Spurs punching above their weight with third Champions League qualification
Another European tour
We might have crawled over the finish line with all the dynamism of a dried out slug with a rucksack of stones on his back, but across the line we land. Spurs have secured Champions League football for the third season in a row after a laboured victory over Newcastle at Wembley on Wednesday night.
Thanks to some artful rejigging in the corridors of power at UEFA, Mauricio Pochettino’s men will sail straight into the group stages next season. No qualifying rounds and no chance of any Young Boys-related heart attacks as we were subjected to back in 2010.
Against all odds
With the emotional bruises of last month’s FA Cup semi-final defeat still yellow and a sore for some fans, it would be easy to overlook what an achievement this is from the Argentine coach and his young brigade. The absence of silverware won’t be forgotten quickly by those who judge success purely on trophies won, but it really is miraculous that Tottenham even made it this far.
Before the season began, the odds of reaching the Top 4 looked stacked against the North London club. I remember some pundits had placed us below Everton in 7th in their pre-season forecasts.
It’s not hard to see why the experts were predicting Spurs to struggle. At the forefront of their thinking (and many Tottenham followers) was the all-consuming Wembley Factor.
After an entire campaign without tasting defeat at home— White Hart Lane’s intoxicating swansong —it seemed reasonable to expect a drop off once they moved to their temporary home. While talk of hoodoos and jinxes was far-fetched, Spurs’ form in the Champions League at Wembley in 2016/17 was…dicey at best.
“It’s been tough, especially because we feel we’ve played 37 games away from home,” said Hugo Lloris after Spurs’ twelfth ‘home’ win of the season against the Rafa’s Magpies.
To come through it all and arrive in position where third place is in our hands on the final day, is some effort. Perhaps not the trophy that every fan is craving, but an improbable feat nonetheless.
It’s a rich man’s world
Leaving the Wembley millstone aside, there’s no good reason why Spurs should expect to finish any higher than 6th. Based on spending power, which, like it or not, is the key determiner for likely success, we’re way behind the rest of the top six.
As a crude example, let’s look at the other club’s top three record transfer fees. The bolded text represent deals that happened in the summer of 2017 or winter 2018:
Man City: Aymeric Laporte £57m, Kevin De Bruyne £55m, Benjamin Mendy £49m
Man United: Paul Pogba £89m, Romelu Lukaku £75m, Angel Di Maria £59m
Liverpool: Virgil van Dijk £75m, Naby Keita £48m (July 2018), Mohamed Salah £37m
Chelsea: Alvaro Morata £58m, Fernando Torres £50m, Tiemoué Bakayoko £40m
Arsenal: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang £55m, Alexandre Lacazette £45m, Mesut Ozil £38m
Spurs are not exactly paupers of course, when it comes to spending. They themselves broke their transfer record in the summer with the signing of Davinson Sanchez. But they just cannot get anywhere near their rival’s ability to drop huge sums on a regularly basis.
Talk to me about net spend? Over the last two windows, Spurs have shelled out less than West Brom, Brighton and Huddersfield. We’re treading a different path to the rest of the top six.
No, we didn’t win a trophy this year (when really we should have) and no, qualifying for the Champions League might not be enough to retain our brightest stars. But nor should it be underestimated. Well done, to all involved.