Tottenham 2013-14: Will Andre Villas-Boas Take Spurs Above EPL Top 4?
It's becoming the annual question facing Tottenham heading into each new season: Can this side break back into the Premier League's top four?
The answer is a vital one for the club, as the success of each campaign rides heavily on finishing in the top four.
After all, the Champions League campaign that comes with a top-four finish promises an economic boost at White Hart Lane while lending an air of prestige that would both further attract new signings and entice the Spurs' own stars to stay put.
For supporters of the North London club, a return to the top flight of European football has become somewhat of an obsession ever since the club's first go in the Champions League in 2010-11, when Tottenham made an impression on the continental stage by defeating reigning champion Inter Milan and eliminating juggernaut AC Milan on the way to a berth in the quarter finals.
However, in the three seasons since that magical run (including this upcoming season), Spurs have been relegated to the Europa League, as Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal have established a stranglehold on the four English spots in the top competition.
So will this be the season that Tottenham breaks that hold and works their way into the running for European glory?
A quick look at Spurs' current squad raises as many questions as it answers.
Reigning PFA Player of the Year Gareth Bale carried the squad through some very rough patches last season, using an incredible goal-scoring run to almost single-handedly keep them afloat through the middle of the campaign.
One can certainly hope that this form was a sign of things to come from the Welshman, who could very well be blossoming at the ripe age of 23.
However, should Bale's form come down to Earth a bit or an injury have an impact on his season, Tottenham's ability to cope is iffy at best.
To be fair, the squad seems much better equipped this season than last to deal with any issues that might affect Bale. The addition of young winger Nacer Chadli from Twente provides extra cover at the position, while the move for Corinthians midfielder Paulinho gives them an extra reserve of creativity.
Still, it's ridiculous to think that Spurs could lose a talent like Bale and not have a struggle on their hands.
Even if Bale were able to stay healthy all season, though, Tottenham's biggest question mark lies up front.
Last season, the squad was able to reach a record points total in spite of its striking unit, which consisted of just two experienced players. Of those two, Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor each had below-par seasons that were constantly affected by either missed playing time or lack of form.
Thus far in the summer transfer window, Spurs have failed to address this need, losing out in bids for multiple new options at center striker.
If the club is unable to remedy this situation, even fantastic seasons from the rest of the club could be rendered moot by a pair of strikers who can't contribute to the cause and find the back of the net.
However, the area of the club that Spurs supporters can look to for hope is at manager.
While three of the four clubs that finished in the top four last season are in the midst of a regime change at the top, Tottenham has found a level stability in their manager.
Andre Villas-Boas enters his second season at White Hart Lane coming off a fantastic debut campaign.
Despite interest from the likes of rich French champions Paris Saint-Germain, AVB has remained committed to the North London club and has been rewarded with the reins.
Villas-Boas looks set to mold Spurs' style of play this season into the image of his preferred lineup, with Sandro acting the role of holding midfielder in an attacking 4-3-3 that can adjust to a 4-1-4-1 if necessary.
With AVB in charge, Spurs supporters can expect at least a challenge for a top-four place this season.
Where will Spurs finish this season?
If Tottenham can also add a new striker, keep a manageable injury situation and find a bit of luck through the poor form of their main rivals, this squad can well achieve the club's second top-four finish in three seasons and first Champions League berth in four seasons.
Either way, this should be another incredibly thrilling season at White Hart Lane.
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