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Lloris & Pochettino: top four is the goal this season, not the title

In a year where Manchester City looks unstoppable, Spurs’ captain and manager are taking the pragmatic approach.

Real Madrid v Tottenham Hotspur - UEFA Champions League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-0 loss to Arsenal put Spurs 11 points behind Manchester City and in a dogfight with the Gunners, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United for the coveted places behind the Citizens. It’s certainly looking like City are poised to walk the league this season and they look like not only the best team in the Premier League but possibly in Europe.

With that in mind, Spurs captain Hugo Lloris has urged his Spurs teammates to not worry about winning the title this season, but instead to concentrate on achieving a top four position to ensure continued participation in the Champions League.

“Before we think about City it’s important to stay in the top four. This is the main target for our team. We heard from outside that Tottenham play for the title, blah, blah, blah. The most important thing is to stay consistent in the League.

“We have been in the top four the last two years and we need to carry on, to settle the club in this position and try to get more experience because the team is still young, then reduce the gap with the best.

“Obviously the future for Tottenham will be bright if we keep the same mentality. It’s our ambition, but step by step. It’s true that we wanted to do more against Manchester United and Arsenal. Unfortunately we couldn’t do that so now it’s important to have a run of victories because we need to keep our place at the top.”

Oh noes! What’s wrong with Hugo? Has he no ambition? Surely Spurs’ title-contending runs the past two seasons mean that they should have a goal no lower than pipping Pep and co. to the top this year as well, right?

Well, maybe not. Lloris is a competitor, but he’s also extremely pragmatic. While Spurs haven’t won anything (something we hear ad nauseum from media pundits) and Tottenham fans make fun of clubs like Arsenal who seemingly make top four their goal every season, Spurs are relative newcomers to the upper echelons of Premier League football and hence are in a different position to the other clubs competing for Champions League.

Mauricio Pochettino agrees, telling the media that Hugo’s taking a sensible approach: strive for the title, but make sure you at least land in the top four.

"Of course, if you came from Mars today and you arrived in the Premier League, you would say: 'Oh Tottenham, in the last two seasons, fights for the title. Why not fight to win the league again?'

"Of course the team needs a title. If not, this is s---! But Hugo knows it is not easy to be a regular in the top four, like Arsenal did for 22 years.

"Hugo is realistic. Of course, he is the first who wants to win titles -- the Champions League, the Premier League, everything -- but he's 30 years old, and he's clever and realistic.

"He knows we need to settle the bases and -- when we are a team that is regular in the top four and we show we are real contenders for different reasons -- you know better than me and him to expect everything from Tottenham."

First of all, I’m pretty sure Martians would be, IDK, Huddersfield fans or something, they’re weird like that. But I also don’t think Poch is wrong here. Despite the unexpected near-glory of the past two seasons, Spurs have shown incremental improvement each of the past three seasons under Poch. They are Sisyphus pushing the boulder, and they’re pretty damn close to the top of that mountain. As Spurs fans, if we didn’t compete for the title this season, a year before moving into our new ground, but still showed improvements in style of football, continental achievements, and financial wherewithal, would it be so bad? I’m not sure it would.

Fans want the best. Players do too. But it’s super tough to compete for a title EVERY season, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that not doing so would mean that Spurs are backsliding. I want the title as much as the next Spurs fan, but it is just as important to make sure that Spurs continue their participation in the Champions League for the third straight season as they move into their new home. Do that, and we can continue to ramp up the expectations in future years as the playing field starts to level.