Tottenham Hotspur have made great strides under Mauricio Pochettino since the Argentine swapped the South Coast for North London. Last season, they finished third after being involved in the title race for a large part of the season. Although they finished below Arsenal again, there is optimism that Tottenham are on their way to surpassing their local rivals in the coming years. They have a young squad and will have Champions League football this season, for the first time since the 2010/11 campaign. They managed to qualify for the quarter-finals on the previous occasion and will be hoping for a similar run this year.
They have managed to keep hold of all their star players and have made a couple of new signings to add further depth to the squad. Tottenham were already prepared for the Champions League and haven’t had to do much further business this summer as a result. Pochettino has put together a young squad, with cover in almost every position and as a group, they should continue to improve year-on-year. This approach is refreshing, but relying on a young core of players can have its problems. Tottenham crumbled in the last few matches in April and May and showed how vulnerable they can be under pressure.
Although they will want to finish in the top four again, the competitiveness of the Premier League will make it difficult for Spurs to qualify for the Champions League this season. There will be seven or eight teams that could make a run at the top four, and as such three or four will have to miss out. Liverpool and Chelsea will both have lighter schedules as they don’t have to compete in Europe this season. This can be a huge advantage in the Premier League and both will be confident of getting back into the top four.
Also the arrival of three world-class managers will make this division even more competitive over the next 12 months. Antonio Conte, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are all winners. As such, they will be targeting the Premier League title and won’t be content with just finishing in the top four. This will make the title race fierce and have a knockdown effect to the rest of the league. Spurs struggled under pressure last season and that is an area they must improve upon, or face a slide down the table.
Pochettino needs to manage expectations among the fanbase and has done a good job of doing that so far. He will know that several of his players had their best season for Spurs last season. Some will continue to improve, while it is possible for some to go the opposite way. Also he will have the issue of the Champions League, which he needs to pay full respect to. In the past, he has played different elevens in the Premier League and the Europa League. However he can’t do that with the Champions League. He will have to play strong teams in both with only minor rotation.
A good season for Spurs at the moment is a top six finish and a good run in the Champions League. It would consolidate them as a side to be reckoned with and another season of relative success for this group of young players. The project at White Hart Lane is a long term one and it will be in two or three years time when they will want top four finishes every season. Last season perhaps accelerated these aspirations, but Pochettino will realise that this squad is still some way from being considered a regular Champions League force. The additions of Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen fill a need, but aren’t the players to push them further. Spurs fans need to be patient with both Pochettino and the squad this season. If they aren’t, then they could end all the good work being done at the club.