For Tottenham Hotspur it hasn’t been enough to be the team with the most successful progression in the Premier League in the last three seasons. They have been the steadiest side since Mauricio Pochettino was appointed in 2014, both in league positions and style of play, but the title is still elusive.
Pochettino has polished a Spurs team that craves possession, but is also able to mount deadly counterattacks, that is extremely solid in defence and have top players at almost all positions, from captain and nearly perfect Hugo Lloris in the goal, to one of the most prolific strikers in the world, Harry Kane.
But even though their squad has little to envy to those of Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United, they are always short of breath in the race for the title and this season the hopes are already gone.
Two seasons ago
When all big clubs entered in a collective slump and Leicester City managed to keep their pace to win the title, Spurs were the last team to surrender chasing Foxes. They couldn’t capitalise on the very unlikely scenario that campaign posed, were surpassed by Arsenal in the final day of the season and lost the second place.
However the seed was growing, Spurs were building a very enjoyable side, able to beat their top rivals and giving their players the taste that they could achieve big things at White Hart Lane and they shouldn’t look anywhere else. (Except Kyle Walker, of course)
The fact Chelsea weren’t involved in European competitions conspired against Tottenham’s busy schedule and their poor performance that dumped them out of the Champions League in the group stage and the Europa League in the first knockout round.
In the league they remained solid, better than Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and for the first time in two decades, Arsenal. But Chelsea stayed stronger and the trophy went West London rather than North London.
With Chelsea involved in the Champions League and having seen the lack of progress both clubs of Manchester showed in the previous campaign, Spurs title hopes seemed brighter than ever before the start of this season. But Wembley has played its ugly part again and mid-January they sit in the fifth position of the table. Right now even a Champions League spot remains under serious doubt.
For one reason or another, in one season or the other, Tottenham have lacked the complete package needed to give their fans the trophy that’s missing from their cabinet for more than half-century. Their progression has been constant, but you do nothing getting 85 points in every season if another team, no matter if different, always manages to get 90.
Right now in terms of fighting for the title there is little to do for Spurs. Manchester City seem unstoppable and even if they weren’t there are four teams for Tottenham to surpass with only half season ahead, including City.
The success Spurs have achieved under Pochettino has raised the expectations deposited on them, something that has increased too the pressure they work under. Now they are expected not to content with a Champions League spot, playing entertaining football and make a huge profit out of the sale of a world class player, but to use those fantastic players in the pursuit of the crown.
The stadium debt is still a ghost that poses a big concern over the club and the departure of more star players could be an option come the summer. Spurs, sadly, might end this fancy spell without winning the title, feeling as anyone else how ruthless the Premier League is.
Alejandro Pérez is a Premier League expert, commentator and the author of the book ‘More than 90 minutes’, available here.