Tottenham Hotspur 2015/16 Season Review: Excellent campaign ends disappointingly for ever-improving Spurs

We take a look back at how Tottenham Hotspur fared in the 2015/16 season.

Tottenham Hotspur 2015/16 Season Review: Excellent campaign ends disappointingly for ever-improving Spurs
Pochettino led Spurs back into the Champions League (photo: Getty)

The ultimate aim of Champions League football was achieved, but the 2015/16 season could have been a lot bigger and better for Tottenham Hotspur

A shaky first month or so

The first six weeks of the season were a very nervous bunch, as Spurs didn't pick up their first win untill the first game back after the early season international break, where they beat Sunderland 1-0 away thanks to a late Ryan Mason goal. 

Prior to this first win, three straight draws had followed an unlucky opening day defeat at Manchester United 1-0, courtesy of a Kyle Walker own goal. Things just weren't quite clicking on all cylinders just yet for Mauriccio Pochettino's team as they weren't quite seeing out games, with leads thrown away at home to Stoke City and away to eventual champions Leicester City.

The unbeaten league run

Just three draws and points from their opening four Premier League games didn't look a great start to the season, however these games made up the start of a 14 game unbeaten run, as they never tasted defeat from the second game of the season up until mid-December, when Newcastle United came to White Hart Lane and won 2-1 having been a goal behind for the second straight season.

The undoubted bright sparks of this period were Harry Kane ending his 13 hour goal drought to start the season, as at the end of September he scored in a thumping 4-1 win over title contenders Manchester City. The goals would then steadily follow for the England international, as he bagged a hat-trick at Bournemouth to end October and scored a brace against West Ham United at White Hart Lane in November. 

Alderweireld scored in a 4-1 win against City (photo: Getty Images)
Alderweireld scored in a 4-1 win against City (photo: Getty Images)

Contrasting cup fortunes

As for the other commitments in the first half of the season, results were very inconsistent for Spurs. Pochettino's team were get no 'easy' draw to start off the Capital One Cup, as they drew North London rivals Arsenal at home. It seems it wasn't meant to be for the 2015 runners-up as a Mathieu Flamini brace, yes two goals from the French midfielder, won the day for Arsenal.

The other focus for Tottenham in 2015 was the Europa League, which has become a regular consoliation prize for a not quite good enough league campign. Spurs were drawn with unknowns Quarabag in the group, alongside Monaco and Anderlecht. However, they made hard work of advancing as they followed the opening day win over Quarabag by failing to win in either France or Belgium despite playing strong teams.

They did come through in the end with a win in the Anderlecht reverse game, a grinding victory in Azberajan and a thrashing of Monaco at White Hart Lane to top the group with 13 points. Erik Lamela was the star of the group stage with six goals, including a hat-trick against Monaco.

New year break into the top four

As the second half of the season got underway, Spurs put themselves in a commanding position in relation to their pre-season objective of a top four finish. Following on from the Newcastle defeat just before Christmas, they'd only lose one more league game until the start of March, this would turn out to be a big one though, 1-0 at home to Leciester thanks to a Robert Huth Goal.

That game was one of three they played against the Foxes in the space of 10 days, as a late Harry Kane penalty would force an FA Cup third round replay at the King Power Stadium where Spurs would prevail 2-0 and then advance to a fourth round tie at League One Colchester United where they'd win easily 4-1.

The goals really started to fly in for Tottenham in this two month period as they put three past Norwich City twice, four past Sunderland and scored three at Cyrstal Palace, with Delle Alli getting the pick of the bunch with his skillful and spectacular volley. After that, a Valentines Day win at the Etihad had Spurs fans falling in love with their players thanks to a late Christian Eriksen strike.

"Hello there, goal of the season award" says Alli after scoring - Palace (photo; zimbio)
"Hello there, goal of the season award" says Alli after scoring - Palace (photo; zimbio)

Chance of realistic silverware goes begging

However, the back end of February and the begining of March would see a good chance to bolster the trophy cabinet at the Lane slip away as Pochettino saw his team knocked out of the FA Cup at the fifth round stage to Crystal Palace at home and be then humbled by Borussia Dortmund in the last 16 of the Europa League.

The Argentinian boss would come into some stick for the first time in this season after his decision to rotate the team heavily for the Palace match and the first leg of the European tie in Germany, Harry Kane not starting the latter for example. He wasn't criticised too heavily at the time, as Spurs were still in with a shout of winning the league, until the next period came along.

Too many draws derail the outside title bid

Fans on the white side of North London were starting to get really excited as the final six weeks of the season kicked in, as there was a real possibilty that Spurs could win their first league title since 1961. In fact, at the start of march they could have went above shock leaders Leicester on goal difference, but they fluffed their chance by losing 1-0 at a hostile Upton Park.

This lack of nerve on the big stage would be an unfortunate consitency for Spurs in the end to their season. The very next week in the North London derby they'd be leading Arsenal 2-1 with a man advantage, but could still not win the match and drew 2-2, meaning the gap was extened to five points in the title race.

Spurs would stay in touch over the next month with comfortable wins over Manchester United, Stoke and Bournemouth, but ultimately their season would come down to two Monday night games at the end of April and start of May. 

The first saw them take on West Bromwich Albion at home in what most people were calling a gimmie to move back within five points of the lead. However it didn't play out like that as Tony Pulis' side had a great second half performance with a Craig Dawson header canceling out his own goal in the first half. Spurs simply didn't respond in the last 20 minutes and could have easily lost the match. Alli didn't help proceedings, picking up a ban after punching Claudio Yacob.

Chelsea and season finale

A tinge of hope came for Spurs going into the second of these Monday night showdown's, as Claudio Ranieri's Foxes dropped points at Old Trafford the previous day, so once again a win would bring Spurs within five. However, they were playing a fierce London rival in Chelsea, who despite putting up no defence to their league title in the season, were bound to be up for this game at Stamford Bridge.

The entire match was more like a battle than a football match, but the first half was a good one for Tottenham as they let their football do the talking for the most part as strikes from Kane and Heung Min-Son had them 2-0 up at half-time. 

Therefore it should have been a simple job for Spurs to see out the contest, but Pochettino clearly failed to calm his players down in the dressing room as they acted like the whole world was against them and lost their heads by putting in really bad tackles, getting involved in personal battles with Chelsea players, i.e Danny Rose with Willian and Moussa Dembele with Diego Costa, as well as conceding two goals to gift Leicester the title with two games to spare.

Hazard's curling finish ended the title race, in a game that descended into pandemonium
Hazard's curling finish ended the title race, in a game that descended into pandemonium

What followed was mass fines for the club and a six match ban for Dembele after he made contact with Costa's eyes. Ultimately though the dream had died for Spurs a week before, and so had the ability of their players by the looks of it as two shambolic performances were put in at home to Southampton, where they lost 2-1, and away at relegated Newcastle, where they were thrashed 5-1.

Blame it on Alli and Dembele's violent conduct suspensions if you like, but Spurs just weren't good enough in these games in more ways than one and it even cost them second place and yet another season of finishing behind rivals Arsenal.

Still a superb season...

However, despite the negative and violent end to the campaign, the 2015/16 season was still a fantastic one for Tottenham Hotspur as they achieved their highest Premier League points total, were the second highest scorers in the league and secured their highest ever Premier League finish along with the prize of automatic entry into next season's Champions League group stage. 

Next season? Another title challenge may be unlikely with three quality manager's joining the league, but another top four finish and good Champions League progression would certainly go down well.