Final Table Position – 5th
Total Points - 64
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride - seems to be the annual story behind Spurs as they once again find themselves coming up just short for a Champion's League spot with a fifth place finish. That betters their 6th place finish from a season go, although they didn't accumulate as many points in the table in this most recent campaign. Though Mauricio Pochettino would have liked a top four finish, he and Spurs fans should take solace in that they have the youngest squad in the top flight. The vast majority of their key players are under the age of 25 and this season saw a significant maturation for many of them, none more noticeable than that of Harry Kane.
This was the second season of the post-Gareth Bale era, and Pochettino went shopping for even more youth in last year's summer window. He brought in Ben Davies from Swansea, Seattle Sounder and hot USA prospect DeAndre Yedlin, defenders Eric Dier and Federico Fazio, Dutch keeper Michel Vorm and defensive midfielder Benjamin Stambouli. As it turns out, Davies, Yedlin and Vorm had very little impact over the course of the season, while Stambouli made appearances in a dozen league games. Dier and Fazio were much more utilized during the season with the former breaking out in a big way, becoming a bit of a fantasy darling in the opening month, scoring in Weeks 1 and 2.
The bigger storyline that would dictate their level of success though would have to be the performances of players acquired the previous summer with the money they had to invest for selling away Gareth Bale. The first season for many of them was chalked up as a learning curve year, as all seven of the major acquisitions had no Premier League experience. This season was more of a litmus test for Pochettino to evaluate whose future belongs at White Hart Lane and whose belong somewhere else. Unfortunately, after two seasons, it looks like only one of the "Magnificent Seven" has truly carved a name for himself with Spurs, and he pretty much established that from the jump - Christian Eriksen. To be fair, Nacer Chadli had some effective stretches and Erik Lamela finally had begun to show something as this past season wore down, but other players who command hefty wages failed to build on their second season, and in some cases, regressed.
Despite failing to reach the goal of a Champions League spot, Spurs and their fans had their moments in the sun, making the season not such a disaster. Two wins against two London rivals, one who would become the league champs, the other who went on to win the FA Cup. Yes, Spurs gave Chelsea their worst defeat of their title season, a 5-3 win at the Lane that truly anointed Harry Kane as a legit striker in this league. Then, a month later, a resounding 2-1 win over their bitter rivals Arsenal, who they managed to draw with in the reverse fixture.
Fantasy Stars – Spurs sported a major fantasy force at each outfield position - Harry Kane, behind a 21-goal season, was a top three forward in most fantasy formats. Christian Eriksen was money in midfield, showing a particular knack at set pieces, and Danny Rose had a breakout season in defense, with three goals and four assists to go along with stuffing several defense-oriented categories. Spurs failed to keep as many clean sheets as they had hoped though, rendering Hugo Lloris as merely an average keeper for fantasy purposes.
Solid Contributors – As said earlier, Nacer Chadli may have seen a bigger increase in influence and productivity this season among the seven men acquired two summers ago, and contributed with a solid 11 goals in league play. Jan Vertonghen was steady because of his consistent starts compared to his defensive teammates but never had that huge one-game haul. Erik Lamela had a few dynamite performances but it was mixed in among several appearances where he was virtually invisible. Two young talents have emerged out of the holding midfield positions though, and assuming they were available for a budget price in one's fantasy format, Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb both rose to the occasion from time to time. Eric Dier never could find the explosive game he enjoyed after the first two weeks.
Afterthoughts – From a fantasy perspective, Spurs had several afterthoughts. Once Harry Kane became "the man" leading the line, Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor faded into obscurity. Two midfielders from the Bale sale, Paulinho and Etienne Capoue were hardly heard from while Vlad Chriches' Jekyll & Hyde performances kept him too far down the depth chart to become a fantasy factor. Moussa Dembele had a short run as a starter at one point in the season but he could not secure the position long enough for fantasy managers to notice.
Talk to a Spurs fan about what the biggest weakness is for the club right now and undoubtedly you will hear a response of "The defense" every single time. Oddly, they kept clean sheets in the first two matches of last season as well as the final two. But they only scattered five throughout the middle thirty-four games. They have a number of defenders in their squad already that could mature into a top level performer, but if they want to qualify for Champion's League next season and can only afford to bring in one big name, it should be a center back to partner with Jan Vertonghen. They have already made a deal to bring in Kevin Wimmer, but he is yet another development project. They need a defender who is ripe right now.
There will be several players likely on their way out, but none as crucial to Spurs as Hugo Lloris. Lloris is a top 15 keeper in the world and truthfully deserves a place on a club playing in the CL. Manchester United are among several giant clubs ready to make a deal for him and recently, despite expressing his happiness playing at Tottenham, Lloris himself has made it known that he wants to play in the crown jewel club tournament. That would leave Michel Vorm as the primary keeper and with Brad Friedel retiring, there is no real backup. Whether Spurs will try to replace Lloris with another big name has yet to be seen, but they may find it difficult to lure a keeper in who is significantly better than Vorm that doesn't mind playing Europa League.
Another need would be to find a suitable forward to spell Harry Kane now and then and take some of the burden off of him. Fans who watched on with jaws dropped as Kane exploded on the scene will now enter next season with an expectation and that is a lot of pressure for a young man who still hasn't fully developed his game. A veteran with PL experience who can pop up with a goal now and then would be ideal, not to mention completely necessary as Adebayor has one foot out the door already and Soldado, well, Spurs can probably only get 10 cents on the dollar for him right now.
Things To Look For Next Season
If you check out the Minute-Adjusted Age column, you will find Spurs to be the youngest club in the top flight. In theory, they should have the biggest overall jump in development next season, but of course that only depends on how truly good some of these players are.
Upside – Despite many players in the current squad eating up significant wages without providing much production in return, Tottenham have the numbers in terms of depth. They do not need every one of them to turn into an all-world superstar, just a few of them need to take the next step in order for the club to break through that fourth place barrier that narrowly eludes them just about every season. With Pochettino in charge you have a manager that has shown he can find success with a club oozing young talent, as he showcased in his time running the show at Southampton. Spurs have enough depth to where there is a legit competition battle at just about every position, which should motivate these young men even more.
Downside – When you are a club aspiring to be a Champions League side but fall short, it makes life extremely difficult in the transfer market to bring in top talent. The biggest name likely to move this summer is a player leaving, Hugo Lloris. His departure would only make the idea of signing with Spurs all the more unattractive to the established stars out there. It is a shame really, because the nucleus of the team is young and getting better. It may only take one star player, someone like a Rafael van der Vaart, to put this side over the top. If they cannot find that player though, and the defense regresses with the loss of Lloris, Spurs could see themselves merely treading water for another Europa League spot.