Tottenham is coming off its best season ever. The 72 points the club amassed is a Tottenham Hotspur Premier League record. The 66 goals they scored was one short of the record of 67 in 2009-2010, while 21 wins and eight losses are also tied for the best since the Premier League's inception in 1992.
With the disappointment of missing out on Champions League football yet again though, Tottenham and their fans were dreading the offseason. This is mainly due to the hype surrounding Gareth Bale and links to various teams including Real Madrid and even Manchester United, with The Express reporting that the player will discuss his future with the club on Thursday.
With that said, the club has been shopping for players in the offseason, which means that Spurs are looking to not only go for the Champions League, but for the Premier League title. Here's a look at the reasons why Tottenham could threaten the rest of the top teams and have a chance at the title.
The transfer window is still open, and until it closes on September 2 there is no guarantee that Gareth Bale will be at White Hart Lane for the 2013-14 season. Rumors about Bale wanting out at Tottenham and the record transfer fee from Real Madrid are not good signs. However, if Bale does stay, there is a good chance that he could do the same damage he did last year when he scored 21 Premier League goals.
Some say Gareth Bale is the best player not named Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. There were times when Bale was carrying Tottenham and getting winning results almost by himself last season. The opposition's focus was on Bale more and more as the season progressed, but, even as teams tried to neutralize him, he kept scoring.
That isn't even the scariest thing about him. Bale is still settling into his position as a roaming forward. As he gets more experienced at his position, he could get even better. That should make other teams worry. If he gets better, Tottenham could easily finish in the top four and challenge higher up the table.
The difference from last year in comparison to recent ones has been the success against the top-tier teams. Wins away against Manchester United and at home against Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool really helped Tottenham stay hunting for Champions League football until the last game of the season.
The win at Old Trafford was by far the highlight of the season. This was the first time in 24 attempts since the Premier League started that Spurs defeated United on the road. The second match at White Hart Lane was looking grim until a late goal by the now departed Clint Dempsey resurrected the game and gave Spurs a 1-1 draw. This gave Tottenham four out of a possible six points from the Red Devils, making it the only team to twice take points from the league winners last season.
There were several other key games against elite teams for Tottenham. Spurs came back from a one-goal deficit late on against Manchester City with three goals in six-and-a-half minutes. Clint Dempsey, Jermain Defoe and Gareth Bale all scored to shock Manchester City.
The London Derby against Arsenal also saw a couple quick strikes by Bale and Aaron Lennon. The Gunners scored early in the second half, but Spurs held on for the 2-1 win.
Continued success against the top-tier teams will be necessary in order to challenge for the league title.
Tottenham has really stepped their game up this offseason with four key transfers that should all play a big role in Spurs' quest for a championship. Spanish striker Roberto Soldado, Belgian winger Nacer Chadli, French midfielder Etienne Capoue and Brazilian midfielder Paulinho have all been signed and are with the team preparing for the season-opener this week.
On July 6, Spurs broke the club transfer record by paying an estimated £17 million for Paulinho. The 25-year-old really showed what he is capable of this summer by helping the hosts Brazil defeat Spain in the FIFA Confederations Cup final. Paulinho scored two goals in the competition including the game-winner against Uruguay in the semifinals. Look for Paulinho to impress this season by assisting Mousa Dembele and Sandro in a hopefully healthy midfield.
Tottenham continued to spend money in the transfer window by signing former FC Twente winger and Belgian international Nacer Chadli for £7 million. Just a couple weeks after the signing of Paulinho, Spurs added a much needed forward in terms of depth. Chadli will add some pace out wide and should be a very efficient winger for Andre Villas-Boas.
The biggest signing in Tottenham history came on August 1 when Spurs paid £26 million for Valencia striker Roberto Soldado. Coming on the heels of the biggest of Gareth Bale rumors, this signing could be just enough to keep Bale around for one more season. Soldado has urged Bale to stay at Spurs, as reported by Eurosport, and if the club is looking to get rid of its tradition as a selling club, then Bale has to stay. With 81 goals in three seasons at Valencia, Soldado is the dependable striker that Spurs have needed for quite some time.
The most recent signing came within the last 24 hours, as Spurs confirmed that they have acquired Etienne Capoue from French club Toulouse for £9 million. The central midfielder plays a more defensive style, which will help fill in the gaps with the losses of Steven Caulker, Clint Dempsey, and Tom Huddlestone, who departed yesterday for Hull along with Jake Livermore, who leaves on loan, as reported by the official Spurs website.
With only a couple weeks left in the transfer window, Tottenham will probably add one more piece to the puzzle by September 2.
From a statistical standpoint it is safe to say that Tottenham have found a good manager in Andre Villas-Boas. AVB did a great job last season working through injuries and getting the most out of his team. Coming back for a second season, Villas-Boas and Spurs will need to improve if they want to challenge for the league title.
It's unfortunate that 72 points was just one point short of fourth-place Arsenal and Champions League football, but a club record for points shows signs of progress. Seventy-two points would have been enough for third place just two years ago and second place three years ago.
With recent transfers in place, Villas-Boas has enough strikers and wingers to run his favorite 4-3-3 system. Villas-Boas will also have more depth on the bench to be able to make key substitutions later in the game to solidify a victory or get a late goal in crunch time.
AVB will need players like Gylfi Sigurdsson, Lewis Holtby and Younes Kaboul to step off the bench and contribute in the late stages of the game. It remains to be seen how Kaboul will be used early in the season since he hasn't played a competitive match since last August, but as long as he is health,y expect to see him on the pitch quite a bit. Sigurdsson and Holtby are players that can add a goal or assist when necessary.
If Spurs wish to challenge the top of the table, Villas-Boas will need an active and productive bench along with an effective implementation of the 4-3-3.
The start of the season will see the beginning of new management for the three top teams in Manchester United, Manchester City, and Chelsea. David Moyes, Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho have the highest expectations from the fans, and all three have experience at big clubs. However, should one or two of them struggle, that will leave an opening for Spurs to take advantage and climb the table.
David Moyes was hand-picked by Sir Alex Ferguson to take over at Manchester United. Moyes has had success at Everton and finished higher than rival Liverpool the last two seasons. The change from Everton to Manchester United should allow Moyes the opportunity to spend money and be able to manage a competitive club that can challenge in England and abroad. The main question will be how United fans support Moyes should the Reds struggle early in the season.
Manuel Pellegrini takes over a Manchester City side that has really started to challenge rivals Manchester United. The Premier League title two seasons ago has really given City the belief that they can compete with their rivals year in and year out. The criticism about Pellegrini is that he has yet to win a major competition. Pellegrini did very well at Villareal and Malaga, but his one-year stint at Real Madrid was filled with criticism. Can Pellegrini reverse his fortunes and finally win a major competition?
Jose Mourinho is making his comeback to Chelsea after two seasons at Inter and three seasons at Real Madrid. He won back-to-back Serie A titles at Inter, but in three seasons at Madrid, Mourinho won La Liga once and finished behind rival Barcalona twice. The knock on Mourinho was the lack of a Champions League crown. Mourinho lost in the semi-finals in all three seasons with Real Madrid. With Chelsea winning the Champions League two seasons ago, the pressure will still be on the Portuguese to make a run in both the Premier League and the Champions League.