The 2016-17 Premier League season is over, and now it's time to review. Over the next days and weeks, Cartilage Free Captain will be rolling out season-ending reviews of all Spurs first team players, looking not only at what happened this past season, but also what may happen in the future. We'll begin today with a team-wide overview.
Goals scored: 86 (1st in EPL)
Goals conceded: 26 (1st in EPL)
Table position: 2nd
What went right?
A whole heck of a lot went right for Spurs this season. Tottenham finished with 86 points (their highest ever point total in the Premier League era), second place in the table (also their highest ever finish), and led the league in both goals scored and fewest goals conceded.
In the process they tied a club record for consecutive Premier League wins (9), most wins in a Premier League season (26), and fewest defeats in a Premier League season (4). Harry Kane scored 29 goals despite missing three months due to injury and won the Golden Boot for the 2nd straight year, and Spurs had three players (Kane, Dele Alli, Son Heung-Min) score more than 20 goals in all competitions for the first time in a very long time. The general consensus was that, despite Chelsea winning the title, Tottenham Hotspur were the best team in English football since the start of 2017.
Oh, also Spurs went undefeated at home this season, closed White Hart Lane with a rainbow and win over Manchester United, and finished ahead of Arsenal for the first time in two decades.
It was a very, very good year.
What went wrong?
It depends on what your definition of “wrong” is. While Spurs were the best team in the Premier League in 2017, at the end of the day Tottenham won nothing. Considering that this was easily the best Spurs team since I became a fan and probably the best since the 1960s, to play so well and then not end up with some kind of silverware to show for it kind of hurts. And so, despite all their other accomplishments, this season still has just a hint of “almost” behind it. Spurs didn’t bottle the league as the media unfairly characterized it after the West Ham loss, but it’s easy to look back at Spurs’ poor run of form in November and think “what if.”
It also must be said that Spurs were pretty poor in Europe. Part of their struggles in the Champions League came down to injury, part to Pochettino’s decision to rotate for group stage matches, and part to Spurs’ group being much, much better than first suggested, but despite filling Wembley Stadium with Spurs fans, it’s impossible to characterize crashing out of the group stages as anything less than disappointing. Dropping out of the Europa League to Gent was frustrating and embarrassing, more so because it was a winnable competition and Pochettino clearly decided to punt on it.
On balance Spurs’ performances at Wembley this year were such that even the most stalwart of Spurs fans now have a moment of pause when they think playing all of their home games at the national stadium next season.
Finally, while Spurs’ signing of Victor Wanyama turned out to be their best transfer move, the acquisitions of Vincent Janssen and Moussa Sissoko... weren’t. That meant that Spurs still haven’t addressed their depth heading into their second straight Champions League campaign. That needs to change, and hopefully Tottenham will address it with a renewed urgency this summer.
Optimism abounds in north London as Spurs head off for their year in the wilderness while they finish their new stadium. However, despite talk of a “power shift” in London football, one thing hasn’t changed: Spurs are still well behind their competitors for top four in overall finances, meaning that they still can’t attract the kind of top European talent that clubs like Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Liverpool can. Despite all their successes the past two seasons, Spurs have overachieved as a club.
So critical to their success next season is keeping the band together. That means holding on to their biggest stars — Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld, and yes, even Kyle Walker, who has been the one player most strongly linked with a move out of North London. Moreover, in this summer’s transfer market Spurs need to continue to look for the same kind of undervalued, overlooked talent that has served them so well the past few seasons. If they are going to really compete on multiple fronts next year, they need to again improve their depth.
Tottenham will be one of the trendy picks to finally win the title heading into next season, but if there’s one thing we know it’s this: the big clubs are going spend a huge of money to get better this summer, and that’s going to make Spurs’ job that much more difficult. Playing at Wembley for a season is going to be a concern, and it would surprise no one if Spurs have a bit of a back-slide.
However, the past two years we have been down on Spurs heading into the season and they have surpassed all of our expectations both times. Why not next year, too? We know Mauricio Pochettino is a fantastic manager and a wonderful motivator, and his players who buy into his system love him. With a fantastic team and a new stadium on the horizon, the future has never looked brighter on the blue side of North London.
Rating: 4.75 Chirpys †
† Yes, I know, but I’m not going back into Photoshop to add another .25 to that Chripy graphic. Just use your imagination.