SPURS SIGHT SILVERWARE: WHY THIS IS THE YEAR FOR TOTTENHAM TO WIN A TROPHY
An un-inspiring opening day defeat to Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton dashed all the hopes of optimism for Spurs fans around the world. Jose Mourinho’s first full season at the helm of N17 and it looked like we would be on course for another average campaign where the best achievement would probably be finishing above Arsenal.
Yet just under a month later, the morale and mood at Hotspur Way has completely changed, with a returning Welshman at the heart of it. Unbeaten since that fateful day against the Toffees and recruitment done in all the right places, has led me and many Spurs fans worldwide to believe that maybe just maybe the 12-year wait for a trophy will be over. Here is why it’s more likely now than ever.
Everton defeat a catalyst for change?
Rather than Jose Mourinho giving excuses for his side’s lacklustre performance against Everton, the Spurs manager brandished his players as “lazy” and “very poor”. At the time seeing this from a fan perspective, you’d understandably be worried that maybe something is going on behind the scenes, but it was exactly this sort of reaction that Spurs players and higher-ups needed to hear and Mourinho soon reaped the benefits.
No less than three days later, Spurs came in for a double swoop of Sergio Reguillon, who’s talks with Manchester United had stalled because of a buyback clause, and Gareth Bale, who was financially affordable to bring back to North London for the first time since his move to Real Madrid due to his worsening relationship with Zinedine Zidane.
Spurs weren’t actively searching for a left-back but the Reguillon deal was too good to turn down. Both players arrived at Hotspur Way and were officially unveiled by the club on Saturday, 19th September a day before Spurs’ trip to St Mary’s.
Spurs fans thought they must’ve been dreaming, Gareth Bale coming back to Spurs and then signing the best voted left-back in La Liga from the 2019/20 season on the same day, (yes there’s definitely a trophy for that) all that was needed now was a routine victory in Southampton to kick-start their season, but let’ be honest it was never going to be that easy.
The first 45 minutes were hard to watch, Southampton looked deadly every time they went forward and deservedly took the lead. But, right before half time Spurs were level and within the build-up to the goal there was an orgasmic piece of skill from Tanguy Ndombele, and they’ll be more on him later.
Football really is a game of two halves though.
In the second 45 the game plan seemed to be: Kane drops deep and gets the ball, plays a Pirlo-esque pass through to Son who scores and repeat. Spurs, in an attacking sense were absolutely untouchable and the thought of Bale adding to that attack is mouth-watering.
That shambolic Everton result was now firmly in the rear-view mirror for Spurs.
Gareth Bale’s return and what it means for the Spurs attack
The rumours and rumblings of Gareth Bale returning to Spurs was going to be a never-ending cycle until either the Welshman retired or returned, and luckily for Spurs it was the latter. Despite having not even played a minute in his second spell at N17 just him proudly wearing the lilywhite Spurs shirt again is a sight to behold.
In the weeks following his move, he has been present in the stands for most Spurs home games and whoever is broadcasting the game ensures there’s a camera fixed on him for the whole 90 minutes.
Following both the shoot-out victory over Chelsea and Moura’s goal against Newcastle, Bale has been pictured celebrating with a huge smile on his face. The Welshman has gone from falling asleep on the subs bench in Madrid to watching intently and celebrating goals whilst he’s not even a part of the matchday squad for Spurs.
His arrival has not only given a boost to fans for this coming season but also his new teammates now knowing their position in the squad is under threat.
Harry Kane and Heung Min-Son when 100% fit are guaranteed starters in the Spurs attack, that final role on the right of the front three is up in the air with not one player making it their own. At the moment Mourinho prefers to deploy Lucas Moura in that position but Steven Bergwijn and Erik Lamela have both had success there.
The arrival of Bale poses a serious threat to the attackers fighting it out for that position and the extra competition will mean all three need to up their game and fight for their place in the team, which they seem to be doing.
Lamela scored the equaliser in the Carabao Cup game against Chelsea, and his determined performance in that game earned him a start against Manchester United in the Premier League. Lucas broke his streak of not scoring in the Premier League since last December and Bergwijn showed his ridiculous fitness levels playing a total of 166 minutes of football in two days.
Every attacker in the Spurs squad has proved they’re worthy of being selected by Mourinho and you really can’t ask for more than that and all this is all without Bale even stepping foot on the pitch.
Squad depth wins you trophies
Back in the days of Mauricio Pochettino Kyle Walker and Danny Rose were mainstays in the Spurs first-team filling the right-back and left-back role respectively but in reality, they would practically play as wingers.
The two full-backs were integral to Spurs success, including helping them go the entire 2016/17 season unbeaten at White Hart Lane and one of the main reasons they stayed so sharp all season was due to who was sitting on the bench.
Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies would eagerly be waiting for their opportunity to impress Pochettino and that was what kept Rose and Walker so sharp, knowing that with one poor performance they could be out of the team, and finally Spurs have that dynamic again.
Following the departure of Kieran Trippier after the Champions League final defeat, Spurs were down to only two natural full backs in Serge Aurier and Ben Davies. Fast forward a year and two more have been brought in, Matt Doherty from Wolves and Reguillon from Madrid.
After both Davies and Aurier received complaints for some of their performances last season it looked like in the space of one transfer window they would both be out of the first team and would have to settle for a place on the bench. But, believe it or not the exact thing that happened with the attackers has happened with the full-backs.
Since Doherty’s arrival, Aurier has been superb, delivering probably his best performance in a Spurs shirt against Manchester United before the International break, while Davies has improved the weakest part of his game and earnt a couple of assists so far this season.
Despite the improvements shown from Aurier and Davies, the feeling is that Doherty and Reguillon will be the first choice full-backs going forward. As both are extremely attacking Spurs will need an anchor in the midfield who can cover for them when they’re caught up field and that player arrived in the summer window as well, in the form of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
The former Southampton captain has already shown to Jose Mourinho how important he will be this coming season for Spurs, with his endless running and tenacious tackling. But he didn’t get off to the best start with performance against Everton.
The Dane was relatively sloppy and showed that he’s very good at giving away free-kicks in his competitive debut for Spurs but since then he has really found his feet. His dogged and determined performances against both his former club Southampton and Newcastle showed exactly why Mourinho had signed him.
However, in the fixture against Manchester United, he showed a different side to his game that hadn’t really been seen too much during his footballing career.
During Spurs' goal-fest against United, Hojbjerg received the ball in the final third and picked out the run of Serge Aurier with a beautifully timed pass for the Ivorian to smash home Spurs’ 5th.
If Hojbjerg continues to deliver excellent performances as a ball-winning midfielder and even sometimes gets in on the goal contributions, Spurs have got a real talent on their hands.
The fact that Hojbjerg has not missed a game through injury/illness since March 2015 should be a real bonus for the Lilywhites but he’s at Spurs now and things are different here so expect him to pick up an injury soon.
Ndombele proves his worth
Tottenham’s record signing didn’t exactly have the best start to life in North London. Injuries and questions over his work-rate were questioned throughout the season. In particular when the Frenchman was hooked off at half time in the final game before lockdown away to Burnley, with Mourinho clearly not happy with his defensive work in that game.
The lockdown, as awful as the situation was, gave Ndombele the chance to essentially restart his Spurs career but the former Lyon man only played 64 minutes in the nine games post lockdown and this was even with Mourinho complementing Ndombele’s work ethic in training.
His replacement in the previously mentioned Burnley fixture was Giovanni Lo Celso and the Argentine completely changed the game, bringing in some bite and intensity into the Spurs midfield. Both players arrived in the summer following the Champions League final defeat and while Lo Celso didn’t have the best start to life in a Spurs shirt, he completely turned his Spurs career around and is now a firm starter under Mourinho.
The higher-ups at Spurs fought off interest from Inter Milan in order to keep their record-signing and since the start of the 2020/21 season he’s been a revelation.
Starting with his bright 30-minute cameo against Lokomotiv Plovdiv in the Europa League second qualification round, which included netting the winner. Three days later he played 45 minutes against Southampton, having a huge part to play in the equaliser with a delightful piece of skill and ball retention.
Many Spurs fans were upset by the decision to remove him at half time at St Mary’s but with his injury concerns and having not played a full 90 minutes since last December it was understandable. Ndombele was starting to showcase his quality but the question marks still remained over his fitness but they were soon answered by the Frenchman.
He played his first 90 minutes in nine months against Shkendija Tetovo, helping Spurs to a 3-1 victory, in which he silenced the critics over his fitness with two late gut-busting runs both defensively and then going forward and he wasn’t done there. Ndombele then played another 90 minutes in the game against Chelsea, he struggled in the first half but dominated the midfield in the second.
His performances in cup competitions earned him a start in the Premier League against Manchester United and he didn’t pass up his opportunity. The Frenchman scored the first of Spurs six goals and helped Moussa Sissoko and Hojbjerg dominate the midfield, he even bested national teammates Paul Pogba with a delightful piece of skill.
Ultimately, he was replaced in the second half but he has shown in no less than four games why Spurs paid all that money for him and if he can continue to prove how important he is to Mourinho and Spurs there is no doubt he can inspire Spurs to silverware this season.
A superb week
Jose Mourinho hasn’t been shy when expressing his concerns over Spurs' busy schedule but in the space of a week Spurs played in three different competitions, scored 14 goals, fielded 22 different players and won all of their games, so it clearly isn’t all that bad.
A penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea, following a 1-1 draw, a 7-2 hammering of Maccabi Haifa, which put Spurs into the Europa League group stages and the week culminated with thumping Manchester United 6-1 at Old Trafford.
Spurs have clearly shown they have an interest in all competitions this season and they’ve clearly shown they have the squad depth to compete in all of these competitions. This season is undoubtedly the most excited Spurs fans have been about the possibility of winning a trophy and the long 12 years of having an empty trophy cabinet could be coming to an end.
With other elite clubs in the Premier League having some problems in the early stages of the season, what is stopping Spurs from emerging as genuine title challengers?
If Mourinho’s men do faulter in the Premier League they still have three other competitions they can fight for and they’ve proven they have the squad capable of doing that.
Hopefully, Spurs can deliver on the big stages this season and bring some silverware back to North London and leave the term “Spursy” behind us.