In his latest end-of-season review, Vincent Ralph looks back on Tottenham's campaign.
This was the one! This was the season where a reinvigorated Tottenham would surge into the Champions League places, leaving Arsenal in their slipstream. Or was that the previous season? I forget.
The point is, despite plenty of alterations at White Hart Lane, not much has changed. The club are still the best of the rest. Even with the outstanding additions of Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris, and Gareth Bale developing at a rate of knots.
On the final day of a campaign when Spurs have been the masters of their own downfall, fourth place never looked like swapping hands. Despite the hope and excitement of last day twists and turns, the final Champions League place was decided long before either side kicked-off last Sunday.
The truth is: Tottenham threw it away.
Sometimes it is their fault, sometimes it is the fault of a dodgy lasagne, and sometimes it is no one’s fault, just fate, just a penalty kick scored hundreds of miles away.
But whatever the reason, Tottenham always suffer the same old season. Even if this time they shouldn’t have.
Having beaten Arsenal at the start of March, it was time to turn the screw. Instead they took just four points from their next four matches, including a 1-0 home defeat to Fulham.
It was a run that will haunt Andre Villas-Boas all summer, the man who has proved his critics wrong regardless of last day disappointments.
Back in August, I playfully suggested he wasn’t a manager at all. I imagined Portugal awash with struggling actors perfecting “the Mourinho”, and predicted that in a few years, half the clubs in Europe would have a brooding, mumbling Mediterranean man in charge; men who will make up three quarters of Portugal’s gross domestic product.
But the former Porto boss has proved to be the real deal. And if Daniel Levy finally wedges open that wallet of his and stumps up for a top class striker, Spurs could end their almost habitual failure to secure a place among the European elite.
Much depends on Bale.
That sentence right there, the one just above this one – that may just be the most commonly written sentence in any assessment of Tottenham’s short-term future from now until the day he leaves. In truth it could be the entire story, a succinct summation of what Spurs fans face both next year and beyond.
This season has highlighted the club’s weaknesses as much as its strengths. They now have a summer to rectify those weaknesses. And perhaps next May they will celebrate like Arsenal did on the final day, dancing not with a trophy, but with the knowledge of what is to come.
But then again…much depends on Bale.
image: © andybrannan