Under Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Hotspur ended one of their best seasons in recent years in the worst possible way. Is this then a good season or a bad one?
Mauricio Pochettino’s second season with Tottenham Hotspur seemed to be one to look forward to. With time to amend what was handed to him in the previous season, Pochettino tinkered the squad he possessed to make them work like a well-oiled machine. Their 3rd placed finish is evidence to what Pochettino has achieved, and this surely is a result to be celebrated.
The first game
The first game of any season is a nervous affair, not just for players and managers, but fans too. Tottenham, after last season’s strong 5th place finish, were eager to try their new set up with young players and a different tactic. Eric Dier, a player who spent most of last season in the center of defence or in right back, was handed a new role in midfield. As a defensive midfielder, he served a solid reinforcement to the two centre backs and also played reasonably well when going forward. After what seemed like an excellent game, Spurs lost their first home match due to a Kyle Walker own goal against a Manchester United side that had splashed a lot of money. Although Spurs had lost the game, their display throughout the match was one that came with positive acceptance. Fans waited eagerly for the games to come as there was indeed some magic to the way Tottenham played.
The team’s performance
Tottenham, as a whole unit, has come a long way from the ‘80 minutes and give up’ side they were in the recent past. With a manager who stresses on fitness and hard work, Spurs transformed from a side that lost concentration in the dying minutes of the game to a team that could easily outrun and outplay any opponent. They have been by far the most entertaining team to watch this season. For a majority of the latest campaign, Tottenham enjoyed the best goal difference in the league, with the best scoring as well as defensive record. With very few injuries to its squad members, Pochettino had the luxury of featuring his best eleven for a majority of the games this season.
Fixing the defence
Sir Alex Ferguson is said to have quoted “Strikers win you games, Defenders win you titles.” Although the eleven point difference between Spurs and Leicester doesn’t reflect the truth, the fact yet remains that Spurs were the only team this season to have even come close to putting up a challenge for the title. One of the biggest difference has been that Spurs have conceded the fewest goals as compared to any other team in the Premier League. A few key changes in the defensive line-ups and tactics allowed Tottenham to be extremely tight in their defensive duties, allowing them to put up consistent defensive performances in every game.
One key arrival for Tottenham this season was the addition of Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld. Along with his country man Jan Vertonghen, Alderweireld forged a strong central defensive partnership that complimented the near perfect goalkeeping of Hugo Lloris. Except for the last game against Newcastle, Spurs did not concede more than 2 goals in any game this season in the Premier League. Alderweireld’s inclusion was so important that even when Vertonghen was out injured, the defender was capable of forging a partnership with Kevin Wimmer, a youngster with no prior Premier League experience. He had an excellent season filling in for his colleague. Eric Dier’s inclusion in defensive midfield further added to the defensive solidity.
Good season for certain players
Three Tottenham players had a really good season due to which the team benefited a lot – Eric Lamela, Dele Alli and Moussa Dembele. The three of them fit in very well and worked exactly as Pochettino wanted them to. Dele Alli, a player who played in the Championship just a season ago, was expected to find it hard to get into the squad and take some time settling in to the tough life of the Premier League. However, the nineteen year old showed great maturity in his game and was even able to score one of the goals of the season. Alli was often the catalyst to any attack Tottenham were able craft and even went on to win the PFA young player of the Season award.
Eric Lamela had been dubbed Tottenham flop a couple of seasons ago. Having struggled to adapt to the team and the league, it was almost certain the Argentine might make his way back to Italy. Pochettino’s arrival, though, allowed Lamela to regain his confidence and play one of his best seasons in a Spurs jersey. The Argentine player exuded confidence and scored 5 while assisting 9 this season, which is a sign that his best is only yet to come.
The third and probably biggest influence of all this season has been the Belgian star Moussa Dembele. He has been the heart of the Spurs midfield and at the end of the season had the highest dribbling success rate. Not only did he contribute offensively, but alongside Dier, was also solid defensively. With immense work rate, Dembele could be found involved on either side of the pitch, earning him the ‘best box to box midfield in Europe’ title this season.
Kane the real deal
Harry Kane was just a few goals shy of the Golden Boot in the last season, having finished with 21 league goals in his first full Premier League season. Mixed reviews of the young Englishman were given by fans and pundits. Some stated that defenders will learn to play against him and that it would be difficult for Kane to repeat the feat, while others compared him to the great Alan Shearer as rumours linking him to Real Madrid came about.
Kane, this season, has shut his critiques up by showing the footballing world that he is indeed the real deal. Scoring a staggering 25 goals, Harry Kane not only overtook his previous tally but beat the others to win the Golden Boot. Tottenham, for a majority of the season, were the highest goal scoring team and its chief contributor was Kane. His work rate coupled with his shooting and dribbling prowess has stunned all defenders this season and has rightly earned him a call to represent England in the Euro 2016 competition.
Tottenham fans are distraught that their team lost in such a poor fashion in the last game. However it isn’t the result of the game that has ruined their mood, but the outcome of that loss that did. For over 21 years, Tottenham hadn’t finished ahead of their bitter rivals Arsenal. With three games to go, Spurs were in for a season of their life as they not only chased the title but left Arsenal in the dust to battle for a top 4 position as always. However, a violent game against Chelsea and a few suspensions caused the Spurs squad to lose their composure and crumble like a cookie.
The finish below Arsenal was certainly a low blow for Spurs, as a revived Newcastle side who were already relegated thrashed the living daylights out of Spurs even though they were reduced to ten men. Pochettino, in the press conference, stated that on his worst day as a manager, he had identified the problem with Spurs. It wasn’t a tactical error or a problem with physical conditioning, but a problem with the mentality.
Pochettino is a shrewd manager and has shown the world what he can do with a talented set of youngsters. The season to come is one that Spurs fans can look forward to with heads held high. Although Arsenal fans celebrate St. Totteringham’s day with great fervour, their reaction is a reflection of how scared they are of a North London side that is on the verge of beating them. With Champions League football and a few strong signings, Spurs can definitely look forward to be the 7th club ever to win the Premier League.