Bin first-team stars, trust Pochettino: How Spurs can repeat fairytale run next season

Tottenham Hotspur enjoyed a fairytale run to the Champions League final this season and managed to finish in the Premier League’s top four.

Champions League qualification is now deemed as something of an inevitability, with Spurs competing in Europe’s elite knockout competition in each of the last three seasons.

Reaching the final, however, was nothing short of a miracle. Spurs had just one point after three group games but then went unbeaten against Barcelona, Inter Milan and PSV Eindhoven.

Qualification to the knockout rounds saw them drawn with Borussia Dortmund, who they duly dispatched 4-0 on aggregate, and then Manchester City, the champions of England. They won 1-0 at home and lost 4-3 away but because of VAR’s incredible intervention in the last minute of injury time, they progressed, with Raheem Sterling’s goal, City’s fifth, chalked off in dramatic circumstances.

Ajax in the semi-finals saw a 1-0 first leg defeat but a 3-2 second leg win; they were 3-0 down on aggregate at half-time before Lucas Moura stepped up to score a hat-trick and send Spurs to the final, his final goal coming in the last minute, again, of injury time.

Their luck ran out against Liverpool in the final – this was evidenced by Moussa Sissoko conceding a penalty after less than 30 seconds – but there remains hope that this was not a one-off and that the run can be repeated in 2019/20.

There needs to be some hefty investment, though, and some key players may have to leave.

Football FanCast takes a look at some suggested solutions as Spurs bid to return to the top table both at home and in Europe.

Replace Eriksen

Christian Eriksen came out on Wednesday and confirmed the worst-kept secret in north London: He wants to leave the club.

This isn’t surprising. The Denmark international has been with Spurs since 2013 and he has yet to win a trophy. A move to Real Madrid seems inevitable, particularly with his contract expiring at the end of next season.

But his exit does not have to be damaging. In fact, his performances this season have pointed to his departure actually improving Tottenham, provided a suitable replacement is brought in.

Giovani Lo Celso has been mooted as a target and the noises are only growing louder; the Daily Mirror have claimed that he is actively pushing to make the move happen.

He has a release clause of £88m but Spurs could put themselves in a position to afford that if they extract a huge fee for Eriksen.

Moving the Dane on and bringing in a player of the Argentine’s quality – he scored 16 goals in all competitions in 2018/19 – is something of a no-brainer and, if it is pulled off, Spurs could be stronger for his exit.

Axe Trippier and Aurier

Kieran Trippier has admitted that he hasn’t been good enough this season.

It’s an understatement of the highest order, really, given that he has gone from the heights of England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals to turning in execrable performances week after week in north London.

The problem with his disappointing form is that Serge Aurier, his understudy, simply isn’t up to the standard to replace him.

It appears that Pochettino does not trust Kyle Walker-Peters in the role so the solution is simple: Sell both Trippier and Aurier and replace them.

It will not be easy to find two elite right-backs, as that is what Spurs need, but getting rid of two players who lack basic positional sense and defensive ability should be a major priority this summer.

Find Kane's understudy

Fernando Llorente is set to leave the club this summer when his contract expires.

He has struggled at the club but he played a key role in their run to the Champions League final – his goal against Manchester City will live long in the memory of every fan.

But he isn’t really very good.

Llorente scored one goal in the Premier League in 20 appearances in 2018/19.

Therefore, finding an adequate understudy for Harry Kane has to be a priority.

Kane is undoubtedly the club’s best striker – he is perhaps the best striker in the world when he is on form – but he needs help.

Signing an out-and-out goalscorer who is willing to sit on the bench will be tough but it needs to be done. The best clubs in England – Manchester City and Liverpool – have Gabriel Jesus and Divock Origi ready and waiting in the wings for whenever their first-choice forward picks up a knock.

Spurs need to ensure they have someone equally as adept in front of goal on the bench next season.

Wrap Winks in cotton wool

Harry Winks celebrates scoring for Tottenham Hotspur against Fulham

Harry Winks has struggled with injury throughout this season, missing nine Premier League games towards the end of the season due to a groin issue.

He made his comeback against Liverpool in Madrid and was the club’s best player until his substitution.

This is a truly exceptional midfield player who is excellent in possession, at tracking back and at making tackles.

When he is on it, so too are Spurs, and he allows Moussa Sissoko the freedom to roam further forward.

Keeping him fit throughout the entirety of next season will be key to the club’s chances of fighting on all fronts and the club have to ensure that he does not overexert himself during pre-season.

Keeping him fresh by wrapping him in cotton wool makes all the sense in the world.

Axe Lloris

Hugo Lloris is a sorry excuse for a captain and has long been out of his depth at the highest level.

He all too regularly makes mistakes in the biggest games – see Liverpool at Anfield or Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for evidence – and he appears to have absolutely no command of the backline playing in front of him.

Pochettino trusts him, that much is clear, given that he has the armband and he is indisputably the club’s number one.

But moving him on and replacing him with a goalkeeper who can actually catch the ball when a cross comes in, or genuinely kick a ball long, would go a long way to ensuring Spurs keep more clean sheets.

It remains to be seen if Pochettino would make such a decision this summer. But he certainly should.

Trust the process

Pochettino has built something really quite special at Tottenham.

They very rarely dip into the transfer market and when they do, they are always looking for a very specific profile of player.

That will be key this summer.

If Pochettino has told Daniel Levy to buy Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon, the deal needs to get done. Ditto Giovani Lo Celso. Ditto Ryan Sessegnon.

Trusting in what the manager needs is going to be fundamental to Spurs progressing on the pitch.

Levy, then, needs to back the boss and ensure that the squad is refreshed to Pochettino’s exact specifications this summer.

If it isn’t, Spurs and the manager face another season of near-misses.

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