For about five years now, Tottenham Hotspur have made it their goal to get back to playing Champions League football. Ever since their Champions League Campaign in 2010-2011, which saw them knocked out in the quarterfinals by Real Madrid, that has been the target set for each season. The mood at the club has been positive this summer with the news of the new stadium and exciting new signings. So what has to happen for Tottenham to finish in the top four this season?
1. Take advantage of the fixture list
The first half of the season for Tottenham is well to their advantage minus November, where we face our three fiercest rivals in three consecutive weeks. Arsenal away, followed by West Ham and Chelsea, both at home. Other than that, the first half should see Spurs in the top four.
The turn of the New Year gives Spurs an easy January. The only tough test in February is a trip to Manchester City on February 13th. The month of March opens with two London derbies: West Ham (A) and Arsenal at White Hart Lane four days apart.
April could prove a costly month for Tottenham’s champions league ambitions. It will be vital for Spurs to take advantage of easier parts of the fixture list if a top four finish is in order. The April schedule goes as follows: Liverpool (A), Manchester United (H), Stoke City (A), West Brom (H), and finally, Chelsea (A).
2. Continue last season’s trend
Under Pochettino, Spurs fitness levels have been unbelievable and will certainly carry over into this season. The chemistry in the squad will only improve since there has been little done to change the squad. What has been done to change the first team squad is give Jan Vertonghen a partner at the back that he is familiar with by the name of Toby Alderweireld.
However, there are areas where the squad needs improvement. A back up striker or even a strike partner for Harry Kane, not named Roberto Soldado or Emmanuel Adebayor would go a long way for a Spurs top four finish.
Since it is Pochettino’s second season in charge, his group of players will be more familiar with his tactics.
3. Keep hold of Hugo Lloris
Harry Kane did give him a run for his money as best player last season, but time and time again, Hugo Lloris saved Tottenham Hotspur. After years of watching Paul Robinson, Heurelho Gomes, and even the short time of Brad Friedel, Tottenham have found an absolute world-class goalkeeper. Daniel Levy needs to do all he can to keep him at White Hart Lane if he wants any chance of a top four finish. Manchester United are doing their part by essentially making David de Gea untouchable which would prevent Lloris from going to Old Trafford.
4. Extract and replace
If there was one thing we learned from last season, it was that Spurs had far too much deadweight. You might have recognized them by their nickname, the subs bench. If it were up to him, Pochettino would have used basically the same 11 players all season. In a system like his, that doesn’t bode well for those players’ fitness levels. However, he didn’t have a choice. Unless it was a Europa League game or a cup tie against a lower division team, no one felt comfortable with Roberto Soldado or Emmanuel Adebayor up front, Federico Fazio, Vlad Chiriches, or Younes Kaboul at the back, and Andros Townsend on the wing. The seven players on the bench have to be good options to replace the starting 11.
Daniel Levy has made an effort to get rid of the deadweight at the club getting rid of players such as: Etienne Capoue and Paulinho. More players that Levy should dispose of are: Soldado, Adebayor, Kaboul, Chiriches, and Stambouli. Since these players are leaving the club, naturally, replacement players would have to come in.
Toby Alderweireld has signed for Spurs, which gives us a vast upgrade at the center back position. The Belgian connection at Tottenham could even be furthered with the signing of Kevin Mirallas from Everton, which would strengthen Spurs, and weaken a potential threat to a Champions League place. James McCarthy is also rumored to be in talks with Spurs. Another striker will be in order for Tottenham as well. Instead of having two backups to Harry Kane who put in less than stellar performances when they see the pitch, it would be wise for Levy to invest in a player who could play if Kane is hurt or needs rest. Names floating around are: Charlie Austin, Saido Berahino and Fernando Llorente. Pochettino’s desire to use the wings is certain to bring in another winger to give Lamela and Chadli competition as well as rest over the course of the campaign.
5. The teams above and around us
Realistically, there are six teams competing for four Champions League places. Chelsea are by far and away the best of them all. They will most likely repeat as Champions of England and therefore seal one Champions League spot, leaving three available.
The second and third best teams in the Premiership are Manchester City and Arsenal. Manchester City will surely be in the top 3 again due to the abundance of money at the club and their financial fair play regulations being lifted. As painful as it is to face for us as Spurs fans, there is a good chance that Arsenal will be contending for the title this season. In recent seasons, they have shown that are no longer afraid to spend the money and go out and get world-class players.
After both our London rivals and Manchester City, there is one Champions League spot remaining. The three teams most likely to challenge for that last spot are: Manchester United, Liverpool, and Tottenham Hotspur. Both United and Liverpool will strengthen their squads this summer, but the early part of the fixture list and the near certain departure of Raheem Sterling will certainly set Liverpool back.
Manchester United on the other hand have a favorable fixture list, money to spend, and the advantage over both Spurs and Liverpool of saying to potential signings this summer, “We have Champions League football to play in the fall”. Manchester United are rumoured to have interest in both Hugo Lloris and Harry Kane. However, United only finished six points higher than Spurs in the 2014-15 league table so there is a cause for optimism.
With all that being said, a top four finish is very much attainable for Tottenham Hotspur in 2015-16.
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