Tottenham, hamstrung by injuries and lack of transfer funds, are third in the league and above the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. That they’re still in the fight speaks volumes of what Mauricio Pochettino has done with the club.
Pochettino’s recent ‘top four’ comment was pounced upon by experts and social media like hungry seagulls descending on anchovies. Such reaction was, as is the norm these days, exaggerated. The Argentine had simply suggested following the FA Cup defeat at Selhurst Park that his team was still not one built to win trophies. The operative word was ‘still’. Many considered his words to be defeatist, some to be tactical. Maybe it was just a realistic view that most managers shy away from in fear of a backlash. Anyhow, the words did not seem like rhetoric to alleviate pressure. As it is, nobody is giving Tottenham a chance this year.
Still, the future is far from ominous. The new stadium is on the horizon (been stagnating there for ages truth be told). When it does officially open it will be a welcome change to play a ‘home’ game away from an atmosphere that can put restless babies to sleep.
The Northumberland Development Project does have its drawbacks though. The one obvious fear with the stadium was that it would limit Daniel Levy in the transfer market. The chairman has done one better and completely stopped the cash – Tottenham have gone two full windows without buying a player. That is not the greatest strategy to win the Premier League ahead of a surging Liverpool team and a City side that obliterated records for fun last season.
Further, recent stats suggest how remarkably Pochettino has done in his time with the North London club despite obvious financial shackles. Tottenham’s average annual wage per first-team player this season is £3,515,778. In other words, the club pays 53 and 55 percent of what Manchester United and Manchester City, respectively, offer their starters.
To give a clearer perspective, the gap between them and the club immediately above them at fifth in the list, Arsenal, is £1,337,352. That figure is greater than the disparity between Tottenham and the team 11th in the list, Southampton. And it’s not that Levy’s largesse was any greater over the previous four seasons. Yet, Poch took the team to fifth, third, second, and third-place finishes in that period.
Lately though, his worries are more than just monetary. The football gods are seemingly in on the mischief judging by what seems like long-term injuries to Kane and Alli in January.
But Tottenham are tougher than they are given credit for. Their response after losing their two stars and to Chelsea and Crystal Palace in the Cups has been good. Winning the next two games in which they were clearly not at their best shows the players have bottle. It’s also fitting that the star turn was provided by the underrated Son, someone quite obviously tired after his excursions with the national team in the Asia Cup. His efforts were a microcosm of the commitment and a one-for-all and all-for-one mentality at the club that often goes unnoticed.
Klopp and Guardiola’s men have garnered most of the plaudits up till now and for good reason. They have been the most consistent and played the best football. Tottenham on the other hand have lost to both Manchester clubs and Liverpool at Wembley. Conventionally, this means they should be way behind in the chase, but they are not. They are remarkably just two points adrift of second-place City.
Mauricio Pochettino is a self-professed Game of Thrones fan. The popular television show wraps its eight-year adventure on May 19. That’s exactly a week after the end of the league season and a fortnight before the Champions League final. As winter finally leaves Westeros, the genial Argentine will be secretly hoping for his own new spring with Tottenham and a trophy to end five years in the cold.
Stranger things have happened in football.