Will big-spending Spurs be Premier League title contenders?
Tottenham Hotspur’s 2018-19 season was quite the “glass half-full” occasion.
Spurs won 23 matches, only Liverpool and Man City claiming three points on more occasions. The North London outfit also lost 13, the biggest number in the Top Six and the same as Wolves.
[ MORE: Spurs agree Dybala fee ]
With a plus-28 goal differential, also third-best in the PL, Spurs finished 15 points back of second and 16 behind victorious Man City. That felt okay because Mauricio Pochettino’s men, of course, also made it to the UEFA Champions League Final, losing to Liverpool on a questionable handball call.
Now two seasons removed from a second-place finish in the league, Spurs have broken their transfer record to bring in Tanguy Ndombele and may be spending bigger, linked Tuesday with both Paulo Dybala and Philippe Coutinho. Playmaker Giovani Los Celso has been in their orbit, too, all summer.
Perhaps no team has more questions in the air over the final 48 hours of the transfer window than Spurs, with Christian Eriksen still whispered as a possible departure, to boot.
Only Manchester United suffered more injuries than Spurs last season, with Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Moussa Sissoko, and Hugo Lloris missing time (Spurs went 2W-3L in league play without the latter). And Heung-min Son was gone through national team duty, too.
This is a club who stopped Man City from its most-sought jewel, the Champions League, and it’s no coincidence that Spurs’ Premier League freefall came once the group stage arrived at Wembley in mid-February.
Spurs were five points back of the first and second at that point, with a match-in-hand on leaders City but not Liverpool. The chasers -- Arsenal, Manchester United, and Chelsea -- were between 9-10 points back of Spurs.
They had won all but six of their matches at that point, falling to Watford, Liverpool, Man City, Arsenal, Wolves, and Manchester United. The losses to the leaders were both at home and by a single goal (as they would be later in the season, away from London).
They have a lot going for themselves, even a bit of momentum from the Audi Cup. Their festive season slate is very forgiving, as is their season run-in.
Spurs’ three toughest fixtures of the opening 10 come away to Man City, Arsenal, and Liverpool. Draws can, of course, do the trick there as Pochettino’s men look to build a path to the top (Liverpool’s start is more difficult, while Man City’s early visit from Spurs is its only top challenge of the first two months, all respect due to Wolves).
The biggest argument against Tottenham comes at right back, where Kieran Trippier has left, Juan Foyth is injured, and Serge Aurier is still returning to fitness. The easy option is for Pochettino to find an answer in the next 48 hours, but the little things matter when you’re talking about a title; Spurs may have to face down City in Week 2 with either a brand new piece or a revived Aurier.
That’s digging a bit too far into the weeds, though; When assessing whether Spurs can make up distance to Liverpool and Man City, it’s not really about the big gap at the end of last season. Look at where Spurs were before the Champions League knockout round stage. Ask yourselves whether you see them shallow enough to finish 3W-2D-7L regardless of UCL status.
We’d argue the opposite. With Dybala or Coutinho, this team can make it a bonafide three-team race almost regardless of what Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United manage by Thursday evening.