Rating The 2014/15 Tottenham Hotspur Campaign Demands Proper Perspective


The beginnings of the 2013/14 campaign for Tottenham Hotspur proved relatively bleak, especially when considering the brighter times preceding it. In addition to Harry Redknapp’s parting, the previous transfer windows saw the departure of magnificent talent in Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart, with Spurs fans celebrating the arrival of Lyon goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in the closing hours of August’s transfer window in 2012.

While the American contingent had reason to celebrate, the only other “big splash” signing garnered in that window’s eleventh hour was Clint Dempsey, former Fulham player and star for Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann of the USMNT.

Even despite Andre Villas-Boas’s arrival and accomplishments with Porto, expectations for the 2012/13 season were diminished at best.  Finishing in the top-four only to not earn a Champions League berth in the previous year could do that to a fan base.

And then, Gareth Bale conquered the world, capturing the hearts of Spurs’ fans for as long as the Welsh Wizard would have us.

Bale and Dempsey factored mightily at Old Trafford in September of 2012, each scoring goals in a 3-2 victory, the first for Tottenham on Manchester United’s home pitch in over 23 years.  Dempsey’s score was his first as member of Spurs, and Bale’s was the second of many in his season to trump all seasons in Tottenham lore.

Bale would go on to land the honors of PFA Players’ Player of the Year, the FWA Player of the Year Award, and the Young Player of the Year in a season by which Bale managed 26 goals across all competitions, 21 of them in the Premier League.  Consequently, Bale’s treble of awards had only been matched previously by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007.  Yet, in spite of such accolades, Spurs would fall short of Champions League again, finishing a place behind Arsenal on the EPL table.

Enter the previously alluded dark and portending times for Tottenham Hotspur.

Bale knew it.  AVB knew it.  Even Spurs’ fans knew it.  Losing out on Champions League for a third successive year would cost Tottenham its best player.  Only the club’s manager and fan base denied it through and through the summer before Bale’s exodus from North London, despite the writing on the wall casting a neon smolder.

By September 1, 2013, Bale was gone, to the tune of a world record transfer fee of €100 million.  AVB would join him by December 16, with ghastly 6-0 and 5-0 losses on his margin to Manchester City and Liverpool respectively, defeats damning enough to eradicate the highest winning percentage any Tottenham manager would produce.

In Villas-Boas’s remarkable, yet short-lived tenure with Spurs, not even sexy acquisitions in Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela, who would both shatter Tottenham’s transfer fee records, could save him.  Ultimately, AVB’s replacement Tim Sherwood and Spurs limped to a sixth-place finish in the Premier League.

With Sherwood gone by season’s end, Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino would embark on a season likely mired by minimal returns from the likes of Nacier Chadli, Soldado, Lamela, and Paulinho, players purchased with “Bale money.”  While Christian Eriksen, a player also acquired with Bale funds, would likely bud and flourish in a second full season with the club, Spurs had little in the way of hope for progress from its contingent of fading stars or maturation from their yet-to-prove-themselves hopefuls, Ryan Mason, Nalib Bentaleb, and Harry Kane included.

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Never mind the fact Spurs would enter this season with question marks in the forms of Soldado, Emmanuel Adebayor, and a burgeoning, yet unproven talent in Harry Kane.  And that was merely the striker position, a post left untouched for another series of transfer windows.  This deficiency on the roster would be dwarfed only by a collective backfield either too inadequate (Kyle Naughton), too injured (Younes Kaboul), too young (Eric Dier), too diminutive (Danny Rose), too uncertain (Vlad Chiriches) or too erratic (Kyle Walker) to rate for Spurs.

Predicting Spurs to finish in the top-four was a laughable prospect.  Demoralizing even.  Essentially, Tottenham would count themselves fortunate to finish any higher than tenth.

And yet, here Spurs find themselves in seventh on the EPL table, tied with Southampton at 53 points, six behind United, supplanted in that ever elusive fourth slot.   While Champions League is a relative pipe dream for Spurs so late in the season, this campaign has provided more glimmers of hope and optimism that even the most idealistic of Tottenham supporters struggled to fathom at season’s onset.

How brilliant has this Spurs’ season been?  Let us count the ways.

Look no further than turning the page on this calendar year to uncover Tottenham’s most spirited victory in years, a 5-3 trouncing of table-topping Chelsea at White Hart Lane on New Year’s Day, buttressed by an electrifying brace from Harry Kane, who has given Spurs and their fans modest returns nearly tenfold.

A month later, Kane would add another brilliant two-score tally, besting loathed Arsenal 2-1, again at the Lane.  Witnessing Kane on the pitch that day, engulfed by an outpouring of adoration from the White Hart Lane faithful, remains as indelible as any memory Bale provided Spurs at even his highest of highs, his 2013 performance against West Ham notwithstanding.

Danny Rose has quieted critics, outperforming Kyle Walker as the club’s lead attacking fullback, scoring two crucial goals in a convincing win against Chelsea and a come-from-behind draw against West Ham, adding four assists throughout the season.  Pochettino has made Rose a relative star worthy of earning a spot on the English international squad roster, right beside Kane and Ryan Mason, who has teamed with Nalib Bentaleb to form a formidable and young midfield for Spurs.

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Christian Eriksen, a free-kick master so integral to how Spurs manage their attack, has been astoundingly brilliant this season, especially late in matches; his 11 goals across all competitions bests a rising Nacier Chadli by one score, second only to Kane’s awe-inspiring 29.  Additionally, a third of Erisken’s goals have come in the 80th minute or later, a figure that demands no Spurs’ fan give up on his squad, regardless of late deficits.

Such numbers nearly expunge what little Lamela and Soldado have given Spurs in the way of gaudy scoring figures (even if there are only nine goals between them, with only two–one a piece–coming in EPL play).

Spurs tout the youngest squad in the Premier League, yielding magnificent results from its aforementioned young players.  Furthermore,  Tottenham made headlines last August, signing young USMNT star Deandre Yedlin to the club.  Pochettino, despite not using Yedlin in any match this year, has gone on record to suggest “bigger and brighter” things await its fresh, new fullback in coming years.  Add to that a promising signing of Kevin Wimmer, 22-year-old center back from Cologne of the Bundesliga, and Dele Alli of MK Dons, a 19-year-old star in the making.

Giving Pochettino a relative vote of confidence to close out this season, Spurs find themselves exceeding expectations beyond any pundit’s wildest imaginings, with grander visions awaiting Spurs in 2015/16.  Given the fitness Pochettino demands of his players, the likes of Eriksen, so deadly in the closing minutes, are primed and ready to strike when a lesser, more fatigued squad least expects it (i.e. see what Spurs did late against West Ham at the Lane this year).  This will only bode that much more promising with each year Daniel Levy employs Pochettino as his manager.

Win or lose, Champions League or not, Tottenham has given its faithful plenty in which to believe.  If only Bale could extricate himself from the clutches of a delusional, rabid fan base to return to his former glory.