With the kind off of offseason moves that Tottenham have made this term—namely sacking Harry Redknapp for Andre Villas-Boas—there is only one primary goal for Spurs this season:
Champions League football.
Since we happen to be just a little over a week away from the opening bell of the latest installment of the Barclays Premier League, it is worth pondering what it will take points-wise to make it to the big show again.
Given the race to get into the top four spots to make the cut for the CL is expected to be contested at least six ways, points might be at a premium at times.
If Tottenham really wanted to be safe, they’d need somewhere in the neighborhood of 76 points to clinch an automatic berth in Europe’s elite competition.
The number 76 is derived from the average number of points the third place finisher has accumulated in the past five seasons of league play.
Over a ten year stretch, the number deviates down only a point to 75, with a high end of 83 (Chelsea ’09, Arsenal ’08) and a low of 68 (Liverpool and Arsenal, ’07 [+2 goal differential to the Liverpudlians]).
So, how do Spurs get to that haughty number?
They were only seven points off that pace after crashing and burning for much of the last 13 matches of the campaign last term, so just a little improvement is necessary.
A good starting point is to win at least seven of the ten London Derbies this term.
That’s already 35 points. Drawing at least two of the other three games gets them just about to the halfway line of 37.
It would also be helpful to take 14 of 18 points off of the promoted teams, which, with West Ham being among them, means the total goes up to 45.
Keeping the same point totals off of Liverpool and Newcastle (a win and a draw) would put Tottenham at 53 points.
We’re now halfway through the clubs and 23 points shy of the magical 76 number.
A win against each club would take Tottenham to 77 points and over the threshold for the third place average.
Stoke’s hammerblow style proved to be more than Tottenham could stand up to, netting only a solitary point at home.
Sunderland proved to be a hard slog in both matches, with a solitary goal over 180 minutes giving Spurs a win at White Hart Lane.
With Martin O’Neil at the helm fully now—Tottenham caught them just a couple of matches into his reign—Sunderland will prove to be no easy out.
Neither will Villa under Paul Lambert, who beat Tottenham while guiding Norwich at the Lane. Spurs took four points last term but needed six when they drew at Villa Park late in the season.
Norwich, meanwhile, are under Chris Hughton’s guise now. Hughton has been thrown some unlucky breaks of late but I think he does well at Norwich and makes life uncomfortable for Spurs at the Aviva.
Everton are the usual enigma until they go on a blistering tear in the second half of campaigns. Fortunately, Tottenham have the Toffees at the Lane in the second half of the campaign.
Wigan also are notorious for rallying late and, unlike with Everton, Spurs play the Latics in the fourth to last match of the campaign, a potentially dangerous period.
The match in November, however, should be a three pointer for Tottenham.
Swansea are a little different because it is not really known how they will rebound with manager Brendan Rodgers, midfielder Joe Allen and possibly winger Scott Sinclair not playing in Wales this term.
West Brom also are a bit unknown at this point and time, but if Tottenham can replicate their six point haul from last term, things should be fine.
Now, where are the stretches of the season that will help determine whether or not Spurs are serious contenders for the Champions League spots?
November 11 – December 1 (Five Matches)
The first real tough slog of the season sees Tottenham on the road to Eastlands and the Emirates within a seven day period.
This is followed by three matches over seven days with home dates against West Ham and Liverpool followed by a trip to Craven Cottage.
A haul of seven points would be the minimum but 10 points would be a great haul.
February 9 – March 16 (Five Matches)
An alternating set of home and away matches with the same grouping as above (substituting City for Newcastle) at the same point where Tottenham began to fade away last season.
A strong run through this section of 10-12 points would make sure that Spurs are not sliding off the trail again this term.
April (Four Matches)
Another alternating set of home and away matches but at a time where the four teams in question might be peaking or in direct competition for places.
It starts with a home clash with Everton, a road trip to Stamford Bridge, a home date with the defending champions and a potentially booby trapped run at the JJB.
Should Spurs take more than half of the available 12 points here, they would be proving that they should be in the Champions League places.
In total, my own best guess, based on crunch time factors predicts that Tottenham will end up on….
If they can get there, they have got a good shot to be back among Europe’s leading lights again.