5th. Andre Villas-Boas arrived in the summer along with elite talents Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris who immediately established themselves amongst the best in their position in the League. AVB got the team playing vibrant football and they were solid at the back but the season was ultimately all about the rise of Gareth Bale from star to megastar. A close run pursuit of Champions League football which they would have achieved if not for a few bad results against teams below them in the table.
The summer has been defined by the Gareth Bale saga. As I write he is still at the club but it seems ever more likely that he will end up at Real Madrid. It would be a huge loss but if they can sell him quickly enough to sign top quality replacements it might be manageable. The incoming Paulinho and Soldado are massive upgrades. Soldado in particular will give them consistency and goals upfront which they lacked last year.
They have to push for the Top Four and will feel like they can achieve that. After spreading themselves a bit thin with Europa League commitments last season AVB may focus on the Premier League. They look set for another neck and neck battle with Arsenal for that cherished top four position. The focus will be on the league 100%. Unlike Arsenal, the Top Four really is a trophy for Spurs this year.
Andre Villas-Boas is one of the very best coaching managers in the world and started to knit together a very promising team last season. His forensic reports on opponents mean his players will always be well prepared and extremely fit. Has the full backing of the fans and has looked strong in his defiance of Bale’s move.
Midfield. Spurs have the best three man midfield in the Premier League. Sandro is tough, strong and gritty. Dembele has floaty elegance and disarming strength and drive. New man Paulinho gets goals from midfield to add to intercepting, tackling and fearlessness.
If they lose Bale they’ll lose their game breaker. Although Holtby, Dembele, Chadli and Paulinho can make opportunities for Soldado, without Bale they don’t have someone who can win games on his own. They’ll be a stronger collective, and it might force the likes of Holtby to take more command of games knowing that Bale isn’t there but he really can beat anyone on his day.
Obviously Bale is he stays, but otherwise it’s Jan Vertonghen. He’s the most accomplished ball playing defender in the Premier League and was key to Spurs’ greater solidity last season. His intelligence and interceptions stop attacks and he has the ability to pick a variety of passes. If they keep him fit all year it could be critical.
It’s a big season for
Lewis Holtby. Arriving mid season is never easy, and joining a club where he is very much second fiddle to Bale was even harder. However, if the Welshman leaves then it will be up to Holtby to step in the role of creator in chief. He has lovely technique and buzzing movement so if he can get a rapport going with Soldado Spurs may not miss a beat. Perhaps a lack of Bale could free him up to show off his talent.
Nacer Chadli. Another of the seemingly never ending supply of Belgian talent, Chadli arrives with a big reputation from Holland. His class and pace will give some good balance to Spurs if he operates mostly on the left wing as expected. AVB is an ideal coach to refine his sometimes raw edges.
Top Four challenge. There is nothing splitting Spurs and Arsenal at the moment. If Spurs do somehow keep Bale they could be a real darkhorse for a title push but if they lose him they’ll need to adequately replace him. It’s going to go right down to the wire but they’ve certainly got the talent, even without Bale. They need to be more ruthless against the teams further down the table though.
The cups, even the FA Cup, are probably an unwanted distraction this year. It’s all about the Top Four and getting in to the Champions League. Although AVB’s respect for the Europa League is admirable, the Top Four, or even Top Three would be even more so, and they can do it.
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