When Tim Sherwood was let go at the end of last season, the general consensus was that the club needed a fresh new face at the helm. The club drew up a shortlist of managers who they felt were capable of leading the club, with Frank de Boer and Mauricio Pochettino top of the list. Whilst de Boer was leading a youthful and exciting Ajax to there 4th Eredivisie title in as many years, Pochettino was guiding a young Southampton to an impressive 8th finish in the Premier League. It left Daniel Levy with a rather difficult task of choosing between the two. The fans were split. Some wanted proven winner de Boer, others wanted the Premier League proven Pochettino.
The club chose Mauricio Pochettino and looked immediately to bring in targets such as Morgan Schneiderlin and Adam Lallana, both of which worked with Pochettino at Southampton, but Spurs failed in their attempts to sing either of them. After a while, the Spurs faithful looked set to be stuck with another “transition” season after missing out on multiple targets and bringing in a backup left back and goalkeeper, two central defenders who were relatively unknown in England and still no striker. I have to admit I wasn’t looking forward to this season. Yet again, the club failed to address the issue that had been holding the club back for years, and that was the lack of a top-class striker. Nonetheless, in my typical Spurs fan fashion, I believed we could actually achieve something this season.
When the season started at West Ham away, a lot of the fans wanted to win at all costs, because it was West Ham, never mind the new style the manager brought, or whether Soldado would actually score, or if Lamela played a good game. We won the game 1-0 with a last minute goal from one of the new signings Eric Dier. The month continued to be promising to Tottenham, as wins over AEL Limassol home and away in the Europa League, and a 4-0 home demolition of QPR were the providing the fans with hope, and actually left us top of the table, albeit for a couple of days.
But in typical Spurs fashion, all the hard work had been thrown away after simply being outclassed at home by Liverpool, losing 3-0. This ended up being the start of a huge wake up call for the team, as in the month of September, they only managed to pick up 2 points. One of these points, however, was away at archrivals Arsenal, with a Premier League debut for youth star Ryan Mason, who impressed in the week against Nottingham Forest. Was the emergence of Mason the start of a youth revolution at Spurs? Pochettino was key in the rise of players such as James Ward-Prowse and Calum Chambers, and maybe one of the key reasons for his appointment was his youth policy. The performances were rather average with a few exceptions, but signs of improvement were there. It was just taking a few months to really show its strength.
You know a tem isn’t performing to its strengths when their fans boo at home. Spurs fans weren’t afraid to show their feelings, and many were starting to doubt whether anything had really changed with the club. They were performing well in the League Cup, but on the league front, they were languishing around mid table and just outside the Europa League positions. Sound familiar? Despite multiple manager changes, the club always seems to end up in this position regardless of the players. Makes you wonder whether it’s the players, or even the manager, or the club in general.
The club went into the winter months not really expecting much, with Arsenal still to play, as well as Chelsea home and away. But this is where the season starts to get fun. Late goals galore all away from home at Hull, Swansea and Aston Villa mirrored what were quite frankly awful performances, and sent the fans home happy. Finally, the fans had a striker they can get behind, someone who can fire them to glory! And he had been at the club the whole time. Harry Kane seized his opportunity with his big Walthemstow hands. After going out to various clubs on loan such as Leyton Orient and Millwall, and after not starting a Premier League game until November, he started firing goals on a consistent basis. I think Spurs fans had forgotten what it was like to have a striker who actually scored on a consistent basis.
As the winter games started piling up, Pochettino managed to get his players ready for the challenge of playing Manchester United at home, followed by Chelsea at home on New Years Day. On that New Years Day game, it was really a performance worthy of any team in the world. The Pochettino style that he made famous at Southampton finally reared its head for all to see, and provided the fans with a moment they can hold onto for a long time yet. Coupled with the Chelsea game, the team had just gotten into the semi final of the Capital One Cup.
Had this team improved? Had the influx on youth helped the squad develop into a force that could be reckoned with for years? All these questions were still to be answered and Pochettino was still being scrutinized for his youth policy. People always compare Tottenham to Arsenal, and in this season, it appeared that the gap was being closed. But again, we have been in this position before, with a better team and much better players. How many years will it take to get close to our rivals? Slowly, as the season dragged along, it appeared that Tottenham had improved massively and had jumped leaps and bounds to get anywhere near the top 4 race, and as the showdown of North London approached, the squad was booming bright with confidence.
On February 7th, at White Hart Lane Tottenham faced Arsenal with the chance to jump into the top 4. I am very proud to say that I managed to take Andrea, my girlfriend, to this game and even she recognized that our team outplayed Arsenal at her own game. Young players, closing down at tremendous pace and passing around the midfield, everything football is meant to be. As Harry Kane soared through the air, you could feel the optimism around the stadium, loving this team and feeling such a connection. They felt the squad was improving, and so did everyone else. Was this really our year? Could we really finish above the old enemy?
Loses away at Liverpool and Manchester United dented our chances of top 4 drastically, which ask the question of has he mentality of the players really changed. The loss in the Capital One Cup final provided the fans with much hope for the future, but Chelsea were there for the taking in that game, and I sat there watching thinking, “were the players happy to just be there?” They seemed to give up after the first goal, which is a “Spursy” characteristic. When the going gets tough, cave in and try not to be embarrassed. That’s how I’ve always remembered it.
I think that the most important thing from this season was that the youth had finally taken over, which will be key during the development of the stadium. When the stadium will be being built, funds for players will be non-existent, similar to what happened to Arsenal in the early years of the Emirates, so the development of this young batch of players will be key to how the squad goes for the future.
Do I believe the team has improved since Pochettino took over? In some ways, yes, but the other areas that haven’t changed run deep in the club and have done for years. The inability to take control of a situation when it really matters is something that has always plagued Tottenham Hotspur for as long as I can remember. I do believe In Pochettino, but when I see Ajax play, I can’t help but wonder if things would’ve been better under Frank de Boer. Unfortunately, de Boer will be taken up by another club, most likely Arsenal (because that’s our luck), and we will be left wondering “what if?” Nevertheless, “In Potch I trust” as the saying goes, and I’m genuinely excited for what the future holds for this club. The future is bright. The future is Lilywhite.