Following Tottenham Hotspur’s loss to Chelsea in the League Cup final, how can Spurs continue the fine progress they have made under Mauricio Pochettino?
Pochettino has made a large number of changes to the first team squad since his arrival at White Hart lane, the majority of which have been with the intention of building the team from its youth system in the same way he did to staggering effect at Southampton. Since the start of the season, youngsters Harry Kane, Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb, aged 21, 23 and 20 respectively, have shone in Tottenham colours. The three not only have great potential, but have already cemented their places in the Spurs starting line-up. The trio have widely been credited for many of the club’s best team performances this season, most notably the 5-3 victory over Chelsea which stunned world football back in January.
Just how important are the three to the team?
Harry Kane has scored 24 goals in all competitions this season, which is just one goal shy of the number Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor netted last season put together (25). Kane’s influence on the team has been colossal, and he, thus far, has been the attacking threat which Tottenham have so desperately needed since the departure of Gareth Bale.
Nabil Bentaleb on the other hand, has played fourteen games in the league this season, and has won 55% of duels against opposition players when defending: the youngster player in the first team is becoming one of the most important. When Sandro was sold to QPR over the summer, one of Pochettino’s first decisions to make as manager, it was not a popular decision. But Bentaleb has made Spurs fans almost forget the name altogether, such has been the effectiveness with which he has sat in front of the back four.
Ryan Mason has become a fine box-to-box midfielder who creates plenty of chances whilst also doing his job in defence; something which the likes of Paulinho and Etienne Capoue have failed to do in the past. In addition to this, Christian Eriksen seems to complement the trio well and joins the play together nicely. This was evident in the team’s performance against Chelsea last week.
Tottenham have now very much found the backbone of their team since the days or Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart, and must now push on after their Wembley and Europa League disappointment. The last two weeks may have reduced whatever momentum Spurs had gained in recent months, but they still have twelve league games to qualify for the Champions League.
Although other teams such as Liverpool, Southampton, Arsenal and Manchester United are favourites for the top four, Tottenham fans should not be disheartened if the club fail to make European football’s top competition next term. Pochettino is building for the future and has already left his mark on the club should he walk out the door tomorrow. Spurs now have something they have not had in recent seasons, and that is a template to build upon, as well as an identity. This is something that all top teams must have when trying to progress and plan for the future.
A good example Pochettino should follow is the German National team. During the 2006 World Cup, players such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker formed a young core of players; the average age of the German side was just twenty-six. This helped the team stay together for a long time and gel perfectly, which culminated in their winning the World Cup in Brazil over the summer. The average age of the Spurs squad is currently twenty-four, and optimism is at the highest it’s been in a while around Tottenham Hotspur.
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