In 1997-1998, under the expert tutelage of Gerry Francis and Christian Gross, Tottenham Hotspur came 14th in the Premier League, amassing only 11 wins and 44 points. In 2012-2013, under the tutelage of Andre Villas-Boas, Tottenham Hotspur came 5th in the Premier League, amassing 21 victories and 72 points. This year we won 46 points since December 16th; in 1997-1998 we only won 44 points in the whole season. That year we lost 4-1 away at Aston Villa; this year we won 4-0 away at Aston Villa.
Yet, as the curtain falls on another thrilling Premier League season, Spurs can’t help but feel disappointed. Have we failed? Certainly not. Young Portuguese hot-shot Villas-Boas has taken the reins from King ‘Arry – sorry, ‘I’m doing you a favour’ ‘Arry – and has stabilised a shaking ship despite an ongoing battle with meagre resources. During the most recent North London derby – which we won 2-1 – our bench contained an off-form Jermain Defoe, an inconsistent Kyle Naughton, the young Jake Livermore and Tom Carroll, the new-signing Lewis Holtby and the ancient Brad Friedel and William Gallas; Arsenal’s contained the likes of Lukas Podolski, Tomas Rosicky and Laurent Koscielny. Did we have a right to finish just a solitary point behind a team with that type of strength in depth? Arguably not.
We have not had a consistent striker all year. Jermain Defoe’s light shone brightly for the first few games of the year, before injuries meant that that light flickered and died out long before Emmanuel Adebayor found a tiny bit of form to finish the campaign. Gareth Bale has contributed 21 league goals, with the total from the two forwards and Bale being 37 in the league. But that is nowhere near enough. We didn’t have the resources for scoring enough goals, simply put. We only scored 29 home goals this season, including a combined total of 2 against Fulham, Wigan, West Brom and Norwich.
So have we failed? In 1997-1998, we were after European football. But no, not the elite European football, just the UEFA Cup. We finished 14th, which was extremely poor, but was it a comprehensive failure? No. We were mid-table mediocrity, we had survived relegation, and we could look forward to yet another consecutive season of top-flight action. In 2012-2013, our aim was 3 places higher than then. We finished 9 places higher than then. Have we failed? No.
It always takes time for a new manager to impose his methods and madness onto a club. Especially with the dramatic contrast between “kick it in goal, triffik lad” and “solidificate the cyclical object into the 8 feet by 8 metre target that has been planted into each end of the pitch”. As mentioned earlier, we amassed 46 points between December 16th and May 19th, with only 26 coming before that time. If our results from between December and May are extrapolated, we would receive 79 points. That is second place in the league. Does that suggest that if we hit the ground running next year then we can come 2nd? Well, why not?
What’s more, we have lost so many key players from the 2011-2012 season. Sandro has been out for half of the season. Kaboul has been out for the whole season. Modric has been sold. Van Der Vaart has been sold. King has retired. Granted, Vertonghen is an excellent player, but does he make up for the double loss of the Kaboul-King axis? Clearly not. Dembele and Sigurdsson have been excellent acquisitions – particularly the former – but are they on a creative par with the Croatian and the Dutchman? Clearly not.
Look at the above. Contemplate the fact that Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore and Kyle Naughton have made a combined 72 appearances in all competitions this season. Last season, Sandro couldn’t even make it into the first team on a permanent basis. Last season, Adebayor scored 17 goals and created many more.
Has this season been a failure? I think not.
We of Tottenham Hotspur have set our sights extremely high, and, although there may be disappointment now, next week and indeed perhaps even next year, think of the progress we have made in the last 15 years.
If 5th is now a failure, then I think that the current Tottenham Hotspur mentality can only be considered a success.