What a difference a year makes - Ben Alfrey looks at how the mood around the club going in to this season couldn’t be further away from the unknown we entered just 12 short months ago…
This time last year we found ourselves walking blindly into the unknown of a brand new Premier League season under new management. Management that the press had banished to the gutters of London, snarled and spat on. It was AVB’s fault that Abramovich’s favourite play thing wasn’t quite functioning as he had hoped and was heading off the rails.
I’d almost imagined a scenario where the Portuguese was curled up into a ball outside a 99p store with a used tea cup now half-full with change. The more the press dismissed him, the bigger the feeling grew in my stomach that this exiled gutter-trash was the man to take Spurs forward. Daniel Levy ensured that I soon gave birth to that feeling, and what a wonderful sight it was.
Rewind 12 months and my blind faith was heavily fuelled the insomnia I experienced at times last summer such was both the hope and anxiety at how we’d perform in AVB’s first season. Most of us were desperate for him to succeed but there was also that inevitable niggling feeling that Ramos 2.0 was now sitting where Harry ‘Jesus’ Redknapp once sat. The headlines were written before a ball was kicked. The mounting pressure from the press pushing around a third of Spurs fans over the edge and into the pit of uncertainty and inevitable disappointment. But who could blame them? Both uncertainty and disappointment are traits both commonly found at Spurs.
A year later and the outlook is a far prettier sight. We’ll enter this season without the anchor that AVB has to prove himself weighing both him and ourselves down. The spotlight will shine elsewhere. We’ll enter with more cleansed minds, but will inevitably warrant a higher level of expectation. We’ve brought in players to help build the quality in depth that was so apparently lacking last season. We’re focusing this summer on building a quality squad and not just a first 11.
The signing of Paulinho eases the fears over the long-term fitness of Sandro (and Dembele) and also offers a younger upgrade on Scott Parker. Chadli offers both competition and periods of rest for Aaron Lennon who’s fatigue towards the latter end of the season proved an expensive loss when it matters most. In Soldado we finally have a forward that we can hopefully rely on to finish the masses of chances our midfield continue to create. Despite being closer to 30 than Daniel Levy usually desires, Soldado is an intelligent forward that will hopefully bring our midfield into the game and finish the chances they create for him. He’s got the quality behind him, we just have to hope he’s as prolific here as he was in Spain.
On paper, we’ve bought well and early. At this present time, under AVB’s short tenure, we’ve endured a net spend of around £17.5m which, tied in with the blood money from overseas, should ensure we’re keeping in line with the forever growing myth of Financial Fair Play. Despite this, it’s clear that the squad aren’t yet ready for the Premier League. Kaboul & Sandro aren’t 100%, the players have only had a few weeks together, and others are due to leave and join in due course. This is natural. Only time and efficient management will gel the players into a team.
I do both hate and resent the feeling of hope. It leads you down a path littered with disappointment that you’re walking blindly into. If last year was a transition year for Tottenham Hotspur then it’s inevitable that there will be more promise built around this season forthcoming. Mousa, Jan and Sigurdsson have had a year here and look settled (although the latter is possibly still finding his best position in our side). Hugo will be in goal from the first game.
I liked AVB’s squad rotation last year and hope he’d continue to do more of the same this year. This year should see him with more competition to rotate the squad, with another ‘gruelling’ season in the Europa League awaiting us. It should give us the ability to compete competitively in the PL, FA Cup and in Europe. Hopefully talk of chucking away one competition in favour of another will soon fizzle out due to the options we have at our disposal.
So we encounter a newly promoted side, in London, away from home on Sunday. Jump forward to March and this fixture will probably be one you could say three points would be more of a certainty than it will be this week. Their fans and players will be up for it, but then again, so will we.
Name - Ben Alfrey
Twitter - @InsideN17
Back Catalogue - http://spursstatman.com/category/ben-alfrey/