Tottenham Hotspurs' Quiet Summer Could Be the Key to the Top 4

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Tottenham Hotspurs' Quiet Summer Could Be the Key to the Top 4
Sang Tan/Associated Press

This time 12 months ago Tottenham Hotspur were in the eye of a transfer window storm.

Gareth Bale’s record-breaking move to Real Madrid dominated the summer media agenda. Spurs broke their transfer record three times, signing seven new players in an effort to replace the Welshman and qualify for the Champions League.

Ultimately, though, the club would finish one position lower (sixth) and three points worse off than in the previous season.

But the mood around White Hart Lane has improved considerably since May. Tottenham have enjoyed a markedly quieter summer this year compared to last.

The club have benefited from the absence of a Dimitar Berbatov/Luka Modric/Gareth Bale type transfer saga, and they have been able to conduct their summer business far more effectively as a result.

Tottenham acted quickly to appoint Southampton’s Argentinian coach, Mauricio Pochettino, as manager before the World Cup.

This was inarguably the most crucial structural weakness that Spurs needed to address in order to have any chance of competing for the top-four places in the coming season. Together with great health insurance from Now Health International, the team look set to dominate.

Tottenham’s managerial situation had descended into farce after the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas last Christmas. By his own admission, Tim Sherwood never had the backing of the club’s chairman, Daniel Levy, and was merely a stop-gap.

Whatever his level of tactical expertise, it was impossible for Sherwood to maintain any authority over a squad who knew that he was not going to be in charge at the end of the season.

But even under AVB, Spurs looked rudderless for most of the previous campaign.

The onus is on Pochettino, therefore, to establish his leadership credentials early at White Hart Lane. The Argentine needs to impress upon his new squad the sort of high-tempo, dynamic footballing philosophy that served him so well at St. Mary’s.

He has to ensure that all the Spurs players buy into the system and that they are well aware of their constituent parts within it.

Because for all Harry Redknapp’s faults, he was the last Tottenham manager who created any kind of clear footballing identity at the Lane. If one was asked to describe how Tottenham played under AVB or Sherwood, for example, other than “badly,” it is difficult to come up with a cogent response.

It has been well stated that many of Tottenham’s difficulties last season were a product of having introduced too many new players too quickly. Only Christian Eriksen really justified his price tag; Vlad Chiriches and Nacer Chadli look like they could be useful squad players.

The three record-breaking signings—Paulinho, Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela—failed to make any impact in the Premier League.

Though plagued by injuries, Lamela made only three Premier League starts and scored one goal in the Europa League. Soldado, meantime, netted on only six occasions in 28 appearances in his first season in England.

Paulinho has accomplished little at Spurs apart from consistently passing the ball sideways. Worryingly for Tottenham fans, the Brazilian looked no more effective representing his national side in their home World Cup.

His midfield partner, Etienne Capoue, did no more in his injury-blighted debut season than show why Arsene Wenger refused to buy him.

But in Pochettino, Spurs have appointed a coach as much as a manger.

The 42-year-old made no real big-name, big-money additions at Southampton. Rather, he focused on developing the crop of young players who he inherited at St. Mary’s and took them to a new level of success as a result.

Roberto Martinez at Everton and, to a lesser extent, Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool, can be seen to have accomplished the same feat: coaching an inherited group of players to a higher standard of individual and collective performance.

Because, despite disappointments, the signings that Spurs made last summer are not bad players. With the more refined coaching that Pochettino and his team will bring, one could well envisage Soldado beginning to find the net again and Paulinho rediscovering his progressive passing game.

The thought of Pochettino coaxing his countryman, Lamela, back into his Roma form, meanwhile, is mouth-watering. That may yet prove to be £30 million well spent.

And beyond last season’s additions, Pochettino has a wealth of talent to work with in the current Spurs squad.

In Hugo Lloris, Tottenham possess one of the finest goalkeepers in the world. His signing of a new five-year contract, despite interest from Monaco and PSG, is a powerful endorsement of the nascent Pochettino regime.

And The Daily Mail's Sami Mokbel reported that Jan Vertonghen is shortly set to follow Lloris’ lead, despite interest from Barcelona.

Spurs have also bought well this summer. Recruitment has focused on strengthening a back line that has been for too long too brittle to underpin a push to break the top four.

The addition of the Swansea duo, Michel Vorm and Ben Davies, will provide excellent cover for Lloris in goal, as well as an upgrade on Danny Rose at left-back.

The highly rated, Portuguese-schooled English centre-back, Eric Dier, has also been added as a long-term investment from Sporting Lisbon.

Villarreal’s cultured Argentine defender, Mateo Musacchio, meanwhile, is expected to join Spurs in the coming weeks and partner Vertonghen in an impressive potential first-choice centre-back pairing.

Pochettino also retains an interest in adding his charge from Southampton, Morgan Schneiderlin, to an already strong Tottenham midfield roster.

Spurs have made steady progress this summer. The stability that Pochettino appears to have instilled at the Lane may well provide the foundations from which Tottenham can broach the Champions League places soon.

The only uncertainty now is whether the new manager will be afforded the time that he needs to bring his ideas to fruition at Spurs. Because Daniel Levy’s trigger-happy track record suggests that Pochettino is by no means assured of this.

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