In some respects, this preview could read almost exactly the same as it did last year, or even the year before. Once again, Tottenham Hotspur will attempt to earn a spot in next season’s Champions League, all while adapting to a new manager’s tactics and ideals. Once again, expectations are high. And once again, there is plenty to doubt about Spurs despite the squad’s undeniable talent.
While the team’s place in the Premier League hierarchy has been startlingly consistent lately, the on-field product has continually shifted through failed or half-completed experiments. Spurs hired André Villas-Boas as manager in 2012 intending to build a new culture. They squeezed a world-record sum out of Real Madrid for Gareth Bale and let Villas-Boas immediately re-invest all of it in seven new players, hoping they could adapt quickly to Villas-Boas’ system.
But after a mediocre start, the club completely scrapped that plan. It fired Villas-Boas, gave the inexperienced Tim Sherwood an 18-month contract, then fired him six months into it despite decent results and a sixth-place finish.
New boss Mauricio Pochettino follows in their wake, inheriting a Tottenham squad rife with expensive pieces that have yet to be assembled into anything for longer than a couple months.
As such, it’s probably for the best that Spurs stayed quiet on the transfer market this summer. Instead, Pochettino has focused on implementing the high-pressure 4-2-3-1 system with the players he has. The results have been good in preseason, as Spurs have scored goals at will and have gotten encouraging displays from Erik Lamela and Roberto Soldado, both presumed to be EPL busts after disappointing last season. Will it translate into EPL success? That might depend on how long the club sticks to their own plan.
KEY ARRIVALS: D Eric Dier (from Sporting Club de Portugal), G Michel Vorm (from Swansea City), D Ben Davies (from Swansea City)
KEY DEPARTURES: M Gylfi Sigurdsson (to Swansea City)
PLAYER TO WATCH: When he’s on his game, Emmanuel Adebayor can be almost unplayable thanks to his size, strength, and skill with the ball at his feet. However, when he’s unmotivated or in a dispute with club hierarchy (as was the case with Villas-Boas), he can be a disaster. If Adebayor gets along with Pochettino, though, watch out.
KEY STAT: In the past 12 seasons, Tottenham Hotspur have had 10 managers.
STADIUM: White Hart Lane (Built in 1889; Capacity 36,284)
Tottenham brought stands with them when they took over White Hart Lane in 1899. But that didn’t last long, as the club hired Archibald Leitch to design new stands, eventually resulting in a rectangular stadium with a bronze fighting cock perched on the West Stand roof.