Tottenham Hotspur 2018/19 Performance Overview
The question has been widely asked as to what Spurs fans would have settled for at the start of the season. The answer, for many, was to secure Champions League football for next season and to finish above Arsenal in the process.
Both boxes were ticked while supporters now have the added bonus of a Champions League final to look forward to. This might well have been beyond our wildest dreams but are we satisfied?
It’s easy to forget that we were supposed to be installed in our new stadium before a ball was kicked. Eventually, the new White Hart Lane opened its doors on April 3rd while the team had to continue at their temporary Wembley home in the meantime.
Was this disruptive to the team? It’s hard to tell but there will certainly be no excuses in 2019/20. We’re home and it’s time to build and kick on but not before we’ve scrutinised the entire 2018/19 campaign.
Despite the issues with the new ground, it all started so positively. Tottenham opened with three straight wins, including a 3-0 demolition of Manchester United at Old Trafford. Few realised just how bad United were going to be at that point so the three points sparked early talk of a title challenge.
The embers of that particular fire were swifty put out due to back-to-back defeats against Watford and Liverpool. Matters began to stabilise and by the end of the year, we were back in the title hunt. A particular highlight came in November with a 3-1 victory over Chelsea while the festive period saw a 6-2 demolition of Everton at Goodison.
The Turning Point
When January commenced, the majority of Spurs fans might have conceded that the title was a two-way fight between Liverpool and Manchester City. Ultimately, that proved to be the case but supporters were alarmed at how meekly we finally gave up the chase. The season climaxed with that home draw against Everton that followed defeated to West Ham and Bournemouth.
The final form table of the campaign, based over six games, sees Tottenham sitting in 11th place. That puts us behind Leicester, Newcastle, Crystal Palace and relegated Fulham. Results fell away alarmingly towards the end of 2018/19 so was it really a job well done or are there concerns for next season?
Domestically, Spurs made early exits from both the FA Cup and the EFL Cup but, as we know, the Champions League has been an altogether different story. We also know how close we came to being eliminated prior to the knockout stages, having picked up a solitary point from our opening three group games.
The situation was turned around, initially with that late Christian Eriksen winner against Inter Milan before a dramatic 1-1 draw in Barcelona. We may have been fortuitous that other results went our way but our progression from the second half of the groups has been no fluke. Dramatic – yes, lucky – certainly not.
We may yet lift that title but no matter what happens in Madrid, there are personnel issues to address in the close season.
We’ll run the rule over possible departures in greater detail in another article but there may well be a greater cull than we’ve seen in recent seasons. Kieran Trippier looks to be under particular pressure after a poor season where he failed to pick up after an impressive World Cup.
Erik Lamela remains an enigma: Our former record signing is effective on his day but a poor injury record means that Spurs may look to cut their losses and take whatever transfer fee they can in the summer. Victor Wanyama and Serge Aurier may also be surplus to requirements and while Danny Rose talked about playing his last Spurs game in the Champions League final, the suggestion of him leaving looks to be down to media gossip above anything else.
Finally, we can expect to be saying goodbye to both Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen. Fernando has played a part in our UCL campaign but will surely want to end his long career at a club that can offer him more game time. In the case of Vincent, it’s just not working out and he needs a change of scenery as much as we need to ship him out.
Elsewhere, Hugo Lloris, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli have been criticised at times – usually on social media as soon as we go a goal behind – but departures seem far less likely.
Son Heung-Min is our player of the season and few will argue with that decision. He’s been an able deputy for Harry Kane while scoring important goals right across the season. Other players to receive more praise than abuse include Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld while Lucas Moura’s two hat tricks towards the end of the campaign suggest the Brazilian deserves more of a chance in 2019/20.
Are there really few winners or is this an accurate reflection of our season? Ultimately, perhaps the World Cup hangover persisted long enough and then impacted on what has been an extended campaign.
Mauricio Pochettino, for all his efforts, has also failed to escape without blame. Team selections, formations and substitutions have all come under the spotlight with criticism quick to arrive at the boss’ door when things go wrong.
However, we clearly love him and the scene between fans and players at the end of the game in Amsterdam will live long in the memory of those who were lucky enough to be there. He’s magic we know but as the press widely report, he has asked the board to back him in the summer with greater investment in the squad.
Assuming that Llorente and Janssen do leave in the summer, we’re back to that old problem of finding an adequate back up to Harry Kane. Just who would want that job based on the amount of game time that the reserve usually enjoys?
Perhaps it’s time to give up on that quest, assume that Son Heung-Min will be pushed forward as and when Harry gets injured, while we look to promote from within. A promising youngster such as Troy Parrott or Kazaiah Sterling could be lifted up to take Llorente’s place on the bench.
If we look at other transfer rumours, the name of Ryan Sessegnon comes up on a frequent basis but no-one else features with any great regularity. That will obviously change in June when the Champions League final is played and the season can finally be put to bed.
It’s been a long and eventful campaign and one that could still end on an unbelievable high but has there been progress or is it time to overhaul the squad that has taken us so far?