Slowly but surely, Tottenham Hotspur has broken through brick walls in recent seasons.
First, in 2005, they broke into the league’s top seven – a barrier they found impossible to break for 10 years – marking them as regular fixtures in European soccer. Then, after a series of near-misses and bad luck, they busted back into the Champions League for only the second time in the last 54 years.
Now, they have another door to bust down: the Premier League championship. Is it within their reach?
The structure is most certainly there. Consistent growth is always a positive sign, especially in the modern game where meteoric rises are once in a generation and the more stable way to provide future success is a slow build from within. Manager Mauricio Pochettino has struck a delicate balance between planning for the future and building for now.
This year’s squad is deeper than the last, having brought in Vincent Janssen to take the load off Harry Kane‘s shoulders, plus the addition of Victor Wanyama to aid in the defensive midfield with Eric Dier stretched thin last year. Couple those additions with no significant departures, and this group is primed to achieve even more.
In addition, a healthy Moussa Dembele is vital to this squad. The Belgian’s fitness was a constant concern last season, and it’s nearly impossible to argue the squad isn’t better with him on the field. Following an opening day loss to Manchester United, Spurs was undefeated in 28 Premier League matches with Dembele on the field, compared to five losses without him.
However, a few things must go right – as is with any title challenge – for the club to summit the mountain. First, Harry Kane must shake off his miserable Euro 2016 tournament. It’s hard to predict performance in a league season based on a summer international tournament, but it’s a certain yellow flag. More than likely, the 46 league goals Kane has scored over the past two seasons are a better indication of his future production, but if he lets his poor summer form creep into the new club campaign, Tottenham will most certainly falter.
Spurs will also need to recapture last season’s production from the young England duo of Eric Dier and Dele Alli. The two were unplayable at times, with Dier standing guard in front of the defensive line and Alli pushing forward in the trademark Pochettino press. Both were also less than stellar during the disappointing England showing this summer, and the two have significantly less of a sample size to fall back on. Alli in particular has only been a Premier League starter for a single season, and Dier has only been at his defensive midfield position for that same length of time.
Preseason hasn’t exactly inspired confidence, but it hasn’t been ugly either. Spurs lost 2-1 to a relatively weak Juventus side in Australia after an insane amount of travel, they failed to score against a full-strength Atletico Madrid squad in a 1-0 loss just three days later, and they torched a miserable-looking Inter squad 6-1.
Should the London club recapture last year’s form and add the new squad depth to it, it’s easy to see this squad challenging for the title. Not only would a Premier League championship secure an achievement Spurs fans have salivated over for years during their slow rise, but it would also finally shake the monkey off their back that has plagued them for 22 long years – the agonizing length of time since Spurs last finished above hated rivals Arsenal.