The World Cup of 2018 was rich in Tottenham talent, with a World Cup-winning goalkeeper in Hugo Lloris and no less than five English semi-finalists amongst the nine Lilywhites that travelled to Russia earlier this summer.
Tottenham and Their ‘World Cup Hangover’
It should be a time where those who have suffered under the shadow of Arsenal for years can wear their colours with pride and bask in the comfort of a new stadium and an exceptional manager staying put. Yet, despair is never far away from the minds of older Tottenham fans, and all are aggrieved at the club’s ten-year trophy drought. The fact that those nine players, all of whom are core players for club as well as country, did not return to training until Monday rankles deeply.
Like last summer, Pochettino has opted to stay away from the fervent race to sign new players, once more keeping faith in those already at the club. Thus, with the dreaded ‘gelling’ process much less of an issue at Tottenham compared to other clubs, fears of a slow start are largely unfounded. Fatigue, clearly, is not an issue either. As was the case with their international teammates, the Tottenham players in the England squad lost composure in the defeat to Croatia, but the energy and commitment was there throughout the 120 minutes of play. Hugo Lloris, meanwhile, looked as sharp as ever in the World Cup final.
There is nothing in Tottenham’s pre-season performances that could give real cause for concern either. However, many people would agree that Pochettino’s promising project is, perhaps, just two or three departures away from unravelling, lurching Tottenham closer to ‘top half’ clubs like Everton and Leicester, and away from the battle to finish in a top four that current Sporting Index prices project Tottenham to finish within.
Such feared departures could be hastened by a continued drought of trophies. Therefore, the 2018/19 season is one that could make or break Tottenham’s ambitions to become a team that can see a cup run through to completion. Last season’s run in the Champions League, though cut short at the first knockout hurdle, fully illustrated how far Tottenham Hotspur FC has come under Pochettino’s stewardship. While Tottenham’s eliminators, Juventus, were a reasonably even match for them, a more seasoned-in-Europe Bianconeri better knew the ‘secret’ to winning a cup tie under immense pressure.
That same ‘big game’ mentality, which saw Tottenham escape Turin’s Allianz Stadium with two away goals, will be required in abundance at times in the first two months of the upcoming season. The Lilywhites will, of course, be favourites to vanquish a Newcastle side that could soon be shorn of Rafael Benitez and captain Jamaal Lascelles. Tottenham coped with the pressure last season when the computer threw up the exact same opening day fixture. Additionally, two London derbies, a home match with Liverpool and a trip to Old Trafford are amongst the highlights of August and September, and it will be a great achievement if Pochettino can keep his core players together in the face of speculation.
With regards to potential departures, the main danger appears to lie within Tottenham’s foreign legion. The rumours linking a solid, dependable Toby Alderweireld to other clubs will not die. Naturally, in the event of the Belgian defender’s departure, Tottenham’s defence would be significantly weaker. That, combined with Harry Kane’s fabled inability to score in August, could undermine Tottenham’s potential to make a strong start before the more difficult autumn fixtures they face.
While Daniel Levy is well-known for being a master of deadline day deals, making late fixes in times of difficulty is easier said than done. This time, reactive transfers can only hinder a Tottenham squad that clearly thrives on mutual familiarity.