After a summer of scintillating football, it’s hard to get pumped up over the start of the domestic club season… or is it? The new season looks as open as it has been in regards to the Premier League. The top seven may look to be set in stone with Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United all adding in key areas to their squad, but it remains to be seen what exactly the final positions each club will finish in.
Spurs have had a fairly low-key pre season, much different to their last three pre-seasons with transfer and managerial speculation surrounding Luka Modric and then Gareth Bale; Harry Redknapp leaving, Andre Villas-Boas arriving, selling Elvis and buying the Beatles etc.
The manager, the philosophy and the key areas
Mauricio Pochettino was the first to leave in the now infamous Southampton exodus this summer, and has arrived at Tottenham Hotspur with no talk about Champions League qualification, instead talking about instilling a philosophy and a style in the club’s DNA, which Spurs will try to implement in the Premier League, Europa League, FA Cup and the League Cup this season.
Fans were apprehensive over the appointment of the Argentinian manager, as was I, but the more is said about Pochettino, the more the former Southampton manager is winning supporters over. The pressing and high intensity style that won over many of his critics at Southampton when Nigel Atkins was sacked, will be installed at Spurs and will win the White Hart Lane faithful over, if they haven’t been won over in the games they have watched in pre season so far. He’s even managed to lure Erik Lamela out of Chirpy’s grasp and has Roberto Soldado scoring from open play.
Pochettino has identified the defence as the problem area in this current Spurs squad, a team that conceded the most goals from individual errors (21) last season and their suicidal displays away at Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool, and has acted accordingly in signing Michel Vorm and Ben Davies from Swansea City, Eric Dier from Sporting Lisbon, and has been linked with Argentine defender Mateo Musacchio from La Liga outfit Villareal and Seattle Sounders and U.S. international right back DeAndre Yedlin.
Michel Vorm is a necessary signing, although he may be back-up to Hugo Lloris, he will have plenty of game time as Spurs look to fight on four forefronts. Left-back has been a problem position for the North London side since the inception of the Premier League, and while Spurs have seen many forward thinking left-backs at n17, they rarely do a good job defensively, however, this time around, Ben Davies is a defender first and foremost, and then attacks when he needs to.
Eric Dier is a bit of an anomaly, as he wasn’t a regular starter in the Portuguese Liga for Sporting Lisbon, but if his performance against Schalke 04 in Spurs’ 2-1 last pre-season win says anything, it’s that the 20-year old looks a steal at £4m.
Mauricio Pochettino learned from one of the most forward thinking coaches in modern football in Marcelo Bielsa, and his high intensity and high pressing game will take time to be implemented on this current Spurs side, but judging from pre-season so far, it appears that Roberto Soldado, Erik Lamela, Aaron Lennon and Lewis Holtby appear to have eased into this transition – Christian Eriksen, on the other hand, has not. The Danish international will not be able to rest on his laurels from the previous season, where he was easily Spurs’ best player after Hugo Lloris.
Key Player – Erik Lamela
Many of journalists, pundits and fans alike were unfairly harsh on Erik Lamela after joining Spurs from AS Roma for £30m last summer. The 22-year old didn’t speak a word of english, his family were still in Argentina and Italy for the first few months of Lamela moving to London, he fell injured with a back injury and most importantly he played just a handful of games all season.
Erik Lamela started his pre-season midway through the World Cup, and has bulked up in start for the new season, something that was needed as he didn’t look the athlete that is needed when competing in the Premier League.
The arrival of Mauricio Pochettino will help Erik Lamela settle, and it looks like their relationship could pay dividends on the pitch as Erik Lamela has looked a totally different player that turned up to north London last summer, and looks comfortable in the first line of defence when pressing the opposition defence high up the pitch.
This season is all about Pochettino trying to implement a philosophy at Spurs, and bringing excitement to Spurs fans along the way – especially at White Hart Lane, where the players have been booed off more than cheered in the reign of Andre Villas-Boas. Spurs will finish in the top seven, but a push for Champions League qualification may be one season too early. A decent run in the Europa League and FA Cup, a top six finish and a return to the football that Spurs fans enjoy will be a good season for the north London side.
Prediction – 6th
Man to Watch – Harry Kane
Something to Prove – Roberto Soldado