I’ve been enjoying the summer so far. It’s been a continuation of the sensible, drama-free Tottenham 2.0 that has emerged since Pochettino arrived. Instead of flinging money about at random, the club has slowly gotten rid of some of the deadwood that has accumulated and secured some decent fees in the process, while gradually rebuilding the squad starting from the woeful defense. It has been patient, methodical and most un-Spursy.
However, as good a signing as Alderweireld is, I can’t see how Spurs are any closer to the Top 4. In fact, it seems the gap has never been bigger, and I don’t see how Spurs or Liverpool or other potential challengers are going to come close to bridging it. Chelsea look awesomely strong. Man City are adding Sterling and possibly De Bruyne to an already powerful line-up that underachieved last year and will surely rebound. Man Utd have finally addressed their midfield shortage, may well keep De Gea for another season, and must have a top striker lined up if they’ve let Van Persie go. Arsenal finally have a top-class keeper, and aside from a bit of quality in central midfield, have as good a squad as anyone.
I know Liverpool fans are all excited by some of their signings, but for a second season in a row they’ve contrived to lose their best player (this time to a direct rival!) when they didn’t really need to. As almost every example shows, when you lose your best players, you get worse — it’s why big clubs are prepared to shell out tens of millions, because the players who can make them better are so rare and so valuable.
I felt this way last season, but to a lesser extent. Sure, Chelsea and Man City looked too strong. But United seemed vulnerable, and Arsenal had real weaknesses in their squad. It felt, if things broke the right way, Spurs may have had a chance of squeezing into 4th, But this year, I just don’t see it at all. Do any Spurs fans really think a 4th place finish is actually going to happen? I suspect the best avenue for Champions League football would be the Europa League, but it is such a massive and exhausting tournament that there feels a randomness about who emerges as a finalist (hello, Dnipro).
Champions League dominance has served to make fifth place seem like a position of failure, but to me, for Spurs another season in fifth should be a success. Look at our wage bill, net transfer spend, revenues and number of minutes given to homegrown players.
Is that unambitious? Or would it be better for a club like Spurs to accept that 5th is actually pretty good, the way things are shaping up in the Premier League, and plan for that, rather than keep on shooting for the moon each season and getting frustrated when we inevitably miss?