How Spurs can make the next step forwards
After such a brave performance in Turin, Tottenham’s eventual exit from the Champions League was disappointing. The home defeat to Juventus marked the end of the line for Spurs’ European ambitions for another year, and given that they are currently 17 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League, it also marked the loss of the last remaining chance to finish the season with either of the two major trophies that the club most covets.
In terms of silverware, Spurs still have another opportunity this season. They have a quarter-final tie against Swansea in the FA Cup to look forward to, and now that they are no longer in Europe, football punters who are planning to make a wager with Stakers.com on the FA Cup may be taking a fresh look at Tottenham’s chances in this competition.
Amid the disappointment, it’s important to remember the progress that the team has made since the early days of the Premier League when they regularly finished mid-table. The foundation of the Spurs revival was arguably laid by Harry Redknapp, who with the help of players such as Gareth Bale and Luka Modrić turned them into a top-five side, but it is Mauricio Pochettino who has taken them forwards to being a top-three side, finishing third and second in the last two seasons, and reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League.
In Europe, there has also been improvement. Last season, they were only able to beat CSKA Moscow in their European campaign, but this year they topped a group featuring Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund before matching Juventus on their own patch. Pochettino has spoken of Tottenham’s improvement as a long-term process, so how can they move on from this year’s disappointment and take the next step forward?
It is possible that the new stadium will help. Playing their home games at Wembley has not been the problem that some pundits were predicting – after all, it was the scene of their famous victory over Real in the autumn. However, a trip to Wembley isn’t as intimidating for opposing players as a trip to White Hart Lane used to be, and there is no doubt that playing at a genuinely partisan home venue should give Spurs an added edge next season.
Adding another world-class striker may also help, particularly if Harry Kane departs this summer, and it is likely that Pochettino will continue to strengthen the squad with appropriate additions, though a big splash in the transfer market seems unlikely.
However, perhaps the most important change to be made is in their tactics. Pochettino has improved the tactical awareness of his team, but when it comes to taking on the best in Europe, Tottenham’s high-pressing reactive approach can sometimes fall short. As the great Liverpool sides of the 1970s and 1980s discovered, success in two-legged European ties often requires a different kind of football, and the ability to retain possession and close out a game, something that Tottenham’s high-energy style does not easily accommodate.
In the short term, lifting the FA Cup for the first time since 1991 would help Spurs fans and players alike to feel that their club has made a step forward this season – and with one of the world’s best young managers guiding them, the future promises much for Tottenham.