Opinion: A strange sense of calm

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

This shouldn’t be. I’m a Spurs supporter, after all, and we should know that pain is always just round the corner. 

Last year was a full cock-up for most of the pre-lockdown part of the season, and now we will be reminded of it in the “Mourinho or Nothing” documentary put out by Amazon. THEY have won two pieces of silverware in barely a month, and seem to have found the manager they’ve been looking for. 

The other they are buying up the world, it seems, after a lengthy transfer ban, and had already made it up to Top Four without that shiny new blue talent. And the old standbys have Van De Beek in tow, Grealish or Sancho or someone else waiting in the wings, and did I mention that City and Pool are still two of the top five teams in the planet? And we face games in Eastern Europe in successive weeks just to have a shout at Group Stage for the dreaded Thursday nights, and Carabao Cup games as well on top of them and wouldn’t it be sweet if we were bounced from two of the three trophies we can realistically pursue before the leaves begin to fall?

Sixth place. Just above Everton land. Or the new Everton in Wolves. The new in-between. That’s all we’re figured to be good for. Out with your Champions League dreams—it all peaked in Madrid a year ago June and never to be seen again. Back in your place, Spurs, and the costly palace which will only serve to keep you shackled. 

And yet I am strangely unconcerned. I think this squad is uniquely positioned to surprise the world this year. I think it will be a successful season and, if I had to bet this day, one which will produce the coveted trophy. Why in God’s name do I believe that? First, I think we will be stronger in defence than at least two of the three teams we will be competing with for third and fourth place (And I am not totally sure that Liverpool won’t be in that competition also)—and possibly all three. We are more settled at goalkeeper, we are more experienced in central defence, and with Mourinho at the helm I suspect the overall approach will be more organized than that which Lampard and Arteta are able to achieve—and perhaps more consistent than what Ole will bring. Doherty is an upgrade over Aurier. Tanganga, Sanchez and Dier should play better in a settled season than a variety of combinations with Toby did a year ago.

I also think Mourinho is simply a better manager for a year-long campaign than any of the still pretty inexperienced counterparts which are heading those three clubs. Ask yourself this simple question. After he arrived, Spurs were fourth best in the league, and rose from 14th to 6th for the entire season. They were also a top four team after the restart. If Kane and Son hadn’t been injured barely two months into his tenure, do you doubt the fact that Spurs would have bested both Chelsea and Man United to finish 3rd?

The central midfield will be better whether or not Tanguy Ndembele comes good. Hojbjerg is one reason. The budding talent of Lo Celso under Mourinho for a full year is another. And in terms of our enigmatic Frenchman, one of three things will happen, two of which are good. 1) He will be offloaded and the money will be used for a player better able to help Spurs; 2) he will stay and succeed, supplying talent and energy in the spine of the team; 3) he will stay and fail—essentially a repeat of last year. I’ll take my chances the actual result will lie behind either Doors One or Two.

And then on attack—and I know there is justifiable skepticism about just what that word means in the Mourinho lexicon , and whether the game of Gegenpress has passed him by—I believe we will be better. 

Give Kane a proper backup and then, depending on the precise situation and competition, throw out an improved Sessegnon or Gelson Fernandes on occasion, Lamela when his aggressiveness is needed, Sissoko to back up Lo Celso if he must go forward, Winks in the occasional cup games or when 20 minutes of stability holding a lead is needed, and then the proper combination of Lucas, Bergwijn, Son, Dele and Kane for the biggest games and the toughest tasks. Kane gets rested when needed with a backup and, barring any major injury, this squad is deeper than you think and as talented as all but City and Liverpool—presuming their big three do not begin to wear down. Aubameyang and Rashford and Werner are all quality; Greenwood and Saka and Pulisic are all up and coming talents. They’re all good. But so are we. We’re as deep. We’re as potent. We’re as tough. This is a better side than the one which made the Champions League final. It is a better side than every one Poch fielded, with the possible exception of 2016-17—his third season—when only an extraordinary campaign by Chelsea denied us the title. 

The league is as tightly drawn and loaded at the top as it has ever been, but so what? We’ve been better than these sides in most of the previous four years to last. And even last year we were essentially their equals, once the vagaries of lockdown, restart, managerial changes and injuries are sorted out.

It will be a good season. I do believe there is a trophy waiting. Our manager knows what he is doing. COYS.

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