Do Tottenham Hotspur have a fighting chance at Top 4?
As the man at the helm for Tottenham Hotspur, Mauricio Pochettino knows that this is his year to truly prove himself at the top table of the Premier League. The Argentine led Spurs to a fifth placed finish in the league last time out – which is far from below par – and even a cup final at Wembley. However, he needs improvements this season and definitely sustainability if not growth.
Tottenham have been clever in their transfer business and have so far addressed almost every area that needed strengthening at the beginning of the summer. They have brought in two centre backs; when it can be argued that only one was really required, and in fact the acquired players were of high quality – Toby Alderweireld and Kevin Wimmer. Clinton N’Jie has been brought in to support Harry Kane, a man who single-handedly secured the team a significant number of points last season. Saido Berahino has been a summer-long target but that deal may or may not materialize and; due to the signing of N’Jie, it not materializing might no longer be particularly disastrous. Dele Alli has the potential to become a big star for club and country in the future and I believe that Pochettino is the right man to guide and mentor the player. Kieran Trippier was extremely impressive for Burnley last season and securing his services for £3.5 million was particularly good business by the north London team.
However, arguably the biggest and best signing for Tottenham Hotspur has been the arrival of Son Heung-Min from Bayer Leverkusen for a hefty £18 million. The South Korean will wear the number 7 shirt for Spurs, a clear demonstration of faith by the manager. The club and its fans will be hoping the forward can play a crucial part in their quest for a Champions League berth next season.
Son joined Hamburg’s youth academy in 2008 as a 16-year-old and went on to score on his Bundesliga debut against Cologne in October 2010. He spent three years in the senior team at Hamburg and eventually notched up 20 goals in 73 Bundesliga matches for the German side before becoming the record signing for Bayer Leverkusen as he was snapped up for approximately €10 million. He became an integral part of Leverkusen’s team and has scored 21 goals in 62 matches in the last couple of campaigns.
Over the last few years, he has undoubtedly improved and matured. Son has been a consistent goalscorer and it is remarkable that in each of the past three seasons, he is one of only four players to score 10 or more Bundesliga goals. He is in distinguished company in this regard, as the other three in this group are Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller and Max Kruse. Perhaps the best part about these figures is that scoring is not his greatest or only quality. He is a versatile player who can play anywhere across the attack. Upon signing on at White Hart Lane, Son himself has said; “I don’t care where I play. The main thing is I’m in the game. I can play right, left, as a forward or behind it. What the coach says, I’ll do. I don’t have a favourite position. I’ll be anywhere and always on the throttle.”
This means that Pochettino has the option of fielding him as a striker if Harry Kane’s current goal drought is to continue for longer. Kane was in top form last season but is increasingly looking out of sorts at the moment. The Englishman has missed some glorious chances this season including a one-on-one against Everton where he astonishingly kicked the ball right at Tim Howard – an opportunity that he surely would have dispatched with consummate ease last season. Spurs would hope Kane can put this behind him after the international break but if this becomes more of a prolonged problem, Pochettino is now at least in a position where he is not limited entirely.
However, the versatile South Korean could probably be utilized best in the middle of the pitch. If he is deployed on the wings, he tries to cut in and get more central. Son’s finesse and skill on the ball make him an enjoyable footballer to observe and watch and Spurs fans may have got a new favourite.
Son’s signing almost completes the puzzle for Spurs in my opinion. They now have plenty of quality in the squad, indeed with back-ups in place in the majority of roles. Against Everton, they were dominant and played attractive football in the most part if admittedly without a cutting edge. Some patience is needed because that team looks like once it clicks, it could be extremely threatening. Pochettino has shown us in the past that his tactical mind can obtain favourable results out of situations that appear decidedly grim. In simple terms, for wherever Tottenham Hotspur do not possess enough class, Pochettino can tinker and use his tactical mind to do something irregular which could pay dividends. Need we look any further than him deploying Eric Dier in the heart of the midfield.
According to International Business Times, “You just have to look to the investments made by Liverpool, Manchester City, [Manchester] United, Chelsea or Arsenal during this summer,” the Spurs boss told Spanish radio station Onda Cero earlier in August. This might well be mistaken for a defeatist mentality by some and Pochettino has perhaps rightly acknowledged that the top four is currently beyond their reach. Nevertheless, the club now has a solid team and I can see no reason to not be competing for Champions League qualification.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Tricia H. Kuhn
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