A third place, second place and third place finish for Tottenham Hotspur have seen Spurs cement themselves as a top-four club in the Premier League. Heading into a new, state of the art of stadium, how will Tottenham fare in the 2018/19 Premier League? Spurs survived a season away from home at Wembley. Now they head back ‘home’. What will the new stadium mean for Spurs? Can Tottenham Hotspur deliver a trophy? Can they win the main prize of the Premier League title? This full preview from Last Word on Football looks at the possibilities.
Tottenham Season Preview
There is no doubt that under Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Hotspur have become a consistent club. Throughout the Premier League years, there have been glimmers of hope. There was the odd League Cup and Champions League football under Harry Redknapp. This has been interspersed with mid-table finishes and the last trophy came 20 years ago. So what, if anything, needs to change? What does Pochettino need to do to turn Tottenham from nearly-men into perennial winners? Just how will Tottenham fair in the 2018/19 Premier League and cups?
A Brave New World
In Guillem Balague’s recent book, ‘Brave New World: Inside Pochettino’s Spurs’, Pochettino opened up about managing the North London team and how he has taken them from mid-table ‘nearly men’ to a club that is seemingly on the verge of glory.
In the book, Pochettino talks about bravery, being close to his players and how team spirit is at the heart of everything he does. You only need to look on the pitch at how the players get along. They are often together off the pitch too. After matches, Pochettino is first on the pitch to shake his players’ hands, hug them, put his arm around them. Harry Kane has referred to his manager as his ‘friend’.
“He is not just my boss, he’s my mate. He’s the manager, but he’s a friend as well. He wants me and the whole team to do well.”
Pochettino has the trust of his players and a close-knit squad. The next few weeks could be a test of that team closeness as the transfer window comes to an end and the possible World Cup after effects on player fitness.
Tottenham’s World Cup Players – Will This Impact the Start of the Season?
The World Cup in Russia ended on 15th July 2018. With the start of the Premier league coming in the next few weeks, will those World Cup players be ready for the start of the season against Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Saturday 11th August?
Harry Kane won the golden boot but looked short of fitness in both the quarter and semi-final matches against Sweden and Croatia. Kane has intimated he will be ready for the season opener but his fitness and possible fatigue must be a concern for Pochettino.
Toby Alderweireld’s future remains in doubt with the player suggesting his omissions from games last season were not, in his view, correct. Alderweireld and fellow Spurs team-mate Jan Vertonghen both had solid tournaments as Belgium reached the semi-finals and beat England in the third place play-off. Vertonghen was superb for Spurs last season and Pochettino will be hoping he is ready to go from day one.
Heung Min Son will definitely miss the start of the season as he is to play in the Asian Games for South Korea. Kieran Trippier had a strong World Cup with some naming him as one of the players of the tournament. The future of Danny Rose remains in doubt also. The World Cup could have repercussions for Tottenham before the season gets underway on August 11.
Slow Rarely Wins the (Transfer) Race
Tottenham’s transfer policy needs no further discussion. Daniel Levy likes to bargain and negotiate over his signings but slow rarely wins the race in the Premier League. West Ham United, Chelsea and Liverpool have already started to strengthen for the Premier League season. Spurs are yet to buy or sell. Harry Kane signed a new contract prior to the World Cup. Spurs have been linked with players from Malcom to Wilfried Zaha, Jack Grealish to Gareth Bale.
Buying players late in this window, which closes earlier this time around, and with the impact of the World Cup could be costly to Pochettino if he wants to achieve success. Success in real terms. Only for so long can Tottenham keep talking about ‘overachievement’ in the Premier League. The current success is quantifiable by the consistency of finishes in the Premier League. Only trophies can be considered as real success. The so-called semi-final ‘hoodoo’ is one of the last millstones Spurs need to rid themselves of.
Levy has an issue though. The new stadium costs have spiralled. This means that Spurs MUST sell to re-invest, something that causes Spurs fans frustration season after season. Players available for sale are Moussa Sissoko, Serge Aurier, Vincent Jansen and Fernando Llorente. It may be difficult for Spurs to make any money on those who have simply not performed well enough. Those players need replacing with much better alternatives. If that doesn’t happen, and time is running out, Spurs may find that they don’t have the resources to finish in the top four in the Premier League this time around.
Based on recent seasons, Tottenham Hotspur will feel that the top four has to be attained again. They do have things that could cause them issues in that pursuit. A new stadium, albeit on the site of the old White Hart Lane, may take some adjusting to. The first game at the new ‘home’ is in September against Liverpool, who will be title and top-four rivals once again. A slow start could be costly. Spurs did well at Wembley and there is no reason why they can’t hit the new ground running this time out.
The fitness of players after the World Cup cannot be ignored either. It will be intriguing to see how Pochettino deals with that on their return to first-team training.
It is the transfer window that could be the biggest obstacle to success. The current squad has undoubted talent but outside of the first eleven, it is hard to suggest there is any real quality that can change games. There is still no alternative or player to work with Kane up front and with Son away for the start of the season, the pressure will be on Kane, Alli and Eriksen to get the goals.
Tottenham need to finish in the top four. Tottenham need to become winners and silverware is a must. Should Levy act quickly and make signings that complement Pochettino’s current squad and team ethic, Spurs will be in the top four again but the title may elude them again.
Should the current squad be unchanged, top six in the Premier League might be all Spurs can muster.
So far there has been little to suggest that Daniel Levy is going to take any of the risks that Pochettino mentioned in his post-season interviews. And without those risks, this could be a frustrating campaign for Tottenham.
Premier League – 4th
Champions League – Round of 16
League Cup – Quarter-final
FA Cup – Winners