70 points for 70 points.
- We’re a good team.
- An actual, properly good team.
- I’ve loved this season, despite the way it ended. In an article I contributed to last week, I said it’d be a 6/10 season if we finished below Arsenal. In hindsight, I can’t hold us to that. 7/10 minimum; so much progress.
- It’s fairly obvious that we need to add depth for next season. The Champions League will take its toll far more than the Europa League and, whilst we could make mass changes and bring in ‘the kids’/squad fodder in the Europa League, we need players at a similar level to our first choice players in order to compete in both competitions next season if we want to hold our own. In fact, I would say that not necessary having obvious ‘first choice’ players is an aspiration.
- Because, as it stands, our first XI is pretty established; other than Son Heung-min/Kevin Wimmer pushing, the squad lacks players who genuinely challenge the first team spots. This is not ideal. We need to be able to rotate with less of a drop-off.
- We do have other players who *might* push next year — players like Clinton Njie, Nabil Bentaleb, Alex Pritchard, Harry Winks, Josh Onomah, heck, even (Big Fat) Nacer Chadli. And, based on the last two years, we can expect Mauricio Pochettino to improve all of those players. But I don’t think we can expect break-out seasons; we have been spoilt this year!
- Then you’ve got Kieran Trippier, Tom Carroll, DeAndre Yedlin, and Michel Vorm. Personally, I think that these players are not good enough for the number and status of games we’ll need them for and, personally, I’d try to move them on (though I know Trippier is relatively popular amongst our fan-base and that many disagree with me on that point).
- Ryan Mason is another who many expect to leave. He has been linked with Bournemouth, and it was telling that he was taken off at half-time against Newcastle, and that post-match Pochettino said “It’s important to analyse the goals, the formation of the squad and make some decisions.” This implied that he knows that some tinkering is required.
- On Mason specifically, it is worth noting that he has had significant injury problems throughout the season. I also, personally, think he’s unsuited to the role that he is being asked to play. Is he good enough to play as a Christian Eriksen/number ten in our team? Probably not. I could see him playing the Dele Alli false 9 role, though that is almost entirely based on what I saw during his youth career, which is now some time ago — Mason turns 25 in June.
- With the European Championships, so many question marks over squad members, so many youngsters who *might* fill gaps, and so many high-level games to play next year, it’s a very tricky summer of planning for Pochettino, Paul Mitchell and co.
- Who might we sign? We know that we need a defensive midfielder, and N’Golo Kanté would be the dream, though perhaps an unrealistic one. I am an admirer of Christoph Kramer of Bayer Leverkusen. Statistically, he’s comparable to Dier in terms of pass numbers, pass length, interceptions, but it’s noticeable that he makes three times as many tackles and also a higher proportion of forward passes. From the ‘eye test’, I know that he anticipates danger exceptionally well and, whilst he doesn’t cover ground too quickly, he gets across in time because his anticipation is so good.
- We might well need another central midfielder too, depending on who leaves and who is promoted. How settled is Morgan Schneiderlin at United? Will we rekindle our interest in Adrien Rabiot? These are good players who would add significant depth.
- Striker-wise, we’ve been linked with Michy Batshuayi (Olympique de Marseille), Saido Berahino (West Bromwich Albion) and, recently, Calum Wilson (Bournemouth). Statistically, none of them really match up to Kane, but we have an elite-level striker and it will be incredibly difficult to find someone as good.
- We do need someone, though, and preferably someone who can play up front alone, but also in tandem with Kane should we require it. Versatility would be useful.
- Do we need to buy? Can we promote from within? Do we need to be concerned about the ‘home grown’ rule? Were we to lose Mason and Carroll — as many people expect — it would take us down to five home-grown players (Walker, Rose, Trippier, Davies, Kane), as we sold Andros Townsend last season.
- Alex Pritchard and Grant Ward would also need to be included on our 25-man squad list, as they have now passed the age barrier, and they are also home-grown — so that could be one way to manage this and would take us to seven. Dominic Ball has not passed the age threshold just yet so would not need to be listed – nor would Winks, Onomah, or even Dele Alli.
- I am also fairly certain that Nabil Bentaleb *will* be counted as home-grown (depending on when he was formally registered).
- Next year’s a big season for Bentaleb. As I said on the final Fighting Cock podcast of the season: if he’s the Bentaleb of two season’s ago, he’s an exciting asset; if he’s the Bentaleb of last season, he’s a liability.
- Rumour has it that he has settled down and smoothed things over with the club after an apparent falling out about his contract negotiations. I heard that the club were unhappy with his ‘entourage’ for going to the press.
- Clinton Njie’s first season has been a bit like Erik Lamela’s first. He’s looked a bit lost, has suffered with injuries, and a lot of fans are writing him off and calling for him to be sold. But, like Lamela, he has shown some promising glimpses. Hopefully with a good pre-season behind him, and plenty of Pochettino moulding he will become an asset next year.
- Lamela: wow! Boy, has he stepped it up?! A remarkable season from him considering where he was a year ago — 11 goals and 10 assists in all competitions. He is also the through-ball king.
- Lamela finished the season as our second top scorer in all competitions. We also had two players (Lamela and Alli) with 10 or more goals and assists. Eriksen ended the season with eight goals, 16 assists. So impressive from our ‘band of three’.
- Part of Lamela’s improvement has come due to the general tactical progression seen in this season. For a full run-down on our tactics, you really must check out this outstanding article from Talking Tottenham Tactics.
- But, generally, what a turn-around this year compared to last. We punched above our weight last year, and were heavily reliant on Harry Kane. This year we went up a notch in terms of team-shape, organisation, tactical astuteness, and individual player growth.
- In my opinion no player improved more than Mousa Dembélé. He was consistently one of our best players, and he was also very well-managed. His body is not up to playing two matches a week, and Pochettino intelligently ensured that he played just 2511 minutes across the season — nearly a full 2000 fewer than Toby Alderweireld, who played the most in the squad (4410).
- Other players who played a very high number of minutes are: Dier (4360), Lloris (4140), Kane (4027), and Eriksen (3906). And I would argue that these are four of the players for whom we lack obvious back-ups. Ideally next year we will have alternatives so that we can cut down the number of minutes that they play and keep them fresher for longer.
- Dembélé had his break-out season and became one of the first names on the team sheet and one of the best midfielders in the Premier League. I am fascinated to see whether he starts for Belgium in the European Championships; previously he has been a bit-part player for them as much as he has for us, presumably because they also struggled to get consistent performances out of him.
- But Dembélé wasn’t the only midfielder to shine. First, Eric Dier. A storming year for this 22-year old stalwart. I cannot wait to see how he progresses next season; not only in terms of his defensive play, but his burgeoning ability on the ball.
- And PFA Young Player of the Year 2015-16, Dele Alli. What a superstar. The confidence with which this guy plays the game is next level — I’ve rarely seen anything like it in a player that young. Well, perhaps I have: Wayne Rooney.
- If he got a four-game ban for this on Claudio Yacob, how did he not get ten games for brutalising Mile Jedinak at Selhurst Park?
- As a slight aside, I think Charlie Parrish will give birth to a kitten if this happens.
- And on the subject of Charlie, he and I have an exciting project planned for next season which you will hear more about very soon! No, not that.
- Back to the goals. We’ve seen some special goals this season. Alli’s was special, but Harry Kane’s goal against Arsenal made me cry real tears. I was a bit overcome. If only… if only it had been the winner, it would have been the perfect moment that Martine McCutcheon sang about.
- Kane continues to be a total hero. Not only is he a top-class striker, he is a top-class footballer. A #baller, in fact. The only tiny, tiny downside to Kane this year is that he only managed two assists, a third of last year’s total. Is that a problem? I doubt it, but it’s a point of interest.
- Kane was brilliant for nearly all of the season, but looked a little jaded towards the end of the campaign, and it’s a pity in many ways that he won’t get a full summer off.
- In fact, @raymondverheije has been tweeting about Spurs’ fitness levels.
- Personally, I don’t think the issue is quite as serious as Verheijen describes, though I must admit to being concerned by burn-out throughout the season as our squad is so small. Plus, Bielsa Burnout is a thing.
- For me, the problem was more mental fatigue than physical. The ‘title challenge’ seemed to take its toll, and the matches against West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea and especially Newcastle United were low points. Southampton was a bit of a blip, as we didn’t play too badly (despite losing).
- “We were on holiday and that is the reality.” was the slightly worrying quote from Pochettino post-Newcastle. How did this mentality seep in? Rumour has it that Danny Rose was out enjoying himself in Sunderland the night before (hence being dropped), so perhaps that shaped Pochettino’s comments.
- I still believe that if we’d had Dembélé and Alli for the full run-in, we’d have finished second.
- Newcastle-aside, the season’s other low points for me were the West Ham match, where we barely turned up and struggled tactically…
- …and Borussia Dortmund away. At the time, I could understand the rotation. But, in hindsight, I don’t think it would have been asking too much to squeeze a little more from the first-choice players for such a big game. Tom Carroll and Ryan Mason in central midfield was a step too far, and with Keiran Trippier and Josh Onomah also starting, it felt a bit too ‘reserve’.
- The high points were the 4-1 thrashing of Manchester City, where we absolutely took them apart and showed how far we had grown since the previous season.
- Plus the 3-0 win at White Hart Lane against United. A cagey game where we flicked a switch and scored three goals in six minutes. Bliss.
- And the 4-0 demolition job on Stoke, where we looked like we would score with every attack.
- Shout-out too for Watford away, where we played poorly but scored an offside, last-minute winner. Glorious!
- So much went right, on the pitch, but things are going well off it too. Pochettino has signed a new deal and had a change of job title – he’s now Manager rather than Head Coach.
- I have no idea what this means in terms of responsibilities or day-to-day operations (I’m hoping we’ll know more after the THST have met the board next week), but it seems to imply greater responsibility.
- Does this mean he has more of a say in transfers? I’m not sure, but I don’t want anything to change in that respect. Because: Toby Alderweireld, Dele Alli, Kevin Wimmer. Three monstrous signings for comparatively little money. Clinton Njie and Kieran Trippier have — so far — not been as positive, but are by no means duds.
- I hope we take the cups seriously next season. Some fans still haven’t fully forgiven Pochettino for Fazio against Arsenal (I’m looking at you, Bardi). The FA Cup was a little different, as we deserved to win against Crystal Palace; but that felt like a huge missed opportunity.
- Another minor concern was the lack of opportunities for youth players this season. Not that I’d have expected lots to be thrown in during a title-chase, but earlier in the season against some pretty poor teams in the Europa League, I felt that a few more players could have been introduced/integrated/included on the bench.
- We have some good youth players bubbling under who can hopefully push for squad places next year: Cameron Carter-Vickers (18-year old centre-back), Kyle Walker-Peters (19-year old right-back), plus the returning loanees Grant Ward (21-year old midfielder), Conor Ogilvie (20-year old left-back) and Dominic Ball (20-year old centre-back / defensive midfielder).
- On the subject of youth, I fully expect the Under-21 squad to be trimmed this summer, either through players being sold or released. We have a few players who are clearly not going to make it, and who are effectively standing in the way of those who might.
- We should find out the list of released players on or around the 10th June; the club has to submit its list of released/retained players by tomorrow (21st May).
- At the moment, we are pretty much sure that Emmanuel Sonupe from the Under-21s, plus Armani Daly, Charlie Hayford and Chris Paul from the Under-18s will not be retained. There will undoubtedly be others.
- The progression to the final of the NextGen Series last week was a good sign — as was Marcus Edwards (arguably the best 17-year old in the country) winning the joint Most Valuable Player award.
- The next tournament is the Terborg Tournament, which takes place between the 20th and 22nd May. Our squad should be made up of Academy scholars, plus three overage players. The rules say that it is a tournament for “…players born later than 1. January 1997 and before 31. December 1998. Each team may have up to 3 players no more than 1 year older…”.
- The intake for next year’s academy is incredibly exciting, with some very talented players beginning scholarships. We are expecting the following to be given scholarships: Freeman, Eyoma, Dinzeyi, Omolabi, Hinds, Oakley-Booth, Kirby, Griffiths, Lock. There are at least a further two players who must be in contention in Reynolds and Grant. We await confirmation!
- This will be a particularly strong Academy group, with the second years made up of: Austin, Bennetts, Brown, Duncan, Edwards, Marsh, Mukena, Oteh, Roles, Tanganga, Sterling, Shashoua, Tsaroulla and Whiteman. A number of these players should be promoted to the Under-21s pretty much from the start of the season.
- What might next season have in store? Would finishing lower than 3rd be a failure next time out? Personally, I don’t think we can expect to finish third or above next year as the richer clubs (notice I didn’t say ‘bigger’!) will be wounded animals. They will spend vast amounts in the summer and at least some of them could reasonably be expected to revert back to their previous levels, depending on how they get on with new managers. But I do think we have the ability to challenge, especially if we can keep key players fit again.
- We have a number of players who have yet to peak, or who have untold levels of potential (Kane, Alli, Dier), along with a few who seem to peaking — Dembélé, Alderweireld and Lloris come to mind, but I’m tempted to include Walker and Rose in this list too.
- Spurs must be a very attractive option to players right now, and the fact that we pay less than other clubs is probably slightly less significant than it once was.
- If we can keep Pochettino and his team in place, then the future is just so exciting.
- The final few points are a bit me-me-me but, hell, I’m running out of material and it seems fitting to end on a few thank yous.
- Thank you to my sister, Sarah, and my good friends Paul and Nick for the great company at first team matches this season.
- Thank you to C Raynor and MW for their occasional but excellent company at youth matches this season.
- Thank you to my Fighting Cock brothers for the million WhatsApp messages every day. If you like our podcast, by the way, it’d be wonderful if you could leave a review on iTunes.
- Shout out to GERRYinHONGKONG who is the most consistent commenter on this blog. I don’t always reply to your comments, Gerry, but I read and appreciate every single one!
- Thank you to Dan for maintaining this website — rather excitingly there might be a new look next year.
- Thank you to you all for reading my blog, Twitter feed and listening to the podcast. I’m hopefully going to have more time to take on new writing opportunities next year, and will consider anything (paid or unpaid); please do get in touch at Windy@WindyCOYS.com. See you next season and Come On You Spurs! #COYS
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