For many Spurs fans, the term ‘déjà vu’ is one that most appropriately describes the team’s seasons, as we appear to consistently follow the same blueprint, year in year out.
Linked with many Champions League quality players throughout the summer before a new campaign, and Chairman Daniel Levy’s shrewd business stance being called into question countless times before a ball’s even been kicked, pre-season usually presents Tottenham as a selling club punching above its weight in the transfer market.
Our best players, such as Luka Modrić and Gareth Bale are being sought after by Real Madrid and analysed daily by the Spanish press, with Spurs taking the generic hands-off stance only to then concede defeat and reap the financial benefit that the transfer brings. This then ultimately doesn’t allow enough time for the manager (or Director of Football) to find replacements and the quality of the player brought in is not up to the standards expected, resulting in an abundance of average squad players on high wages.
However, Levy’s failure to deliver on the top players promised is a scenario experienced all too frequently, and as such the manager (whether he be a trendy foreign tactician or a straight-talking Englishman) must work with what is so hesitantly provided. The season would start off positively with no immediate flaws exposing themselves; Spurs will steadily climb up the table and be in and around those highly sought after Champions League slots.
Then, towards the business end of the season, the cracks start to show and the team will start losing against otherwise inferior teams that boast cohesion and a tactically superior game plan on the day. This leads to the manager losing the belief of the media, the dressing room, the fans, and even worse, his job.
Now however, in 2015, Tottenham Hotspur are proving to be real contenders for a Champion’s League slot being only 2 points behind 4th placed Arsenal, and for the first time in a long time, appear to have a specific identity and footballing philosophy that has been absent in recent years. Mauricio Pochettino’s team is unrecognisable from the side handed to him by then interim manager Tim Sherwood, and invoke ideas of Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, of players that will run through brick walls for their manager. Pochettino has only been at Spurs for a year and a half, yet has each and every Tottenham player fully backing his high pressing style of play that has been synonymous with his past sides, with each player working for their manager but more importantly for each other.
This weekend marked 12 games unbeaten for Pochettino’s young stars, with an emphatic 4-1 victory over local London rivals, West Ham. Spurs looked energetic and hungry in a game that allowed West Ham few chances to threaten Hugo Lloris in goal. Spurs played with freedom and intensity in order to close down the opposition defenders deep into their half, causing them to make the inevitable mistakes. Throughout this youthful side, there are players in great form and playing with the confidence instilled into them by their enthusiastic manager.
The English spine in the first team has been poignant to the successful start to the 2015/16 campaign, with Eric Dier and 19-year-old Dele Alli both rewarded by making their full international debuts against France this month. The rise of Harry Kane must also be attributed to Pochettino, as he was given the full support of his manager last season after expensive flops Roberto Soldado and Adebayor failed to deliver. Kane was firing on all cylinders and finished his first proper campaign for Spurs with 31 goals in all competitions and a cemented place in the senior international squad.
This season however started slowly, after a disappointing U21 European Championship in the summer, Kane was flirting with the unwanted label of one-season-wonder and managed only one goal in his first 9 Premier League games for the Club. Kane’s brace this weekend against West Ham, in a game where he could have easily grabbed himself a hat-trick, saw his tally for this season rise to 9 goals, and 8 in his last 5 appearances. Kane’s drought at the start of the campaign would have worried Pochettino, with unproven summer signing Clinton Njié as the only other recognised striker within the squad. It’s important to add, that throughout this season Kane has had the unparalleled public backing of a manager that looks to his talismanic striker as his main source of goals, and it is evident that Pochettino’s confidence in Kane has been a main catalyst for the Englishman’s return to form.
Pochettino has also exhibited his ruthless side in recent months by getting rid of the substandard fringe players that were burning a hole in the Club’s wage budget. He also proved there can be no place for sentiment when running and football club by selling Lennon, Kaboul, terminating the contract of Emmanuel Adebayor and more recently exiling Andros Townsend to train with the reserves after the winger had a reported touchline dispute with one of the fitness coaches.
Along with a sense of ambition and desire introduced into this young Spurs outfit, there is a genuine stability around a Club that has had 11 managers in 14 years. The trigger-happy nature of Daniel Levy’s attitude towards managers looks to have been abolished under Pochettino, after the Argentine signed a 5 year contract, and looks to be building a team for the future, with a top class English spine. Pochettino’s Spurs are finally becoming a recognisable side that the fans can relate to, and with the right elements put into place, perhaps this could be the Lilywhites’ year to grace Europe’s elite competition once again.