Tottenham Hotspur may not have won the Premier League or Champions League this season, but they have most definitely taken a step towards achieving that, picking up some emphatic results along the way.
The rest of Europe will be paying close attention to Spurs from now on, after they recorded a famous victory over back-to-back European champions Real Madrid in the Champions League, going the entire group stage unbeaten with five wins and a draw.
Spurs were very unlucky to have been dumped out of the competition by Juventus after coming back from 2-0 down in the first leg to record an away draw in Turin but, since dropping out of Europe at the hands of last year’s finalists, their season has somewhat fizzled out.
Lots of lessons have been learned from Tottenham’s season, and we have singled out three major things that the club can take forward.
Christian Eriksen is as important to the team as Harry Kane
It is safe to say that Harry Kane steals the show at Spurs, and rightly so, having scored 25 goals or more for the last three league campaigns, challenging the best on the continent for the European Golden Boot. However, it is the work behind Kane from the likes if Eriksen that really keeps the team ticking over and, with 14 strikes of his own this season, the Dane has proved to be invaluable for his club.
Denmark’s Player of the Season for four years running, the 26-year-old is approaching his peak years as a professional footballer, and is also a major assist provider for his side. There are a number of prolific goal-scorers in European football, but it is gems such as Eriksen and Kevin De Bruyne who are of most value to the success of their teams.
It is imperative for Spurs to hold on to Kane if they are to continue working towards being genuine contenders on all fronts, but it is of equal importance that they retain Christian Eriksen, and that he continues performing at the highest level and producing match-winning displays week in, week out.
Spurs are close, but they need silverware to become winners and take them to the next level
Tottenham have proved this season that they are capable of going toe-to-toe with Europe’s elite. A win and a draw against Real Madrid, two victories against Borussia Dortmund and an away draw against Juventus is enough evidence to suggest this. However, one fundamental difference sets Spurs apart from the three teams mentioned above, and it is that Spurs have won nothing in the last decade.
The current Tottenham squad lacks winners, and that is more important than one might think. To take Manchester United as an example, last season their squad possessed players who had won the Premier League title, and others who had won plenty of titles elsewhere. As a result, their winning mentality got them over the line in the League Cup and Europa League, even when they perhaps did not perform to the best of their ability.
The same cannot be said for the Tottenham squad, who barely boast a winner’s medal between them and, until they experience some tangible success, this will always be a barrier standing in their way.
The club must hold on to Mauricio Pochettino
It should go without saying, but Mauricio Pochettino has been the real difference at the club since joining from Southampton in 2014. The Argentine has gone from strength to strength as a manager and built a stunning starting XI in his four seasons at Tottenham, and he should receive great credit for the current state of the club.
Not only has he provided a stable feel around Tottenham, he has also produced a brilliant brand of football, and one that the neutral supporter finds a joy to watch. A winning mentality has definitely been under development for some time at the club and, as already mentioned, it feels as though the club are one trophy away from triggering a silver-laden period.
Pochettino will be in high demand from other clubs due to what he has achieved at Spurs, but with a new stadium to look forward to next season, you could see the 46-year-old remain at the helm for a few years to come. The manager will feel he has unfinished business if he leaves without winning a trophy and, having only been in management for just under a decade, he is still extremely young in the managerial game.
Is Erik Lamela about to have his best season yet as a Tottenham player?
The Argentine made a real impact against Fulham.
Erik Lamela impressed as Tottenham recorded a 2-1 victory over London rivals Fulham on Saturday.
The Argentine international hasn’t quite lived up to the reputation that accompanied his £25.7 million price when he moved from Roma in August 2013.
While he has threatened to show his true potential at times, he has never been able to achieve the level of consistency that warrants a regular starting spot for Spurs.
Nonetheless, fans were treated to the Argentine at his very best when he broke from his own half, dribbling past the entire Fulham midfield, before laying off the ball to Harry Kane for his goal at the weekend.
He complemented this moment with a confident cameo display from the bench, in which he threatened the opponents’ goal on two occasions, while fulfilling his role defensively, breaking up several Fulham counter-attacks.
Despite not getting as many minutes as he would have liked, Lamela was hugely influential in turning the course of the tie for the Lilywhites, and this could see him rewarded with his first start of the campaign in the not too distant future.
Having a fit and firing Erik Lamela gives Pochettino another excellent option for rotation in attack. After his cameo at Wembley, there is a feeling that the 26-year-old is well prepared for his best season as a Tottenham player.
Tottenham’s Anthony Martial decision looked justified against Brighton
The Frenchman was poor against Brighton after summer in which Tottenham tried to sign him.
There were plenty of poor performances from the Manchester United players. The likes of Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof and even David De Gea did not cover themselves in glory. But Anthony Martial might have been the pick of the bunch.
With Alexis Sanchez missing the Frenchman got a surprise start but failed to take his opportunity. He looked disinterested at times and was anonymous throughout, before being hauled off by Mourinho.
“After thinking about all the factors and possibilities, Anthony wants to leave Manchester United. There are lots of factors, and right now it’s too early to talk about them…”
It comes at the end of a summer in which it seemed he would leave. The player wanted to go, as confirmed by his agent.
Tottenham Hotspur were heavily linked with his signature. However, as reported by the Evening Standard, Spurs were never going to pay the asking price for the French international – set at a cool £80 million by the Old Trafford hierarchy.
At one point toward the end of the transfer window, it appeared that things have softened and a deal might go through. But Tottenham did not get their man.
Based on the evidence on display this afternoon, Tottenham fans might be pleased. But his display today shows exactly why he should have been allowed to join Tottenham this summer.
Clearly, he is not happy. Because on his day the 21-year-old is a devastating forward with the ability to leave even the best defences in tatters.
A move to Tottenham could have reinvigorated his spirit and career. As it is, he is stuck at United where he looks set to cut a destitute figure until January at least. If he carries on this form, then Tottenham are unlikely to come knocking on the door again.
Three selection headaches Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino faces ahead of Manchester United trip
The Argentinian made two changes against Fulham having beaten Newcastle and despite the impressive win at Wembley, could make more before heading to the north-west with several doubts over key men in the team.
Here are some of the biggest decisions he will have to make over the week ahead…
Ben Davies or Danny Rose?
Ben Davies has had a poor pre-season and a disappointing start to the Premier League season, potentially opening the door for a return for Danny Rose. Linked with an exit in the summer, Rose was on the bench against Fulham and could be applying the pressure on the Welshman who took his place last season.
It seems unlikely that Pochettino would make such a change for such an important fixture, but equally he may not want to gamble on Davies costing his team with an error.
Lucas Moura in attack?
One of the best performers throughout pre-season and, in particular, against Fulham, has been Lucas Moura. The Brazilian has played as a second striker and been impressive, creating and finishing chances and posing an alternative threat to Harry Kane.
Yet, selecting Moura means that Pochettino must sacrifice a midfielder such as Moussa Dembele, which he may be reluctant to do going to Old Trafford. This decision will be a clear reflection of how confident Pochettino feels about his team’s chances of a win.
Is it right to play Toby Alderweireld?
Goal were among many sources to claim that the Belgian was close to joining Jose Mourinho’s side this summer as speculation continued throughout the transfer window. Alderweireld returned to the line-up for only his sixth appearance for the club in 2018 against Fulham, but Pochettino may have doubts.
The coach could question whether Alderweireld’s mentality would be correct to face a club he reportedly wanted to sign for in only his second appearance of the season, and with the likes of Eric Dier ready to step in, he may opt to be cautious.
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