Premier League 2014-15 Preview: Tottenham Hotspur
There’s little change in the Spurs squad from last year, but with the managerial roller coaster last season, the biggest change is the club’s commitment to former Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino.
With a positive air around this club, and the team flying very much under the radar as all teams above them spend oodles of dollars on foreign players, fans are quietly optimistic ahead of the new season.
The club will almost certainly display a higher level of cohesion this year than last, which was their undoing in the previous season. With a tactical genius in Pochettino now at the helm, if anyone can piece these players properly it’s the former Southampton boss. Tottenham will be better than last year. The question is, will they improve as much as the teams around them?
[RELATED: Full PL season preview]
Transfers in: Ben Davies (Swansea), Michel Vorm (Swansea), Eric Dier (Sporting CP)
Transfers out: Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea), Jake Livermore (Hull City), Iago Falqué (Genoa), Kevin Stewart (Liverpool)
Last season: Spurs finished sixth last season in their first year without Gareth Bale, a dip from the previous year’s fifth.The overarching theme focused on the large amount of new talent brought in with the Bale money. There was a disconnect between many of the players, and the team struggled to play like one. The club beat many of the teams they were supposed to, but earned just five points off teams that finished above them in the table.
The club sacked Andre Villas-Boas in December after 5-0 and 6-0 defeats and posted longtime Spurs fixture Tim Sherwood as interim manager. The 45-year-old performed about as well as could be expected, but couldn’t manage to get any higher than Everton, whose impressive season earned many more plaudits.
Meant to be the club’s talisman, Roberto Soldado struggled mightily in his first season with the club, scoring just six goals and missing countless simple finishes. Soldado could be off, back to his home in Spain, but if he stays, he won’t have the starting striker spot locked up like he did at the beginning of last year.
Star Player: Christian Eriksen
One of the more high-profile additions of last summer, Lamela came over from Ajax and initially struggled to establish himself into the Premier League like many of his fellow new arrivals. However, Eriksen eventually found his footing, and proved his purchase wasn’t for naught.
Eventually the 22-year-old winger showed his electricity, and with freedom from Pochettino this season, he should be an attacking force for Spurs. He often played on the wing in the early part of the season, but his best performances at White Hart Lane last year came when he had more freedom from Sherwood to roam both on the touchline and into the wing.
With the club searching for a superstar following the departure of Bale, French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is the most recognizable name on the club, but Eriksen is likely to be the star up front, and will establish himself as one of the more creative players in the league.
Coach’s Corner: Mauricio Pochettino
Pochettino took a talented but young Southampton squad last season and lit up the league, but he - like many of the other Saints stars - used the club’s success to cash in and move on for bigger and better things.
Argentinian by birth, Pochettino has very little managerial experience in comparison to many of the other top teams in the Premier League, but last season proved there are fewer minds as tactically adept as his.
He will fare well at Spurs with his high back line and pressing style of play, but he must stamp out any mental mistakes in order to succeed, as the club often had senior moments last year that led to poorly conceded goals. Look for some of the faith he put in Southampton youngsters last year to carry over, and young club talent like Harry Kane and Zeki Fryers should benefit.
PST Predicts: This team has established itself as perennial top-7 finishers, but breaking into the top four has proved a very difficult and so far an unattainable task. That doesn’t look to change this year, not because Spurs has a deficient squad, but because so many teams above them improved this offseason, while Spurs did not due to last summer’s spending spree. Even arch-rivals Arsenal spent gobs of money.
The team’s true weakness last year (albeit mostly due to injury) was the outside of defense, and Pochettino will need to shore up the back line with his attack sure to gel better than last season and pick up a fair amount of goals. Fifth once again will cause supporters to wonder if they actually improved, but with five or six of the top clubs all looking better than last year, it will be difficult (but not impossible) for Spurs to find a top-four position.