Great things were expected of Tottenham Hotspur as they started the season with a new manager, Mauricio Pochettino. The tactical wizard was appointed with the task of bringing the North London side to finish at least fourth, a task last achieved by Redknapp. With the likes of Van Gaal and Frank De Boer being likely candidates, the appointment of Pochettino was a surprising one and subject to a lot of debate. Having finished 8th with Southampton, it looked as if Spurs were taking a step backwards. However, the general consensus was that if he could carry a team to their highest ever finish, he would do a lot better with a squad considered stronger, at least on paper if not on field.
Pochettino did bring an improvement to Tottenhama s season, having finished one place above where they landed in the previous season and reached the Capital one Cup FInal. Fans thankfully seem to have realised that Pochettino has brought about positive changes to the team even though he was forced to work with a new squad of players who were clearly not his choice. However there were small Tactical and personnel changes that has shown his potential as a manager who in the long term will deliver.
Rise and Fall of the new Beast
For Spurs fans, a transfer market incident that made them glum was the departure of defensive midfielder Sandro. The hard tackling Brazilian player was an exceptional cover for the back four when he a Gattusoeda the opponent midfield in Tottenhama s Championa s League game agains A C Milan, he was instantly dubbed a Spurs favourite. Versatile enough to double as a center back, Sandro soon succumbed injuries and never regained his form.
However as a replacement for the Beast, Tottenham saw Etienne Capoue, a lumbering French beast of similar size and stature. Capoue statistically was the most consistent defensive midfield in the premier league in the first five games of the Premier League. With very few games in the previous season, however much like Sandro, Capoue too was very injury prone.
After the first few exceptional appearances, he was soon replaced by the newly discovered Ryan Mason. Masona s exceptional strike in the Capital One cup, saw Pochettino place faith in the 23 year old English player and was awarded a debut against Arsenal which ended with a 1-1 raw. Ryan Mason has since been regularly featured alongside Bentaleb in the deep midfield position and has been quite exceptional for the North London side.
Capoue on the other hand seems to have gone back into hibernation for remainder of the season, with talks of him being sold in this transfer session, it is highly unlikely fans would get to see him in a Spurs shirt any time soon.
The High Defensive Line
Pochettino was known for his focus on a pressing play and extremely good defence, a key factor that saw Southampton concede very few goals. Tottenham on the other hand had earned quite a name for having lost games when they concede in the last minute. Pochettinoa s appointment won fans consent as they believed he could fix their leaky defensive problem. A manager with an emphasis on fitness saw Tottenham players, who usually run out of steam by 70th minute give their all till the final whistle. Diera s 90th minute winner in the opening game against West Ham United was evidence of the same. Pochettino much like his two predecessors AVB and Sherwood continued to preach the high defensive line strategy. However with the new levels of fitness they team achieved, it seemed to work well for the first few games. However, with the injury of full back Kyle Walker and a poor show and finally a departure from Kyle Naughton, saw the right back spot mainly filed by Eric Dier and the centre back pairing change to Fazio and Vertonghen, both of whom are too slow for a high defensive line.
Employing the 4-2-3-1 formation, Pochettino looked to use his two wing backs as additional midfielders who ran up and down the flanks while the defensive mid, initially Capoue, would drop back there by making a back three along with the central defenders. However introduction of Mason who lacked the defensive ability Capoue offered, was more a play box to box player and would often be left out of position when the two Wing backs had run up and he had to cover for them. Agueroa s goal at White Hart Lane comes to mind as the best example of this situation.
With a majority of the goals conceded coming from Tottenhama s right flank, it is no doubt that Tottenham have missed the presence of Kyle Walker. Dier who has been uncomfortable in the right back position, has often left the wing exposed when he makes his runs. Lacking the pace of Walker coupled with Lamelaa s inability to cover for him has cost Tottenham many games. Pochettino must rethink his defensive strategy or acquire a faster defence to employ such a high line with Tottenham.
Three Important Games
Three important games that defined Tottenhama s season were as follow:
- Tottenham 4 a 0 QPR a This was the second game in the season and Tottenhama s first home game. A display of exceptional passing and well executed goals saw QPR sunk within the first 40 minutes of the game. Although QPR are now relegated, the initial games of the season and a match up against a former boss would always prove to be a tough nut to crack. This display was an opportunity for Pochettino and his men to flex their muscles and show what they were bringing to the league this season.
- Tottenham 5 a 3 Chelsea a Chelsea then were in great form, accumulating 3 points in every stadium they visited. With a leaky defense and a better away record than a home one, Chelsea were clear favorites to win the game. However exceptional performances from Harry Kane and Danny Rose, saw Tottenham slay the champions in a goal fest. This display was proof that the Spurs side wasna t one to be taken lightly. With an able manager and perfect execution, Tottenham has the potential to go against any side in the Premier League.
- Tottenham 0 a 1 Manchester City a Tottenham although a reasonably strong performer by this time, were slipping further down the table and were slowly loosing grip on the top four and probably even the 5thSeven points adrift 4th place Manchester United, this fixture saw the two front runners Aguero and Kane, seperated by a goal, face each other in a feature where Spurs lost on two fronts. The loss shattered all hopes of Tottenhama s hopes of finishing fourth and also marked the last leg of the golden boot run as Aguero went on to score 3 more and steal the award from Harry Kane.
The Star Performers
Tottenham in spite of finishing 5th have had what we would call a very average season. However, there have been a few players who have been exceptional, without whose displays the team would have sunk lower.
- Harry Kane a Kane has been a revelation this season for a team that has played with two under performing strikers in the last two seasons. With an exceptional goal scoring record in the Europa league, it is still a mystery why Pochettino took a while to introduce the youngster. However amidst the chants of a he one of our owna Kane has had an eventful first full-fledged season. Outscoring Bale and becoming the first Tottenham player since Gary Linekar to score more than 30 goals.
- Danny Rose a Danny Rose was a poor left back last season. With an urge score goals, he often left his position allowing opponents to exploit the space left and was poor defensively even if he caught up to them. With this in mind, Tottenham acquired a new left back in the form of Ben Davies from Swansea. Ben Daviesa arrival in Tottenham proved more fruitful indirectly rather than directly. Rose in order to retain his place in the starting eleven has put up what could arguably be called his best season yet in the premier league. Although yet lacking defensively at times, the young English full back has been tremendous in his newly adopted position and can only improve.
- Christian Eriksen a Although it can be said he has had somewhat of a poor season by his standards, it cannot be forgotten how much his free kicks and last minute scoring antiques have saved Tottenham. Although he ended the season with having little or no impact in Tottenhama s games, every Spurs fan would definitely be in deep gratitude for the string of 2-1 victories which saw Tottenham salvage the crucial 2 points from drab draw matches.
Hence you could say Tottenham is like a Porsche that wants to race against the Buggattis and Ferraris. However it has picked the wrong model and has to be content with beating Puntoa s and Beetlea s. There is no doubt Tottenham have an exceptional squad and potential to finish much higher in the table. However, they have always chocked in the dying minutes of the season and let go of what was in their grasp. With improvements and better execution, Spurs can surely go on to occupy a Champions League birth. But wait, havena t we heard this too many times already?