in the competition amidst the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City. Losing to this season’s stellar Chelsea side under Antonio Conte is nothing to be disappointed about, as they have had the stronger squad and fewer competitions to push for this season.
Woes in Europe
On the other hand, Tottenham’s first showing in the Champions League since the 2010-2011 season will surely be disappointing to the fans and club alike. Tottenham were placed in a very balanced group with AS Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen, and CSKA Moskow. They ended up crashing out of the group stage, finishing third in their group with a record of 2 wins, 1 draw and 3 losses. 2 of their losses came in their home games, which were played at Wembley Stadium.
Tottenham’s poor Champions League results demonstrated that they were unable to get results against truly top teams, as they were unable to win against the top 2 teams in the group. On top of that, Spurs lacked a true home advantage playing at Wembley, shown by the better results playing away instead of at home. This is almost a complete reversal from the team’s form in the league this season.
Once they dropped down into the Round of 32 in the Europa League, things went from bad to worse for Tottenham. Their collapse in Europe continued as they lost their first knockout tie against Gent with a 3-2 aggregate score. Once again, Spurs were unable to win at Wembley in a crucial second-leg match.
Squad and Transfers
Some of Tottenham’s failures in competitions outside of the Premier League could come from issues with their squad. Most of the noteworthy transfers made in the summer proved to be lackluster at best.
Vincent Janssen rarely started in the league and only had 2 goals to show for his work, while Moussa Sissoko was quite ineffective as well compared to his midfield companions.
The stand-out signing for Tottenham was surely Victor Wanyama from Southampton, who brought defensive stability and consistency in the midfield to allow the more attack-minded players the freedom to express their creativity.
With the attacking transfers lacking in the goal-scoring department, the majority of this responsibility fell on Harry Kane, who scored 20 goals in the league, and Dele Alli with 16 goals (including 2 important goals in the win over Chelsea). These goals have been vital to pull out wins against opponents that make themselves hard to break down and to teams in the league.
Before the season started, the main concern was whether Tottenham would be able to cope without the presence of Harry Kane and his massive contributions to the attack. The team was put to the test twice this season when Kane struggled with an ankle injury that had him out for two spells, missing a total of 16 games. During these periods without Kane, Janssen was initially seen as the go-to backup, but he proved unable to provide goals.
Fortunately for Spurs, the likes of Son Heung-Min (who scored 12 goals this season) and Dele Alli were more than able to score goals in Kane’s absence. Their contributions allowed Tottenham to maintain their unbeaten run during this period and make a push for second place towards the end of the season.
The Future Looks Bright
Now that Tottenham have secured Champions League for another season and finally finished above their North London rivals, the questions surrounding the club are concerned with the future.
Spurs have already demonstrated they can keep up with the other big teams in England despite the others’ massive spending and managerial appointments.
However, if they wish to compete on more fronts in the future, it seems that Tottenham will need to spend more money on adequate squad depth. That would also allow them to have a stronger finish in the league by preventing players from burning out due to the high-intensity style they employ.
Tottenham would also do well to continue their impressive league performances while improving against the top teams so that they can cement a place in the top 4.
Sacrificing domestic cup runs to accomplish this goal could allow Spurs to find stability amongst the elite sides in the league. Stability will also be crucial when Tottenham play their home league matches at Wembley next season before moving to their new stadium.
The fear is that they will damage their fearsome home form by moving to a stadium where opposing teams will put in more spirited performances.
Spurs will also have hopes of making it out of the group stage of the Champions League in their second consecutive attempt. Now that they have proved themselves yet again in the league, they may be able to dedicate more attention towards improving their performances on the European stage, especially if they make smart signings in the summer for squad depth.
Mauricio Pochettino will play an important role in the immediate future of Tottenham as he guides the club through an uncertain yet promising time. He has made massive progress in his project at the club. He has a solid core of young English talent that are playing an exciting brand of football. If he can keep his players together and consistently improve, then the future looks bright for Tottenham Hotspur.