Tottenham Hotspur open their 2017-18 Premier League season on Sunday by traveling to St. James’ Park to face newly promoted Newcastle United. Ahead of their first match, it’s time to start to take a look at the new season and ask a few questions about Spurs as the season gets underway.
We’re going to do a couple of round table discussions this week, starting by asking the following question:
What are reasonable expectations for Tottenham Hotspur in 2017-18, in the Premier League, Champions League, and domestic cups? What will make you satisfied, and what will leave you wanting more?
I’ve never been one who expects good things out of Tottenham Hotspur. I mean, it’s Tottenham Hotspur. But I have to say that I’m starting to become accustomed to Spurs actually being good. It feels awfully nice and I’d like that good feeling to continue.
Winning things is hard, and it’s extremely difficult to be good at everything, especially when Spurs have a very thin squad and are at an economic disadvantage to its competitors. For me, the two priorities are the Premier League and the Champions League. Spurs may be a historical cup team, but for me, the cups aren’t as important — play the reserves and the kids in the Carabao and FA Cups for all I care. I’ll be satisfied with a season that combines a top four Premier League finish and a decent effort in the UCL. And if Spurs draw Bayern and Barcelona in the group stages, then I’m okay solely concentrating on the league.
If Spurs can get through this season in the wilderness mostly intact and can move into the new stadium in a good position, I’ll be happy. Everything above that is gravy.
It's important to note that, barring an unexpectedly large amount of signings made by the end of the transfer window, this squad is simply not deep enough to make long runs in all of the competitions. Mauricio Pochettino will have to prioritize one or two over the rest.
My guess is that the Champions League, depending on the draw, may end up playing second fiddle to the league campaign this fall. Despite priority in the league, it will be tough for Spurs to equal or better last season's second-place finish after rivals strengthened their squads. A top four finish should be the aim, though.
The domestic cups are manageable in their early stages, and present Spurs' best opportunity to win some silverware this season. A deep run is possible, and winning one of them should also be a goal, as Spurs have yet to collect silverware under Pochettino.
Man City looks poised to dominate, while the rest of the top six have all brought in reinforcements, so winning the league might be a stretch this season. I think we’ll still be really good — as long as we figure out the mess that is our right-back situation — but one of those other five teams will likely be just a little better. It’ll be really hard to overcome the move to Wembley, the lack of depth in the squad and the loss of Kyle Walker.
I think I’d consider finishing in the top 3, getting out of our Champions League group and winning one of the domestic cups a reasonable season. The idea that this group of players needs to win a trophy to be considered successful is a bit overdone... but at some point we really do need to win some silverware. I’d be fairly disappointed if we didn’t win something (the International Champions Cup does not count) and/or if we crashed out of Europe early again.
Or Daniel Levy could find a spare £100 million in his couch cushions and sign Pereira/Kovacic/Mahrez in the next three weeks and we’ll be favorites. Here’s to hoping.
My minimum expectations for this season are a top four finish in the league, a quarterfinal in Europe, and a final in one domestic cup. I think expecting anything other than top four makes little sense. I understand that the other teams around us have strengthened and Spurs are maybe a bit weaker in comparison, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be striving for a finish in the Champions League places. Anything less than fourth will be unsatisfactory.
As for the cup competitions, I'm happy for the club to punt on one of the domestic cups. I don't care which one we take seriously, but the goal for this season has to be to win a trophy. The FA Cup was our best chance for a trophy last year, but we came up just short and it left kind of a bitter taste in my mouth. The knock on Tottenham know seems to be that we don't have that winning pedigree and winning a trophy, even the Carling/Capital One/Carabao Cup, would go a long way to shutting up some critics.
With respect to Europe, making it out of the Group in the Champions League should be the goal, but honestly, I won't be too bothered if we get dumped down to the Europa League as long as we then push on to the quarters or semifinals of that competition. Spurs needs wins in Europe to boost their coefficient. It's awesome if those wins come in the Champions League knockout rounds, but I'll be more than happy to take then in the Europa League too.
Would you, in your hear of hearts, be content to see Spurs sitting in fifth place after matchweek 38? Of course not! Despite the many factors seemingly going against us at this point -- the lack of signings, the move to Wembley, the lack of a right back — I don't think any right-minded Tottenham fan would be ok with dropping out of the Champions League places. To be fair, I don't think any of the "Sky Six" will be content to finish outside the top four, which is what makes this season so intriguing.
I expect much less in the the domestic cups, our squad is simply too thin for us to make a deep run. Unless we receive an easy draw that gifts us a spot in a semi-final (see last year's FA Cup or the 2014 League Cup), I simply don't see anything happening for us there. I would expect us to put more effort into the FA Cup, not just because of its prestige, but because it doesn't conflict with fixture congestion caused by European competition in the fall. But I don't expect anything, and therefore find it hard to get worked up about (unless one of our star players throws a fit the week before the semi-final).
Speaking of Europe, I expect us to get out of the group, and it's a clear tipping point between success and failure. On the Champions League stage, we need to show improvement and an ability to learn from mistakes. Not making it out of a very easy Champions League group stage last year was a failure, but it was one that was understandable considering our lack of experience in that competition.
I personally see a top four finish being a reasonable expectation in the league. There are just too many sides that have improved, and while Spurs are still a formidable unit, I don't see a title this season unless we make some major signings in the next couple of weeks. City are still my pick to win the league. I think we'll be battling with Chelsea, United, and Liverpool for those other spots, though Pool losing Coutinho would be a big blow for them.
The Champions League, I want to see us make the group stages. I'm expecting a harder draw this time around, but some untimely injuries really hurt the chances at progression last season. Even with a harder group, I think we've got the quality to make it to the next step. After that is a bonus.
I would love to see us get one of the two domestic cups, but I'm with Bryan in thinking that we missed a huge chance last season in the FA Cup. I want to see us challenge for at least one of them but we know that we'll probably rotate heavily early on in both competitions. This team should win a trophy, though. They're too good not to and another season with nothing to show for it would be a big disappointment.