5 Bold Predictions for Tottenham Hotspur in 2016
Tottenham Hotspur begin 2016 in the Premier League’s top four and with first place within a single-figure reach. The current campaign has already delivered some considerable highs and a strong Christmastide period has reaffirmed hopes Mauricio Pochettino’s young side could create several more.
Such a healthy position naturally invites confidence. Optimism in fulfilling potential upsides of which the following bold predictions for Tottenham’s year ahead certainly scale such best-case scenarios peaks.
There is a risk here of indulging in little more than guesswork, forgetting that plenty unforeseen can still affect Spurs, good and bad.
The following look at possible landmarks on the horizon for the north London club attempts to consider what is needed to get to them and what could stop Pochettino and his players from doing so.
First up, is a title challenge a possibility?
A Premier League-Era Highest Finish
Like the current campaign, a January fixture with Everton was Tottenham’s 20th fixture of the 2011-12 season too (originally scheduled as the season opener, it was postponed following the riots in the area).
That 2-0 win—also featuring an Aaron Lennon goal—left Harry Redknapp’s side on 45 points with talk of a first realistic title push in more than two decades.
The collapse of that effort in the aftermath of a narrowly lost epic encounter away at eventual champions Manchester City should serve as a reminder that challenges still lie ahead for Pochettino’s own title hopefuls. Redknapp’s squad finished fourth but missed out on the Champions League after sixth-placed Chelsea trumped them by winning the tournament.
Difficult as it will be, though, achieving a Premier League-era best finish of third or better is well within the capabilities of the current crop.
Their current points tally is not as good as two years ago. But none of the three clubs in front of them have reached it yet either.
Where Arsenal and Manchester City have fluctuated temperamentally and suffered heavy defeats, Spurs have kept grinding away.
Thus far it has manifested itself in more draws than they would like (nine to go with nine wins). But the discipline and toughness informing them could be the key difference to Redknapp’s exciting but volatile group.
Pochettino has put together a solid defensive centre and a youthful, exuberant attack. The balanced setup, team ethic prized over individuality, may guide Spurs right to the top.
Staying Undefeated in League Derby Matches This Season
Attaining such a lofty finish is going to require consistency against all remaining opponents. Naturally, though, there will be a few matches with a little more at stake in the coming months.
Tottenham falling short of their ambitions in 2012 hinged on a couple of defeats in such games. The aforementioned Manchester City loss followed a more crushing turnover by Arsenal.
Leicester City on Wednesday night is Spurs’ next opportunity to engender some momentum this time around and, in the process, damage a top-four rival. A more tangible manifestation of their form may come via the season’s remaining London derbies.
Spurs are unbeaten so far this season in the league against their capital rivals, beating Crystal Palace and West Ham United, drawing with Arsenal and Chelsea. That there was disappointment at not beating a struggling Blues outfit is testament to Spurs’ greater derby readiness these days.
Getting something at Selhurst Park and Stamford Bridge will not be easy (they lost at both grounds last season). West Ham will be desperate for one final win over Spurs at Upton Park while the north London derby is always tense.
Nonetheless, if Tottenham can continue to compete as well as they have in big games, they will believe they can stay unbeaten in these capital clashes.
Tottenham Will Reach at Least 1 Semi-Final in 2016
Knocked out of the Capital One Cup at the first hurdle by Arsenal (their sole blemish against another London club), Tottenham’s only cup football for a few months has been the Europa League.
Their strong Premier League form will only strengthen the belief of some that it should be their focus and that extra-curricular competitions are mere distractions. It's an argument they will back up with the fact Spurs have produced little of note from February onward in the FA Cup and, particularly, Europe in the last few years.
We will find out this weekend how Pochettino intends to approach the former when they host Leicester City in the third round. But be it the FA Cup, the Europa League or both, a good cup run could end up doing this team the world of good.
If the league proves too demanding heading into spring—at least as far as a legitimate title challenge is concerned—the knockout format may indeed prove suitable.
Spurs have shown in tremendous wins over Manchester City, West Ham and Monaco that they can turn it on in notable one-off occasions. Enough of them strung together could send them in touching distance of a final spot.
5 Spurs Players Will Make England's Euro 2016 Squad
Not strictly a Tottenham prediction this. However, five of the club’s players making England’s Euro 2016 squad would speak almost as well of their year as some of the other things previously mentioned.
Four is the most probable number.
One of the stars of qualifying, Kane is a certainty to be involved, fitness permitting. Kyle Walker continuing to perform as he has should see him included as one of the squad’s full-backs.
Dele Alli and Eric Dier are new to the setup. But their handling of their first international experiences and their impressively mature club displays will be hard for Roy Hodgson to ignore (even with the competition in midfield).
Currently not featuring, Ryan Mason will likely need a late-season surge to convince Hodgson of his usefulness. Out-of-favour Andros Townsend may not even be a Spurs player by May.
The possible fifth Tottenham man in the squad, then? Do not rule out left-back Danny Rose if he can sustain a regular club starting spot as part of a successful finish to the season for Pochettino’s men.
At Least 2 Teenagers Will Start Next Season as Regular 1st-Team Contributors
Even with a boss open to giving youngsters opportunities to play, making the jump from academy to first team is a long shot. Especially at a top-flight club like Tottenham.
Winger Kenny McEvoy has just left to join York City. The frustrated 21-year-old has watched on as his peers have got their shot or at least a closer look within matchday squads. Unfortunately for him, he has developed just as Pochettino has downgraded the need for width in his midfield.
The recent involvement of players like Josh Onomah and Harry Winks shows there is intent from the Argentinian to continue to blood talented and useful players.
With this in mind, it would not be surprising to see the Spurs squad featuring at least two teenagers entering next season as regular contributors.
With eight appearances and counting this campaign, Onomah is just about a certainty to be one of them. Pochettino has also kept a close eye on defender Cameron Carter-Vickers and striker Shayon Harrison—the teenagers made the Europa league trip to Qarabag—both of whom are among the youngsters to receive new contracts.
Full-back Kyle Walker-Peters, who featured in last year’s post-season tour, is another to pen a new deal. Speaking to Tottenham’s official website, the 18-year-old summed up the feeling of confidence being felt in the youth ranks right now:
"I used to watch Harry Kane and Alex Pritchard playing Under-21s matches, but now I’m in that position and I hope to be able to get to where they are now one day."