Nobody at Tottenham Hotspur expected anything coming into the new season. They had a new manager with new ideas (or should I say “philosophies”?) on how the team should play. They were set to start a recovery, a plan to repair the broken squad of the 2013/14 season, and, having learnt the price of an itchy trigger-finger, most Spurs fans were prepared to wait patiently during this season of transition.
That was the mood in August, before a ball was kicked or a game was played. It is now January and the Premier League has surpassed the halfway point. Spurs sit in sixth, three points off fourth place, two points off bitter rivals Arsenal, two points above Liverpool. They are still fighting in all cup competitions: fourth round of the FA Cup, last 32 of the Europa League, semi final of the League Cup. Suddenly, the mood at Spurs has shifted to snowballing optimism.
You may be asking many questions. How have Spurs season turned out this way? Can Tottenham seriously get into the top four? Can they even win silverware?
I might as well attempt to tackle a few of these.
Having watched Southampton excel last season, I had some sort of expectation as to what Tottenham under Pochettino would be like: high-pressing, possession-based attacking football. But what precisely is the substance of the team? What lies beyond the tactics?
Man-management. Both the previous two managers, Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood, had been charged with lacking in man-management skills. Whilst perhaps this criticism has been contested here and there, there is no denying that Pochettino has communicated superbly with the Tottenham players, particularly the youth. Names like Bentaleb, Kane and Mason were inherited from the previous management as prospects (credit where it’s due) and Pochettino has turned these squad players into starting players. That’s actually an understatement – they are now pivotal to the team! Bentaleb has conducted our build-up play perfectly in midfield. Mason has injected the energy and commitment long absent in defensive midfield at Spurs. Kane is currently Tottenham’s highest scorer in all competitions this season. A Spurs striker that scores goals?! It defies logic.
The cohesion of the squad is another area that has thoroughly improved as well this season. The absence of high-profile, big-money, big-expectation signings in August has allowed the current squad to attempt to prove themselves. Some of these players have risen to the plate: Chadli, Eriksen, Lamela, Vertonghen and Rose spring to mind. Some have not and question marks remain: Soldado, Adebayor, Kaboul and Capoue have disappointed fans, the saddest one being Kaboul, the supposed skipper. Lloris is… well, Lloris – he was always going to be godlike between the posts.
The success of Tottenham this year has derived from a young, vibrant squad still in status of transition.
At the start of the year, not a single fan would have entertained the idea of a top four challenge, let alone a place. What has emerged this year, most surprisingly, is the failings and disappointments of the other top clubs. Manchester United, despite hammering open the multi-million pound piggy-bank in the summer, have been edgy. Arsenal are imitating the Spurs of 2012/13 and are being carried by their world-class talisman in the form of Alexis Sanchez. Liverpool are imitating the Spurs of 2013/14 and are suffering the loss of their world-class talent in the form of Luis Suarez. Everton are nowhere to be seen. This has paved the way for teams like West Ham and Southampton to cement themselves in the top half, and they don’t look like going away in a hurry.
What this means is that, to use a Sky Sports-style cliché, the race for the top four is completely wide open (*cue dramatic music*). Chelsea and Manchester City have first and second, but third and fourth belongs to whom? There is nothing that suggests to me that Spurs are incapable of challenging, despite whatever challenge surely being based on fragility.
It is annoying and insipid to constantly having to listen to Sky Sports proclaim Champions League football as the be-all and end-all of a season. At Tottenham, silverware is their manifestation of glory in football, and every season, there burns a hope in Spurs fans’ hearts that they can claim this glory again.
As mentioned before, Spurs are still competing in all the cup competitions. Most immediately, Spurs take on Sheffield United in the League Cup Semi Final, and optimism is naturally high that the club will have another Wembley Final. Absolutely anything can happen in a cup final, so it would be foolish of me to make predictions. Needless to say, though, it would be the best opportunity for a trophy this season for Spurs.
The Europa League is a long and arduous journey from now till May if a club wants to reach the final. Previous seasons have despicably proved that it is the Champions League failures that succeed in the Europa League. Given the right sustenance and management, however, it is possible for Tottenham to endure a European challenge. The FA Cup is still a long way off completion, but Spurs face Leicester in the Fourth Round this Saturday, so it will be interesting is our progress furthers.
Tottenham are far from any sense of a finished article. Their defence has often been suspect. There has been a heavy reliance on last-minute victories to sustain periods of form. However, if progress during transition is to be suspected, is it so foolish to dream that Spurs can only get better from here on in?
Probably. Still, at least it’ll be fun to watch.
Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week
The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.
With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.
In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.
Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.
The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.
Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.
This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.
If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.
It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.
Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.
Is Juan Foyth a ready-made replacement for Toby Alderweireld?
The Argentine youngster joined Tottenham Hotspur from Estudiantes last summer.
According to reports in Belgium this week, Tottenham Hotspur have given up hope of keeping Toby Alderweireld.
HLN has reported Spurs have accepted defeat in trying to convince the Belgian of signing a new deal after failing to agree on wages.
Therefore, Tottenham will sell the 29-year-old this summer, with £43 million the asking price.
Tottenham could be looking for a new signing in the summer to replace him, but rather than spending big on a new recruit, they should instead give a chance to someone already at the club.
The player in question is Argentine defender Juan Foyth.
Spurs brought in the young defender from Estudiantes last summer for a fee reported to be in the region of £10 million by ESPN.
His signature was heralded as a success for the London outfit after the Times had reported PSG had instead got the youngster.
Foyth has played just eight times for Tottenham this season, with none of those appearances coming in the Premier League.
But at just 20-years-old and new to English football, that was to be expected.
Mauricio Pochettino is known to be a huge fan of his countryman and Foyth has impressed in the FA Cup this season.
As a ball playing centre-half he is the type of player Tottenham want at the back to take the team into the future.
With Alderweireld gone, Tottenham will be short a defensive option.
Jan Vertonghen will be the pillar in the centre of defence, with Davinson Sanchez an impressive talent alongside him.
Eric Dier’s versatility makes him an option. Foyth would then argue the case that he is next in line and deserves a shot at establishing himself in the Tottenham first-team.
It is certainly a possibility.
Tottenham also have highly-rated American defender Cameron Carter-Vickers out on loan at Ipswich Town, who could take Foyth’s place as fifth-in-line, if Tottenham give the Argentine his chance.
The likelihood is that Spurs will bring in a new recruit to replace Alderweireld. Perhaps a player with more experience will instead be pursued.
Foyth has not yet proved himself in the Premier League, so laying it on the line for him next season would be a massive risk by Pochettino and Tottenham.
But there is certainly a chance that the £10 million youngster could take Alderweireld’s place next season.
Clement Lenglet is the perfect replacement for Toby Alderweireld
The French defender has been in fine form for Sevilla.
When Manchester United were dumped out of the Champions League by Sevilla last week, plenty of the La Liga side’s players put in heroic displays.
Wissam Ben Yedder, the goalscorer of both Sevilla’s goals on the night received the highest praise. However, it was defender Clement Lenglet who deserved the biggest plaudits.
The 22-year-old did a wonderful job of shackling Romelu Lukaku for most of the game, putting in a brave and assured performance at centre-back.
It was a display that undoubtedly won him some fans, and Tottenham Hotspur should be one of them.
It looks increasingly likely that Tottenham will lose Toby Alderweireld in the summer.
HLN in Belgium reported this week that Spurs have ended contract talks with the Belgian and are prepared to sell him for £43 million.
Tottenham, therefore, have a potential gap in the centre-back position.
Lenglet is the perfect option. Not only is he good enough, as he proved by United last week, but he fits the profile of a Tottenham signing.
The Sevilla defender is just 22 years of age and has years ahead of him to develop. Then, there is his release clause.
According to a recent report from Diario AS, the Frenchman has a release clause of just €30 million (£26.2 million).
Such a fee for a player of his talent and his age would amount to daylight robbery.
Lenglet, who only joined Sevilla from Nancy last summer, would be the perfect option for Spurs to replace Alderweireld.
He could rotate with fellow young talent Davinson Sanchez playing alongside the more experienced Jan Vertonghen in defence.
With a Frenchman behind him in Hugo Lloris and French speaker in Vertonghen, he would not have to worry much about the language barrier just yet.
Strong, fast, capable on the ball and a raw talent he is exactly the sort of player Mauricio Pochettino could mould into a future Tottenham star.
Alderweireld’s exit will no doubt be a shame for Tottenham.
Nonetheless, if they can bring in Lenglet for £17 million less than they sell the Belgian for, the club will have pulled off a masterstroke.
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