It was 1995, and Alan Hansen had just uttered that famous phrase “You can’t win anything with kids.” Manchester United’s average squad age was 26 years and 137 days old. Fast forward to the future and now Spurs are in the spotlight. The squad is even younger, but it has proven to be effective against the very best domestic teams. Can Spurs win something with kids?
Perhaps it’s too early to pass judgement on this fledgling side but early on, Spurs have shown great promise. Take the 4-1 emphatic victory over Manchester City, for example. A squad of those around 24 years of age disassemble a supposed world class plethora of about 28 years of age. Put the offside goals aside. Just take a look at the performance of Eric Dier in midfield instead. Yaya Toure? More like No-no Toure. Okay, maybe the Ivorian got an assist, but after being withdrawn early, it was clear to see Eric Dier had prevented such a classy player from dominating a midfield like he usually does. Furthermore, this is Dier, who not long ago was playing centre-back, but has been able to adapt himself into a combative midfielder. Many Spurs fans questioned Pochettino’s strategy when Dier first filled the midfield berth, but now all applaud the sudden stroke of genius. But, it isn’t genius; it’s simply an experiment, it’s Pochettino’s faith in Dier to perform to the role he asks. This shows that both the manager and the squad have great promise.
For any successful side who lifts any trophy, there must have been some experimentation, perhaps a slight tweak here and there. It’s inevitable that at some stage, Pochettino will have to change his tactics again. No formation, strategy or ideology is perfect. Therefore, a cunning and daring manager such as Pochettino is very important if Spurs want to win something with kids. But, is Pochettino this all-singing, all-dancing manager? The starting line-up and defeat against Arsenal in the first round of the Capital One Cup was disappointing for one and all. Yet, this apparent lack of understanding for rivalry or the right personnel all disappeared come the weekend with that result against Manchester City. Arguably, Pochettino had rested his better players against Arsenal, saving them for the Premier League. Is this a statement of intent? Perhaps Arsenal have done their rivals a favour by limiting the extensive season Spurs had last season. But, it’s one less route to Wembley, a route that so nearly resulted in glory last season.
What is most important is the number of older, more seasoned professionals amongst the squad. Take Hugo Lloris, or Jan Vertonghen or Federico Fazio. Two of those three, are a good example to the rest of the squad and breed confidence in the ranks. This is important if Spurs want to succeed with such a young squad because a young side can be quite temperamental, but add some older heads and a degree of calm is added too. Hugo Lloris is inspiring in his performances alone, but as a Captain he is able to rally the troops when needed. The younger players only need to take a look at Lloris making one or two world class saves to keep them in the game, before realising they need to step up too. A goalkeeper and professional of Lloris’ quality is imperative to this young side, and if Spurs can keep him, it may well bolster Spurs’ chances of success too.
Can Spurs win something with kids? Even the most optimistic Spurs fans may cast some doubt on the notion of lifting a trophy. In mitigation, this very young squad has time to develop and improve. Isn’t that the best way to win a trophy, though? After a slow, but steady construction of a loyal, committed squad that play for the shirt and not for money? Perhaps there aren’t many footballers left out there who only play for the fans, but Spurs are on their way to building a squad that may well please the fans with a trophy.