As you may have gleaned from our massive EPL preview podcast I posted on Thursday, the English Premier League is set to begin this Saturday at 7:30am. The short two month wait is almost over. Dustin and I talked about transfers in great detail for most teams, while also discussing coaching changes and our thoughts on how the season will shake out. For the pod I wanted to keep it more broad and include as many teams as possible. If I had my way I’d just talk about Tottenham for an hour, but that’s not as fun for people who might listen (especially if you support Gunners smh). Instead I’ll pour all my homerism into this little post.
Last year was my favorite league season to date. I watched more games than any previous season. I was not disappointed. It was a distinct contrast to previous years where expectations were not met and managerial upheaval appeared to be a bi-yearly occurrence at White Hart Lane. Spursy as they call it.
Due to this disappointment we are constantly overlooked and under appreciated. A quick search of where pundits thought we’d end up at season’s end produced a general consensus that we’d finish 6th. Not horrible, but also not great either for a side with as much consistent success as Spurs (despite never winning the league). Now pundits are paid to make guesses (educated or otherwise) but the feeling was we were not good enough to qualify for a European tournament. Too young. Too inexperienced. Too thin up front – no back up for Kane. Blah blah blah.
The biggest knock heading into last year was the lack of depth at striker. Few believed that Harry Kane could repeat his breakout performance in 2014-15 (21 goals, 4 assists) and still fewer could have guessed that he would improve upon those numbers. But he did just that scoring 25 goals the following year. The pundits were proved wrong as Kane cruised to the Golden Boot. That total is tied for 3rd all time in domestic league goals for a Tottenham player. Word to the god Gary Lineker.
Conveniently, hindsight is 20/20 so I know we finished 3rd and qualified for Champions League, but it still feels great to prove the doubters wrong and really growing into our own as a team over the course of the year.
The New Season Begins
This offseason Mauricio Pochettino made it clear that helping Kane was Priority One. Despite Kane’s dominance it is a smart move to bolster our attack by adding another pure goal scorer. After flirting with the likes of Mauro Icardi and Saido Berahino we finally landed a promising young 22 year old sniper in Vincent Janssen. His signing marks the first time we’ve brought on a striker since Roberto Soldado in the Great Post-Bale Transfer Mediocre Player Signing Extravaganza of 2013. Remember Paulinho?
Janssen comes to WHL by way of AZ Aklmaar of the Dutch Eredivisie in his native Netherlands. What Janssen lacks in years he makes up for with goals. Lots and lots of goals. In 2016, the Johan Cruyff Trophy winner scored 27 goals in 34 appearances, which won him the Golden Boot. My good man Dustin Platter begged the question of whether Janssen could maintain that scoring clip in the much rougher and tougher EPL, and my answer was that he doesn’t have to. Spurs are not expecting him to be the volume scorer that he was at AZ, but what they will ask of him is to step in when he is called and use that missile launcher of a left foot to score 12-15 goals this season. I think he’s more than up to the task.
Another point of weakness for Spurs last season was our lack of depth in the defensive midfield. By years end, Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele proved to be one of the sharpest defensive mid pairs in the Prem. But, in our FA and Europa League fixtures there was a noticeable drop off in cohesion and decisiveness. Couple that with Dembele’s impending four game suspension, we are in need of reinforcements. So, to plug the hole, Poch returned to his former squad and pilfered Kenyan national Victor Wanyana from Southampton whom he recruited to Saints from Celtic in 2013 when he was manager. Wanyama is a heady defender and will provide good competition for Dier and Mousa when he’s back in the fold.
Aside from Janssen and Wanyama there hasn’t been much else in the way of transfers except for endless rumors rooted mostly in fantasy. One day we were in the running to sign Mario Gotze, the next he’s resigned with Dortmund. The Berahino saga lasted a full 12 months before dying a quiet death.
Despite these false starts I fully expect us to sign another attack-minded midfielder – Mason and Carrol aren’t cutting it anymore – and a winger to compete with Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen. Heung-min Son had been dubbed a failure after coming over from Leverkusen last year, but I’m still optimistic about his abilities as a rotation player. His goal against against Qarabag is not one that many players can take and make. He’ll be fine.
Not much needs to be said about Dele Alli. You saw the way he ran amok through defenses all of last year garnering Young Player of the Year. He will be a year older and in mid season form after playing in the EUROs for England (despite their disappointing exit). By far my favorite player on this team. In the words of Ollivander I expect great things! Terrible, yes, but great.
In defense, we are cohesive and stingy. The central pairing of Jan Vertongen and Toby Alderwereld is probably the best in the league. Vertongen is coming off an injury, but has just been cleared for training this week. If Super Jan isn’t quite match fit for the start of the season, Kevin Wimmer proved he can compete at the highest level when he filled in for Vertongen last season while he dealt with a knee injury. Kyle Walker and Danny Rose provide game changing speed on the outside. There’s a bit of a drop off when Keiren Trippier rotates in, but if Walker and Rose can stay healthy we’ll be just fine.
As for our young players (as if this entire team isn’t already insanely young) we have several promising youth squad players that could get looks in FA matches or even against lower level Premier teams.
Josh Onomah subbed in as a wing late in a few games last year, but left a lot to be desired in those scant few minutes. Another year of training should give him more confidence and provide us with speed on the outside.
The Yank, Cameron Carter-Vickers, could provide more support in defense in the event of an injury.
Lastly, and most excitingly, we recently signed attacking midfielder Marcus Edwards to his first pro contract. Despite only being 17, the buzz around Edwards is growing and it’s fully expected that he will make his first team debut sometime this year.
Overall, Spurs offseason has been low key yet surgically efficient. Poch went out and got the players he wanted and let go the ones he wasn’t thrilled with. Deuces Bentaleb and Njie. It was a nice change of pace to pick up players to fill weaknesses and avoid buying just to buy.
Some feel that this season Spurs may take a step back due to the increase in competition from Europa to Champions League, as well as the resurgence of some mainstay Prem teams. But despite these doubts Pochettino’s steady hand and quiet confidence has me optimistic that the youngest team in the Premier League will once again prove that player development and chemistry can trump overpaying in the transfer window. Ps: That last sentence was referring to Manchester United. Fuck them.
I predict a Top 4 finish for the second year in a row and an appearance in the quarter finals of UCL. COYS