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2017-2018 – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR FC – SEASON REVIEW – SO NEAR, YET SO FAR! AGAIN!

2017-2018 – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR FC – SEASON REVIEW

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I will never forgive the show Hamilton! For one it just wasn’t my thing. Clearly it was a brilliant mix of hip-hop history; with incredible choreography allied to a fascinating “founding fathers” narrative. But a freak diary clash caused me to have to miss Spurs last 16 second-leg tie against Juventus. My wife insisted I go to watch Hamilton as the show was booked months in advance. Anyway, I found out that Spurs lost at Wembley via the BBC Sports website and it was a crushing blow. Having to sit through two-and-a-half hours of musical theatre was bad enough, but Spurs going out of the Champions League, when in control of the tie, was a very bitter pill to swallow.

Indeed, I’m not afraid to say that this season I lost faith in football, not Spurs as I generally keep my expectations steady, but rather football as a passion. It’s rather pathetic and narcissistic I know but my obsession with Spurs and football got so ridiculous that I ended up smashing plates up in the kitchen when they lost to Manchester United in the 2018 FA Cup semi-final. I was very drunk on beer but that’s no excuse. I mean emotional outbursts in over-reaction to things one cannot control are, to quote a famous Vulcan, illogical.

Perhaps it was because a friend of mine had passed away recently and it came on top a bit, but losing that semi-final to Manchester United was devastating for all Spurs supporters. It was especially difficult to watch us take the lead through Dele Alli’s goal and then see us ground down mentally by Mourinho’s Red Devils.  In my view it shouldn’t happen. Not the actual loss but getting upset at football. It’s just a hobby and I have no control over what eleven strangers do on a football pitch. Ultimately, supporting Tottenham Hotspur FC should be a pleasurable and fun thing to do and on the main the season was relatively positive. But how did we do?

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SCORES ON THE DOORS

Premier League Finishing position: 3rd
Premier League Total points: 77
Premier League Goals Scored: 74
Champions League: Round Last 16
FA Cup: Semi-finals
Carabao Cup: Fourth round
Top scorer: HARRY KANE (30 goals)
Most Assists: DELE ALLI / CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN (10 assists)

Other:

Record Premier League Attendance: 81978 versus Manchester Utd – Wembley Stadium

Premier League Highest Placed London Team

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SEASON HIGHLIGHTS

Tottenham finished the 2017/18 Premier league season in third place, booking a spot in next year’s Champions League. They almost made the quarter-finals of the Champions League but the clinical Italian team Juventus unpicked their defensive locks at crucial times to steal the match away from them. With the incredible Manchester City smashing all ahead of them in the Premier League, I felt the FA Cup was our best chance of silverware, however, Ander Herrera’s winning goal and an lacklustre second half display did for us in that game against Manchester United.

Overall, I think 3rd was a creditable finishing place in the league. We could have nicked second but there was no stopping Pep Guardiola’s light-blue behemoth breaking the hearts of the other teams. Spurs did well, given they played all their home games at Wembley. But for some early stutters against Chelsea, Burnley, Swansea and West Bromwich Albion our form there was excellent. The highlights were of course defeating Manchester United and Liverpool as well as thumping victories against Southampton, Stoke and Everton. Our away form was pretty consistent too although, some unnecessary draws, plus defeats to Manchester City and Manchester United were disappointing due to the poor team shows. However, we FINALLY we beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – FOR THE FIRST TIME IN ONE HUNDRED YEARS! Or so it felt (it was 28 years!)

I guess the major highlights of the season were our Champions’ League group stage victories over Borussia Dortmund and the mighty Real Madrid. I was at the Madrid game at Wembley and the atmosphere was beyond words. We managed to beat Ronaldo and Madrid’s Galacticos 3-1 at Wembley on an electric night. The sad thing is Real Madrid are now in the Champions League final and we again end the season with nothing but the glory of our memories.

Champions League - Tottenham Hotspur vs Real Madrid

THE PLAYERS

Once again HARRY KANE had an incredible season. He scored 30 goals in the Premier League; only Mohammad Salah’s amazing skills and finishing stopped him winning the Golden Boot. CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN in midfield consistently proved himself a master of passing and delivery with some wonderful goals and assists. Indeed, his goal against Chelsea was a thunderbolt to behold. Dele Alli, received some ridiculous criticism during the season for not being as devastating as previous seasons. Yet, Alli scored some valuable goals as did our South Korea winger Heung Min Son, who constantly proved a valuable asset in attack.

In defence, Toby Alderweireld, so outstanding the previous two seasons, got injured in November so our record signing Davinson Sanchez, a young Columbian bought from Ajax, stepped up and showed maturity beyond his years. He, I think, will only get better. Along with Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen I would say that JAN VERTONGHEN was Spurs player of the year. He had an incredibly consistent season in the back four and hardly missed a game. He protected Hugo Lloris’ goal with a strength and intelligence which again made us a difficult team to beat.

Of all the wonderful goals that were scored this season, a special mention goes to VICTOR WANYAMA’S goal against Liverpool at Anfield. It was a powerful strike from over 30 yards out which burst the back of the net and got us back level in one of the most dramatic league games of the season.

Image result for tottenham hotspur jan vertonghen TACKLE 2017 / 2018

THE MANAGER

I think, once again, MAURICIO POCHETTINO and his backroom staff have worked wonders with the squad. The team are always very fit and energetic although during some games we were very slow starters. Also, switching off against Juventus cost us badly. But, finishing 3rd and having decent cup runs was probably what we deserved. We just need to get that killer instinct to finish teams off. That mental “win-at-all-costs” attitude and steel is needed on top of the attractive football we have become known for.

Again we did not spend hundreds of millions on our squad and aside from Davinson Sanchez and Lucas Moura (in January); signings were relatively low-key compared to the teams from Manchester. I think given the tools such as a world class midfielder and another top striker to compliment Harry Kane, then Pochettino could deliver a title. But let’s be honest Manchester City will be difficult to catch and other teams such as Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United will also be in the mix.

 Image result for tottenham hotspur POCHETTINO WEMBLEY

THE FUTURE

Spurs will move into their brand spanking new stadium for the beginning of the 2018 / 2019 season back at WHITE HART LANE.  It is a state-of-the-art facility with incredible technological features and extras. I really hope we will have a team to do the stadium justice. If we could just push the boat out and buy a couple of “world-class” players, if available, then I reckon we could challenge the very top. But, I for one will back the team yet should they lose and falter will never be smashing the kitchen up again. After all it is just a game; a beautiful silly game of football.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR F.C. LEAGUE REVIEW (2015 – 2016) BY PAUL LAIGHT

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR FC LEAGUE REVIEW (2015 – 2016) BY PAUL LAIGHT

“Icarus flew too close to the sun, but at least he flew.” Jeremy Robert Johnson

As the paint dries on the end of the Premier League season my team, Spurs, finished in third position; having flown high for so long they ultimately imploded in orbit before sadly crashing and burning. However, I am a very proud Spurs supporter today as finishing third in the league guarantees us Champions League football next year, and for a moment, just one split-second moment our young team, under the progressive management of Mauricio Pochettino, just flew; we really flew!

Okay, Leicester’s incredible Premier League win was the sporting story of the year, plus we didn’t win anything and failed to hold on to second to our bitter rivals Arsenal. Still, at least, when compared to the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, and the under-achieving Mancunian teams we got off the runway and soared. Yes, we burnt out spectacularly in the last two-and-half-games but the future for Spurs remains sonic-powered and solar bright!

GAMES

While I would have taken third position at the beginning of the season, getting so close to title glory meant failure was a bitter, jagged pill to stick down one’s throat. But we were scintillating throughout the season with some fantastic performances in the Premier League. Fair enough, an unlucky 3rd round loss to Arsenal in the League Cup, unnecessary loss to Palace in the FA Cup and waving the white flag to Dortmund in the Europa League condemned us to a lack-lustre cup exits, we, more often than not, totally smashed it in the League.

During a fourteen game unbeaten run early doors we smashed Manchester City 4-1 at home, Bournemouth 5-1 away and West Ham 4-1 at White Hart Lane. Even after blippy defeats to bogey teams Newcastle United and Leicester at home we strung together a series of wonderful wins including SIX in a row, which would propel us to title contenders. After being out-hustled by West Ham (1-0) we actually were, for fourteen minutes, top of the table when leading against ten-man Arsenal. But the scum equalised and we never hit the top again.

Nonetheless, Spurs continued to battle and chase and harry the formidable leaders Leicester and put real pressure on them when winning 3-0 against Manchester United and smashing sorry Stoke 4-0.  Alas, the win in the Potteries was our last of a brilliant season and the ‘Battle at the Bridge’ against Chelsea saw the wheels of our title challenge career off in a pulsating, yet ill-disciplined, performance. Two crushing defeats to Southampton and Newcastle meant our young lions had won hearts and minds and flirted with glory but sadly fell short in the title and runners-up spot.

PLAYERS

Spurs had many stand-out players in a highly consistent season. Hugo Lloris was, overall, one of the best goalkeepers in the league saving us many, many times through the year. His form, arguably fell off, like the rest of the team in the last few games but, David DeGea aside, I would not want another keeper in our box. Our defence was mean like a junkyard dog with Rose and Walker bombing up the wings and covering tackles and crosses like demons. In fact, Danny Rose, under Pochettino, is one of the most improved players at the club, embracing the derring-do, action and pace the manager has instilled.

Centre-back, Toby Alderweireld was deservedly voted Spurs player of the season by the fans as his cool, calm persona plus brilliant tackling and exquisite passing range made him the signing of the summer. But, special mention must go to a great young defender, who I thought was unlucky to be dropped for Vertonghen, called Kevin Wimmer. I would make him first choice next year as Jan, while a fine defender, has looked somewhat jaded and short of pace since coming back from injury.

Arguably our most valuable player of the season, along with Harry Kane, was Belgium midfielder, Moussa Dembele. Box-to-box there was not a better footballer in the league in my opinion. Because of his ability to hustle opponents and rarely lose the ball, Spurs struggled when he didn’t play. Another revelation in midfield was Eric Dier, who having been promoted from the back four provided, for the most part, rock-like protection, snarling commitment and also some valuable goals.

Attacking midfielders Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela were also excellent throughout. Great Dane Eriksen especially provided an unprecedented number of assists and often derided Lamela really found his passing and goal scoring range. Find of the season though in a Spurs shirt was the mercurial teenager Dele Alli who scored a series of brilliant goals. Bought for an incredibly low price of £5 million he deservedly won PFA Young player of the Year and what a talent he is! The only criticism that can be aimed at him is his lack of discipline; yet it’s that aggression which drives his winning mentality and something I’m sure he will channel into becoming a world-class player for Spurs and England.

Going forward Harry “He’s one of our own” Kane has provided the fulcrum for a brilliant attack-minded team. In the Premier League alone he scored TWENTY-FIVE goals and pretty much played every minute on his own up front. If he’d been injured I’m not sure Spurs would have been able to challenge as high as they have. He is single-minded in his pursuit of goals, possessing great ability in the air and on the ground. Kane’s skill in tight spots, powerful strength and dead-eye accuracy made him my Spurs player of the year; followed closely by Alderweireld, Dembele and Alli.

GOALS

An incredible amount of goals to choose from but my top FIVE Premier League goals of the season in date order:

Christian Eriksen – brilliant free kick against Swansea – 4/10/2015

Dele Alli – incredible finish versus Crystal Palace – 23/01/2016

Christian Eriksen – ice-cold winner against Manchester City – 14/02/2016

Harry Kane – amazing strike against the Arsenal – 05/03/2016

Dele Alli – sublime thru ball & finish versus Stoke City – 18-04-16

STYLE

This youthful Spurs team, most of them in their twenties, played with high-line intensity, hunting in packs, defending in numbers and breaking teams down with a ferocious passion and jugular-gripping power. When they had their best eleven on the pitch they were virtually unplayable and had many Premier League managers and football pundits praising our impressive attacking prowess and miserly defence. While the romantics were rightly willing Leicester FC to win the league, Spurs were a credit to football and it was a damned shame they could not hold onto the runners-up berth their scintillating play richly deserved.

THE MANAGER

In Mauricio Pochettino (and his backroom staff) Spurs have a fantastic manager who, while still gaining experience, as a Premier League boss is moulding a young, speedy and hungry team capable of challenging for top honours. Pochettino carries himself not only with dignity but also quiet power and determination. You can see a keen football brain ticking over and his passion is undeniable. I admire his ability to get a tune out of an inexperienced team and create a winning spirit which will hopefully lead us to greater things in the near future.

NEXT SEASON – 2016-2017

With Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool under-achieving plus Manchester City being below par generally throughout the season, next year will be tough for Spurs to maintain a top four place. Also, who’s to say another team won’t do a “Leicester” and come from nowhere to win the Premier League? Indeed, Leicester themselves won’t want to give up their title easily.

Obviously, we will need to bolster the squad as we severely lacked strength in depth when our first-team eleven were not playing. Plus, the intense, closing-down football we play, and the Europa League campaign, meant we were stretched mentally and physically by the end of the season; thus culminating in our final game draws and capitulations against West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea, Southampton and sadly, Newcastle.

By shaving some of the players Pochettino deems surplus to requirements and bringing in, at the very least, another quality defensive midfielder, top-draw midfield playmaker and a couple of strikers, Spurs can take the overall positivity of this season to new heights. Moreover, tactically I would like us to add a bit more match-play nous to our speed and skill next year. We threw away points from a number of advantageous positions and feel with better discipline and tactical ability to close a game out we would have been even higher up the table.

OVERALL

It was ultimately a brilliant season from a marvellous young squad who did the Spurs supporters proud throughout the year.  I thank the players and manager for giving me an enormous amount of footballing pleasure and excitement this season. It’s true to say that Icarus flew too close to the sun but at least he flew; as did Spurs this year.

2015 – 2016 – STATISTICS (select)

Premier League Top Scorer – 25 Goals – Harry Kane

Premier League Best Goal Difference – 34+

Premier League Longest Winning Streak –  6 games

Premier League Most Assists – (2nd place) – 13 assists – Christian Eriksen

Premier League Goals – (2nd place) – 69 goals

Club Record Unbeaten Run – 14 games

PFA Young Player of the Year – Deli Alli