Opinion: Looking back at pre-season and looking forward

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Heung-min Son
Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

This pre-season saw the long-awaited return of fans to stadiums.  With the absence of the now annual lucrative foreign tours due to COVID, this pre-season had something of an old school feel to it with a series of friendlies against fellow sides from the English footballing pyramid.

Spurs kicked off pre-season against Leyton Orient contesting the JE3 Foundation trophy in memory of the late Spurs legend and double trophy winner Justin Edinburgh.  The Edinburgh family have set up this excellent charity to raise awareness and vital funds for cardiac arrest.

A 1-1 draw and shared trophy was a fitting end to a lively encounter where Spurs were able to blood a number of youngsters. Perhaps no surprise to avid Spurs fans that Dane Scarlet was one of the standout performers and also bagged the Spurs goal. Nile John also earned his share of the plaudits with a promising display.

Next up were trips to Colchester and MK Dons. Spurs fielded strong sides scoring 3 goals in each game. 1 apiece for the attacking trio of Son, Dele and Moura in both games.

Perhaps the sight of Dele donning the captain’s armband at the stadium where it all started for him will prove to be an important milestone in his career. A rare, recent show of faith in the player who was frozen out by Mourinho.

While Premier League teams are often much maligned for their use of their vast riches, credit should be given to Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea for arranging the Mind Series for men’s and women’s team. A great opportunity for the teams to have competitive action while more importantly raising funds for another great cause.

The club also hosted a free of charge open training session. Normally these are reserved for overseas tours but this gave the fans an opportunity to see the players work close up. Bar the elephant in the room it’s been a half-decent pre-season from a PR perspective.

The first game of the Mind Series was at Stamford Bridge and ended in a 2-2 draw. There was a strong Spurs second-half showing to come back from 2 nil down at half-time.  It should be noted however that Chelsea’s 2nd half 11 was far weaker than their first.

Perhaps the bright spot was a goal for Steven Bergwijn. The Dutchman was a Mourinho favourite mainly for his endeavours tracking back but had lost confidence in the final third.  Hopefully, this is the catalyst he needs.

I am hoping Nuno used the sight of Chelsea parading their Champions League Trophy as a motivating factor for the future!

The Arsenal game ended in a 1-0 victory for Spurs with them enjoying the best of the possession and creating the better chances.  The game contained the usual spice (and a handful of bookings) associated with a derby. This made for an entertaining game and backed up the notion that this game is never a ‘friendly’

Overall the players definitely seem to be looking fit and there seems to be a strong desire to move the ball forwards.

Dele seemed to be more involved in the game and his contribution was improved. Fitness-wise he has looked sharp from minute 1 of pre-season.

Tanganga was another who was seemingly lined up for departure from the club via a loan. But perhaps his appearance at right back ahead of Doherty and Aurier is evidence that he has chosen to stay and fight for his place. We are told it was his choice to stay or go.

He repaid the managers faith with a solid performance culminating in the assist for Son with a display of typical tenacity by the corner flag.

In perhaps the biggest indication of formation for the new season, Hojberg and Skipp occupied the two defence midfield slots. This has the potential to be a very exciting pairing.

Hugo Lloris was a welcome returnee between the sticks and there was also another appearance for the Italian goalkeeper Gollini. While far, far too early to make any judgements, he appears to have a presence as well as being vocal and commanding.

It was also refreshing to see young Bukayo Saka receive a warm welcome from the Spurs fans when he was introduced for Arsenal during the second half.

Nothing is won in pre-season and results can have little or no bearing to the Premier League Season.  (The unbeaten Ramos pre-season would make a good case study for this).  However, there have been some positive signs.  Nuno, despite a keen admirer of Mourinho and his methods, seems a different kettle of fish and hasn’t put a foot wrong in press conferences.

Three new signings including, one in the troublesome position of centre half, as well as a number of departures, suggest that the hours that Paratici is spending on his mobile phone are paying dividends.

This has the feel of a new era about it, similar to when we plucked a likeable Argentine manager from Southampton.

Having been the privileged recipient of a hospitality ticket on Sunday I was able to have a good look around. There is no doubt this stadium deserves to grace football at the highest level.

Levy and board have worked tirelessly in delivering this amazing facility and that of the training ground. Now in the words of Poch they need quality furniture!

The quick-fix manager didn’t work and resulted in 18 wasted months.  I hope the board have the patience and faith in Paratici and Nuno to successfully oversee another rebuild.

The Mourinho era had become toxic, Nuno seems a breath of fresh air.  A swift conclusion to the Kane issue is needed however to avoid this being a major cloud over the start of the season.

It was perhaps fitting that Son scored the winner and lapped up the affections of a jubilant South Stand. In Son we have a player who has not only signed a four-year contract (if that means anything!) But has publicly declared his loyalty for the North London club.  Quite timely when the club may be in need of a new talisman.  The King is dead…….?

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