Tottenham Hotspur have gotten off to a most exciting start of a season. It’d be lovely if the season just ended now and Spurs were crowned champions… but, unfortunately, we still have 36 match-days to go.
This post will be something to look back on, at the end of the season, but first I beg the question… what would represent a successful season for Tottenham Hotspur?
Mauricio Pochettino will have the team believing that they can win the league this year. He had Artur Boruc believing that they could make Champion’s League in the same year that they were promoted. This is the right attitude – a loser’s attitude is poisonous and aiming for the top won’t do any harm, but that’s not the question I’m pondering – what’s the least Spurs should be happy with?
The Old Nemesis
There have been countless iterations of this very same discussions between Spurs fans and, doubtless, other fanbases who share a vociferous rivalry. It all starts from a small question – would you take fifth and finishing above [insert-rival-team-here] or fourth and finishing below [insert-rival-team-here]?
Let’s take Spurs and their amoebic positively amiable rivals, Arsenal. My response is always the same – what team do you support?
I would, without a second thought, take finishing fourth but below Arsenal. I am a Spurs supporter, I am not an Arsenal sadist. I’m still going to laugh at them drawing to a team with Steven Naismith in it, sure, but Arsenal aren’t the barometer of Spurs’ success, even if Spurs are the barometer of Arsenal’s success.
To dovetail this section, any judge of Spurs’ success for this season shouldn’t account for Arsenal, or, for that matter, any judge of success for Liverpool shouldn’t account for Everton et al.
Just How Good Are Spurs?
At this early stage, it’s all conjecture. There isn’t enough anecdote or data available for us to make a proper call. Is that going to stop me? Hardly.
The best place to start is naturally Southampton of last season. At times, last season, Southampton were simply irresistible . They did, however, struggle a lot against the better teams in the league and suffer from inconsistency throughout the season.
There has been a lot of hyperbole surrounding Southampton. There first XI was superb, even if Jack Cork and Steven Davis were two of the players in it. Behind the first XI, there’s Victor Wanyama and James Ward-Prowse who, I would say, could make an impact. One thing that is absolutely essential for a team that plays a high pressing style like Spurs will this season, is another XI behind the first XI – which Spurs have, and then some.
Against QPR, the subs that were used were Mousa Dembele, Harry Kane and Roberto Soldado. The subs that weren’t used were Lewis Holtby, Ben Davies, Aaron Lennon and Brad Friedel. The players that weren’t even in the squad were Kyle Walker, Vlad Chiriches, Sandro (or his replacement), Kyle Naughton and soon-to-be Frederico Fazio.
That depth will alleviate, if not, eliminate, the problems with consistency that Pochettino had last season. The increase in overall player quality will help against the better teams that Southampton struggled against. This season Adam Lallana has become Erik Lamela, Jay Rodriguez is now Christian Eriksen, Dejan Lovren and Jose Fonte is now Jan Vertonghen and Frederico Fazio.
So, the answer to my question is that Spurs are very good but any portrayal of quality is only relevant when compared to your competitors.
A little comparative study
Chelsea have an incredible attack, but attacks win fans, defenses win games. I only trust Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta and Luis to defend competently. Zouma is too young to counted upon, that said, the same was said about Eric Dier. Even then, 6 players into four positions over 60 games is darn-near suicidal. It’s almost as if Roman Abramovich owns the team. Ha, funny that.
Manchester City also have an incredible attack and brick-wall midfield in Fernando Reges and Yaya Toure and to add to that, they’ve a dependable defense now that Pablo Zabaleta isn’t the only right-back. City, might as well, be crowned champions now.
Arsenal have quality all over the pitch, but any manager with an acute sense of tactics will recognise that against a low block defense, through balls, which Arsene Wenger has used to such great effect over the years and which he depends on, are rendered useless. Just ask Roberto Martinez.
Liverpool, Everton and Manchester United are two teams that I don’t have any trepidation about. Liverpool because they made the same mistake that Spurs did last summer, they sold Elvis and bought the Beatles pre-Hamburg. Everton because they don’t have the depth to compete in the Europa League and the Premier League and Roberto Martinez is too idealistic to see that. Manchester United because, to list just one reason, their defense is truly awful.
Spurs are competing with Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal and, doubtless, some other newcomer who will surprise me for the Top Four. We should aim for first but if we get fourth I’ll be happy.
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