Why you shouldn't hate on Tottenham if they don't win a trophy this season
Call me biased; I don't care. Tottenham's performances at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea and at Wembley versus Manchester City were equally inspiring even though the scorelines were reversed. Spurs made history when they defeated Chelsea in their backyard for the first time in the Premier League era. They put perhaps the final nail in the coffin holding Chelsea's slim Champions League hopes.
Manchester City were looking to bounce back from a stretch as horrific as the rest of their season has been fantastic. They did it by beating Spurs 3-1 at Wembley. But Spurs weren't poor or dull. They were lively and exuberant. City were simply the better team.
Spurs season isn't over. Next weekend they host Manchester United in an FA Cup semifinal. Victory would pit them against Southampton or Chelsea for at season's end. To some, the FA Cup is almost as much cold comfort as the League Cup these days, and there is no guarantee Tottenham will win it. In truth, it doesn't matter. Here are three reasons Spurs should feel no shame if they don't come away from 2017/18 with a trophy.
Up and up
Since Mauricio Pochettino’s arrival, Spurs had only seen progress until this season. They improved as a team with each passing year. His first season delivered a fifth-place finish. In his second, they were in the title race until the final weeks. He's promoted from within and developed unrated footballers into top-class internationals. Last season, they were runners-up in the Premier League, their highest ever Premier League finish. This season began poorly but they topped a Champions League group that included defending champions Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. They've roared back from their subpar start to be within range of second place again. The Argentinian manager, along with Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp, is the reason the Premier League's traditional top four are now a top six.
Under Poch, Tottenham have become the best London side, leaving up-and-down Chelsea and one-dimensional Arsenal in their wake. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Spurs have scored the most goals among the three and shipped the fewest. They have kept the most clean sheets while playing a brand of attractive attack-minded football, as evidenced by their delivering the most shots on target.
Their balance must count for something. If any flaw has been obvious this season, it's in captain Hugo Lloris' play. The keeper has not been at his best, as his five errors leading to goals attest. The tackle on Raheem Sterling only emphasised his recent frailty.
No complaints no demands
Pochettino never whines about injuries or setbacks. There are no excuses. Every manager would love to have their best players available each time they step out on the pitch. As Jose Mourinho said earlier this week, it would be amazing for football clubs to have only 11 and play with the same 11, no injuries, suspension or fatigue. It would be best but it’s not possible.
Pochettino has done what top managers must: expertly coped with all situations. Spurs missed their first choice Belgian centre-back Toby Alderweireld for most of the season. Davinson Sanchez has stepped in to do a job alongside Jan Vertonghen at the heart of the defence.
It’s admirable how the Argentine dealt with the wing back conundrum. After Kyle Walker signed for Manchester City last season, Kieran Trippier immediately stepped up at right back. He’s been delivering consistent performances since, even forcing himself into Gareth Southgate's plans for England. On the other side, Ben Davies has made it difficult for Danny Rose to win back his place. Pochettino likes to play high pressing football from a 4-2-3-1 system in which wingbacks play a crucial role. Both Trippier and Davies have been exceptional in that formation.
Similarly, the Argentine dealt with difficult FA Cup matches at lower league venues in successive ties. After both Newport County and Rochdale eked out draws, Pochettino did not panic. He gave both sides their due credit, accepted responsibility for his squad's failings, and made the necessary adjustments. He is a manager who learns from his mistakes.
No reason to panic
Spurs' last trophy dates back to more than a decade when they beat Chelsea in the 2008 League Cup. That's a long time for a club that aspires to be elite. But there is evidence across Europe as to what happens when a team blows up a project because results don't arrive as quickly as most would like. I've already mentioned how Chelsea have been up and down in the past few seasons. Other top clubs have gone through proven managers at the first sign of trouble. Manchester United sacked Louis van Gaal. Chelsea eats up gaffers like they were Skittles. Paris Saint-Germain let Laurent Blanc go and Unai Emery has done no better. Barcelona is on their third manager since Tito Vilanova's untimely passing. Brazil, while a national team, has undercut itself by cycling through managers with every failure to win a World Cup or Copa America.
The truth is a skilled manager cannot guarantee titles. He can only contend. From there, an element of luck is needed. As long as Mauricio Pochettino keeps Tottenham in the hunt for trophies, Spurs fans should keep him in place. Sooner or later, he will win one.