The 2015/16 saw Tottenham rise to their highest ever Premier League finish, third. Many other fans have put this down as being just another fluke in the season that saw the greatest sporting miracle in history, which was of course Leicester winning the title. At the same time others say that Tottenham haven’t really improved at all, and instead just stayed the same while others around them fell apart. However, although it is still relatively early on in this season, another Tottenham title charge is looking like a genuine possibility, but it could really be that Spurs have finally stepped up their game and gone to the next level?
The major weakness of last season and of many other years previous, was Spurs’ inability to put games to bed, a lack of cutting edge that saw them fall to disappointing results against teams that should be beaten, such as an early 2-2 draw at home to Stoke and a 2-1 home loss to Newcastle. In the period of injury to Harry Kane, Spurs endured draw after draw in the league, again failing to put away teams in the lower echelons of the league, Leicester, Bournemouth and West Brom being the standout disappointments. As was the case last year, the story of these games was Spurs dominance with no real cutting edge, and the Ben Foster’s customary Hugo Lloris impression against Tottenham, leaving fans questioning the depth of the attacking areas of the squad.
For the entirety of the 15/16 season, there was only one recognised striker in Harry Kane, despite the official Spurs site telling us otherwise, and for many it feels as though it is a similar problem again, despite the arrival of Vincent Janssen. Janssen has failed to make a big impact, or much of an impact at all, since signing from AZ Alkmaar, bar a few penalties against Gillingham, Liverpool and Leicester. Questions have again been raised regarding the club’s transfer policy, with Head of Recruitment Paul Mitchell tendering his resignation towards the end of the summer, when some very Levy-esque signings were made, namely Georges-Kevin N’Koudou from Marseille and Moussa Sissoko with two minutes to spare from Newcastle. The one immediate success of the window has been the £11m purchase of Victor Wanyama from Southampton, who has been one of our most outstanding players so far, adding vital depth in the defensive area of midfield, which was key given Mousa Dembélé’s questionable injury record. His arrival has undoubtedly contributed to the further improvement of an already brilliant defensive unit. In 11 league games, Tottenham have conceded only one goal from open play, coming from a rare error at the back, and it is that defence that has led to an unbeaten run stretching back to the opening day. It is worth mentioning that this is Spurs’ best start to a league season since 1960/61, and there is no need to remind you of what happened then.
Spurs’ main competitors are those sitting just above them in the table, in the form of Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal. Liverpool are currently flying, sitting at the top of the table, scoring their way there freely, having netted thirty league goals in eleven games, exactly double the number Spurs have amassed. Their main weakness is, as ever, their defence and consistency, both of which have shown signs of not being sorted. They have only kept one clean sheet, and were embarrassed away at Burnley. Whether or not they are genuine title material will come to light in time, and if they can plug their defence, they could well be champions. Chelsea started this season in much the same way as they did the last, poorly. However, since a change in system to a 3-5-2, they have been the form team in the league, scoring fifteen, conceding none and winning five on the spin, looking frighteningly like the Chelsea that took the league by storm in 2014/15. Manchester City started the season in imperious fashion, winning six in a row, until they came to White Hart Lane and were given a footballing masterclass. Following that 2-0 loss to Spurs, they have shown signs of inconsistency, playing Barcelona off the park, then drawing to Middlesbrough at home. Though the quality of their squad, with players such as Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Sergio Agüero, makes them a sure thing to be up there around the top two by the time May comes. Arsenal appear to be reliving Groundhog Day yet again, starting the season brilliantly, brushing almost everyone aside, lauding it over declaring themselves champions six months early. Naturally, it will all fall apart in November, as is the norm. However, should they be able to break their November hoo-doo, their attacking talent could well be enough to carry them to the top at the end of the season.
To wind up, this year has a very ‘same old story’ feel to it. Poor singings despite having Champions League football, not being able to break down compact teams near the bottom of the table, knocking on the door but not being able to step through it. As has been the case for what feels like many years, we are so nearly there. One of the main reasons for the inability to kill games has been the lack of a Poch ‘Plan B’, which does seem to be changing however, given the 3-5-2 formation being preferred over the regular 4-2-3-1 and used to good effect in the recent North London Derby. With Kane, Dembélé and Alderweireld back and fully fit soon, there is a definite feel that it could be a great season. If Pochettino can resolve the lack of cutting edge issue, then we could be in for a big year. The January transfer window will prove pivotal, and once again, all eyes will be on Daniel Levy to see if he finally truly backs the manager, which Spurs fans unanimously will agree needs to happen. The future is bright, but that doesn’t mean the present can’t be glowing.
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