Tottenham Hotspur have a brilliant squad, but they need the right manager to guide them to Premier League glory.
Gareth Bale lines up in Lisbon on Saturday preparing for the Champions League final. On August 21, Tottenham Hotspur begin their Europa League campaign.
Nothing symbolises Tottenham’s under-achievement more than another season in this competition, where participation is almost a poisoned chalice.
Michael Laudrup took Swansea City to Europe and was sacked the season after. Newcastle United finished fifth in the Premier League and then ended the next campaign in 16th place.
Last season Spurs found that the Europa League was a strong impediment on league success. They followed 12 Thursday night matches with five wins, a draw and six losses. Those included home defeats to West Ham United, Newcastle and Liverpool, who put five past them. Only twice did they score more than one goal in these matches, and their average points total magnified throughout the season would have left them ninth.
Liverpool have proved this year that a Europe-free run can lead to an ambitious side truly challenging for the Premier League title. Yet, with the right man in charge, there is no reason why Spurs cannot match their achievement next season and possibly go one better.
A 17-point gap is a formidable one to make up, but that is exactly how many points Liverpool finished behind Manchester City the season before last. A brief look at the past year shows Spurs were only two points behind the league’s best in Arsenal when it came to points on their travels.
The scope for improvement is massive as well. Spurs scored only 55 goals from their 38 matches. That is 16 fewer than Chelsea with their striking problems and 47 behind top scorers City. Consider the turmoil behind the scenes and the ineffectiveness of most of their summer recruits.
Is it not possible that a good manager could bring the best out of an injury-free Erik Lamela, Nacer Chadli, Roberto Soldado and Paulinho? All four came to White Hart Lane with big reputations, but none of them has lived up to the billing of Christian Eriksen, who is the only post-Bale signing to settle in well.
A defence that kept seven clean sheets from its first 10 matches and 14 overall despite problems at left-back is not in need of major re-haul.
A squad which had 17 Premier League goalscorers last season is also a promising sign. Emmanuel Adebayor was out in front on 11 from just 21 appearances. Should he continue at this rate next season, £26 million signing Soldado find his Valencia form (which saw him bag 30 goals in his final season) or a new man come in and make an immediate impact, then Tottenham will have a serious goal-scoring threat.
Criticism came the way of Franco Baldini and Andre Villas-Boas for how they spent the Bale money last summer, but Tottenham can boast one of the strongest squads in the Premier League. An injury to a top player might not threaten to derail the club’s season like it would to City losing Vincent Kompany or Yaya Toure. It is this depth of talent, as well, which means that Europa League commitments can be managed.
When you consider that they could boast a formidable bench comprising of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aaron Lennon, Lewis Holtby, Mousa Dembele, Andros Townsend and Soldado, you can see why they have the squad to maintain any title challenge.
Transforming Tottenham from sixth to first would be a considerable achievement, but no more so than what Brendan Rodgers achieved at Liverpool or what Tony Pulis managed at Crystal Palace. Diego Simeone’s miracle at Atletico Madrid has given clubs everywhere a shred of hope in a system dominated by the rich and entrenched by Financial Fair Play.
Who that man will be is still unclear. Considering Tottenham have not finished above Arsenal since 1994-95, it will take some effort to get them above the rest of the league as well. But results in Spain have shown that it can be done.