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Tottenham's 2013-14 Campaign Hints at Being a Make-or-Break Season

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Tottenham's 2013-14 Campaign Hints at Being a Make-or-Break Season
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As the Premier League finally returns this weekend, Tottenham sit in an odd position among the heavy hitters.

Usually, about two weeks into the season, the squad begins to finally take shape as the last-minute buys start rolling in.

Instead, Spurs have already outfitted themselves with a host of talent that the club feels can get them over the fourth-place hump. That’s not to say more names will not arrive, but, unlike last term, impact players are already in the reckoning for the opening match against Crystal Palace.

Last season it was three matches in before Mousa Dembele made his first appearance and another round before Clint Dempsey graced the pitch in Lilywhite.

While players are still likely to be moved before the transfer window closes, the starting XI that takes to the Selhurst Park pitch Sunday will be part of the core of the squad.

Over half of the squad that started the first match last year against Newcastle at St. James’ Park have become either peripheral figures or are no longer are at the club.

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Having a starting XI that could be the starting XI four months from now is an encouraging sign for Tottenham supporters. Adding some more bits and pieces will gin up even more interest in the next few weeks.

In fact, that interest is exactly why the club cannot afford to falter again this season.

Spurs seem to be at a crossroads this term. After failing to make the Champions League again last term, the club is on the precipice of losing their major asset—Gareth Bale.

But the landscape of the Premier League has changed significantly since the end of last term. Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United changed managers and there are questions that will be asked of all three clubs.

And then there’s Arsenal, who, for once, are being told to act more like Spurs and get busy in the transfer market. Opinions like that of Massimo Marioni of Metro are becoming more common.

It leaves room for a club like Tottenham to jump in and make a claim for one of the seats at the big boys’ table. The question is, are they actually able to take it and hold it until the end of the season?

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That, though, seems to be an insufficient question this term. Yes, it might be optimistic to suggest that Spurs can be a dark horse club for the title, but it is fair to suggest that failure to get into the top four this term will be an unmitigated failure.

It is a weight that hangs over the head of the club, more so than even that of a certain Gareth Bale, who no one has seen since mid-July.

Success can be a fleeting in football. Few have been consistently able to mount challenges; fewer still have been able to maintain that ability for long.

Tottenham’s 2009/10 fourth-place finish coincided with Liverpool’s fall from grace among the fabled “Big Four,” a place that has been successfully co-opted by Manchester City.

Everton sneaking into fourth in the 2004/05 season mirrored the 2011/12 Spurs campaign in which both finished in the Champions League spots but saw a club beneath them be crowned Kings of Europe.

The only difference, of course, was that Everton’s experience saw them gain a birth in the Champions League. The rule change implemented because of the quirk of having five teams qualify would later deny Tottenham a spot when Chelsea reigned supreme.

Notable among all of this is that only seven teams have represented the Premier League in Europe’s top competition. Three of those seven have made it every season. Two of the seven only made it once.

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Without being able to latch onto the success, clubs eventually fall back with the rest of the league. Once that happens, it becomes increasingly difficult to find the right players and managers to make a new assault on the top of the table.

Tottenham are certainly susceptible to transfers raids from other clubs. Mousa Dembele, Jan Vertonghen, Kyle Walker, Hugo Lloris, Aaron Lennon, Lewis Holtby and others could boost the ranks of Champions League clubs.

Who’s to say that another long, drawn-out affair will not happen next summer? Current dealings aside, does anyone remember the French media constantly wail on about Lloris being behind Brad Friedel?

Yet that is the precipice that Tottenham currently stand at. The current campaign does not have moral victories in it. A cup win would be nice but that is not going to sedate the yearnings of those looking for the bigger spotlight.

At the same time, if Spurs firmly grab one of the top-four spots, questions will instead be thrust squarely upon one of the clubs they dislodged from the lofty heights.

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Unless another catastrophic Chelsea rehash were to take place, Tottenham could slide comfortably into  World Cup year without facing the firing squad upon their return. The unlucky member to be excluded, though, would certainly be raked over the coals while Spurs could be the center of more incoming transfer rumors again.

Along with the chance to solidify the spot comes the chance that the odd club out is likely to face further changes and will have their own uphill fight to face to keep players.

Not having to be that club would be a welcome relief after two straight summers of sagas rivaling the Iliad and Odyssey.

With as many variables hanging over the 2013/14 campaign, there is no consensus as to who will be standing on top of the table in May. While the contenders list is short, the race for the top four is as wide open as it ever has been.

Champions League football is the baseline for this term. If Spurs fall below the line, the future is a murky one indeed.

But reach it with room to spare? That’s a place everyone in Lilywhite is currently banking on in a year’s time.

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