Two games remain in a remarkable Premier League campaign; one in which Tottenham Hotspur fans have been exposed to unfamiliar levels of joy and confidence in their team, but also one which has paradoxically left their fans with an all too recognisable feeling of frustration.
If only Mauricio Pochettino’s side had converted early season leads against Stoke City and newly crowned champions Leicester City, or won from similar winning positions against West Brom and Chelsea most recently, then they would have been able to mount a more serious threat to the supremacy earned by Claudio Ranieri’s history-making Leicester team, who were crowned champions on Monday.
Tottenham can do nothing to reverse this now, and while one may blindly deem that motivation might prove difficult to muster for Spurs’ squad, the attitude of not only their insistent manager Mauricio Pochettino, but also of the individuals, who have silenced their critics in their rise to second place in England’s top league, implies that they will not simply roll over in their games to come against Southampton and Newcastle.
No obvious stand out individual
In fact, this weekend, Spurs will play their last home game of the season, and with this, every year, comes great ceremony. Most interesting for fans at this occasion is often the awarding of the “Player of the Year” award. In recent years, particularly at White Hart Lane, the recipient of this title has been predictable. The rise of Harry Kane made him the inevitable choice last year, and perhaps the most difficult conundrum over the past decade has been whether to award it to Luka Modric or Gareth Bale, so great was their impact upon the North London faithful.
What is striking this year is that there is not one stand out contender. Many would argue that most crucial to Tottenham is still the goals of their talisman Kane, yet others would maintain that the club have improved most significantly defensively, possibly as a result of the consistent exceptional form of Eric Dier, Moussa Dembele or Toby Alderweireld. There may even be some that deem the progress made by Danny Rose or Erik Lamela deserve recognition, or even the continuing reliance of Spurs on their prolific stopper Hugo Lloris. There seems to be no obvious answer; but to what extent is this a good thing?
Much like the risks of an economy increasingly specialising in the production of one export, reliance on one player leaves a team vulnerable to adversity if this player is effectively marked or put on the sidelines. However, if Eric Dier has a poor game for Spurs, it is unlikely that midfield partner Moussa Dembele will also fail to meet expectations, which quasi-scientifically put, will detract from any negative impact that Dier’s performance will burden the team with.
Togetherness has bred increased reliability
Furthermore, the more integrated the team the stronger the weakest link of that team is as the quality is more evenly distributed. This maybe demonstrates why this season Spurs have exceeded the standards set by teams which contained the likes of Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart and the infamous Gareth Bale, who were arguably let down by defensive instability provoked by the likes of Sebastian Bassong, Younes Kaboul or William Gallas.
Spurs now seem to be a team with the defensive steel to match their attacking menace, yet recent performances have resulted in criticism for a lack of composure in seeing out matches. This is less a reflection of Spurs being a side out of equilibrium which is being let down by defensive frailties, which in the past has certainly been the case, but more a reflection of the relative youth and immaturity of a side who have been together as a unit for a relatively short period of time.
Unfortunately, this immaturity boiled over on Monday night during their heated encounter against underperforming London rivals Chelsea. The sour taste left by the numerous fracases at Stamford Bridge will have damaged the perception of Spurs’ season among neutrals, and while Spurs fans may argue that a display of such fervour is encouraging and gratifying for fans, it is surely futile and naïve to defend the loss of composure by Spurs’ players as they were goaded and enticed by an equally fired up Chelsea side.
Bright future on the horizon
Let this not detract from the witnessed transformation of Spurs this season. Spurs at times this season have looked exceptional and are undoubtedly a far more balanced side than they have been for a long time. Furthermore, they have earned important results against rivals who have previously swept them aside, with their opening day defeat to Manchester United being their only defeat at the hands of one of the Premier League’s typical big teams, hence ending their supposed ‘hoodoo’ against big teams in recent years.
Pochettino has composed a movement at Spurs which looks set to play on. One in which its component parts are dedicated to and believing in the project which may propel them to great success in the future. This season has seen not just Spurs fans but all football fans bear witness to the first airing of this side’s true potential, and provided that growth and development is sustained, they may well go further than what they have achieved this term. Should they do this, the scenes witnessed on Monday night will prove to be but an insignificant dot on a masterpiece, in turn accentuating the success and progress that followed.