The Tottenham Quagmire
As the craziness that is the 2018-19 season starts to roll to its close, there are a wealth of storylines that will be dominating television ads, online articles, and your favorite social media haunts. However, lost in the mire of the battle for the league crown, and the battle to gain Champions League soccer, there’s a major story that appears to have faded into the background. Just behind Liverpool/City, and with a season that should already be seen as more successful than the other top four contenders, Tottenham Hotspur sits wondering what could have been.
For those of you who are still growing into your knowledge of the game, we’ll go back a little to give you the full picture. Over the last decade, Tottenham has grown up from a that was team always left looking from the outside when the top four would finish the season to what we have now. Now, it’s almost surprising to say that this “almost title contenders” conversation has nearly become commonplace for the London outfit. They haven’t spent quite as long as Liverpool embracing the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride,” but Tottenham is starting to feel that the time for them to add some silverware to their cabinet is now.
Nearly the entire tale of Tottenham’s recent times involves people believing that this squad is overachieving. Harry Kane is still supposed to fade away at any moment, people are always moments away from burying Hugo Lloris, and Mauricio Pochettino is nearly at the top of every other club’s coaching search. One year can be considered a fluke, but this Tottenham team has shown for years that they’re the real deal and that they won’t be fading away, even if a few of what we consider to be their “key pieces” find greener pastures elsewhere. Despite injuries plaguing their roster, Tottenham would be probably in truly serious title contention if the current era of the Premier League didn’t have the league leader trying to crack 100 points every season (thanks Pep and Jurgen).
It starts to become a question of defining Tottenham’s goals. Fans and pundits alike are almost confused with team selections and board choices from the club as nearly every move seems to imply that those actually within the club hierarchy are content without trophies. From the League Cup to the Premier League, the starting 11 has often been baffling. Does Tottenham just want to have a general sense of success? Or, do they want to find an end product?
While this season only has one trophy still available to Tottenham as they completely dismantled BVB in the Champions League, it feels as if every aspect of leadership at the club wants to put trophy success on hold until after the club has moved into their new stadium. While we can respect wanting to quickly create incredible memories in a new ground, that doesn’t quite seem like a justifiable reason to almost avoid trophies. If Tottenham manages to progress through the 2019-20 season without silverware or last minute Final losses, it might be time to start to move into the next phase of their development/existence.
Although it is easy to blame management and ownership (Twitter shows how quickly the masses can organize between #firePoch campaigns and then shift in a whiplash type manner to singing the manager’s praises), there might be something wrong with this squad. There have been many squads that were packed with a decent level of talent, but simply couldn’t cross the finish line of success. Subtracting a League Cup trophy that took penalties against much weaker opposition, the Steven Gerrard/Suarez era of Liverpool never garnered any true trophy success. Perhaps this group simply isn’t built to handle the pressures of late season/tournament matches.
If that’s the case, this only adds to the oddities of Tottenham. Son has found success in many Asian tournaments with his home country, Lloris is a World Cup winner, Eriksen won four titles with Ajax, and Lucas Moura won everything possible in France with PSG so what is preventing these stars from helping Tottenham cross the finish line in England?
There are a few possible reasons outside of the squad simply being incapable of jumping the last hurdle. One of them relates back to that Liverpool Gerrard/Suarez era. One of the main aspects that seemed to always hinder clubs like Liverpool (Atletico Madrid in the past, Arsenal for a stretch, Roma) was because they have never quite been able to shake the idea that they’re a club that is still weak to the whims and wills of other clubs during the transfer market. Clubs like Manchester United, Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, and a few others rarely have to worry about one of their true stars ever thinking about leaving the confines of their club until they are more than ready to let them go (or, they think it’s time to let them go and then they regret it later [see: Real Madrid with CR7]). Liverpool never looked like they would be able to combat clubs circling for Suarez, Coutinho, and any other star that had a breakout season. Despite being well compensated, losing these players and always dealing with their impending transfer made it feel almost impossible for the club to gel 100%.
Tottenham has been dealing with transfer rumors from the front of the pitch to the back for almost four full seasons. Kane is always about to leave, Alli is about to be snatched, Alderweireld is moments away from departing, and each major trial that Tottenham goes through has the masses thinking that the coffers are about to be picked clean by other clubs. Stability might be the most understated part of champions. Manchester City knows that other clubs aren’t going to be able to swoop for De Bruyne but Chelsea has been in disarray for longer than Abramovich typically allows, and look how often a mass of their players are in transfer rumors. Stability and being able to keep the whispers at bay, especially if Tottenham does start to bleed players and continues to miss out on trophies, might be exactly why this Tottenham group might go down as one of the great “what-ifs” of our time.
What are your thoughts? How can Tottenham find success beyond simply being in the conversation? Are we about to see the squad crumble, or will the move to the new stadium be the final push needed?