Is the Champions League papering over the cracks for Tottenham Hotspur?
It feels like an incredibly unfair question to ask, particularly after their scarcely believable heroics on Wednesday night, yet it is a pertinent one.
Of course, this is a club that will be playing in the final of the biggest competition in European football on June 1. They will take on a Liverpool team boasting the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk. It will be the first all-English final since 2008, when Manchester United and Chelsea locked horns in a rainy Moscow.
This time, they will play in Madrid, fighting for the right to be called European champions. Anything could happen. Spurs could win.
But there is a lingering feeling that this domestic season, when taken in isolation, has been a worry. Spurs have lost 13 games and yet, they sit in the top-four. They have been beaten more times in the Premier League than Wolves. They have drawn once, though, and that perhaps explains the absolute ridiculousness of this Spurs team finding themselves in the top four with only one game to play. If they avoid an eight-goal swing in Arsenal’s favour on the final day, they will qualify for the Champions League via their league position. Even if they don’t, they could qualify by winning the whole thing.
One has to examine the flaws, though. Spurs are in a final, yes, but they have played with Fernando Llorente up front for much of their run. They have been shorn of Harry Kane through injury and have no truly like-for-like replacement. Llorente is a battering ram of a centre-forward; Kane has a great deal more class than the Spaniard.
Dele Alli, reborn against Ajax, turning in a performance of maturity and elegance, has a ridiculous workload because there is no alternative in the squad; the same is true of Christian Eriksen.
This is a squad that has been stretched to its absolute limit. The midfield options at one point, due to both injury and general misfortune, were 18-year-old Oliver Skipp and Moussa Sissoko. That was it.
It must be said that Mauricio Pochettino has worked miracles with this squad. He has silenced the doubters and proven the devotees right. He hasn’t won a trophy yet; his first could be the Champions League.
And yet we cannot look past the holes. Kieran Trippier and Serge Aurier both need upgrading. Ben Davies probably isn’t good enough. Nor is Eric Dier, or Erik Lamela, or, actually, Llorente.
This patched-up band of brothers have done more than anyone could have expected of them but sentiment can’t cloud the judgement of chairman Daniel Levy.
An overhaul of this squad is needed and is long overdue. Spurs haven’t signed a player since January of 2018, when Lucas Moura, the hat-trick hero on Wednesday, waltzed through the doors at Hotspur Way. He is now a legend.
But money has to be spent. This is a club that has reached the Champions League final; it is an attractive proposition for any player looking to further their career.
Has this team done more than anyone would have expected? Absolutely, they have. But, still, Levy needs to back Pochettino this summer.
New blood is needed and we are past the point of Spurs recruiting promising talent. Genuine winners are needed if they are to take the next step: winning the Premier League.
It won’t be easy. It will be expensive. But this Champions League run has only served to strengthen the argument. Pochettino, after all, has done this in spite of the club’s lack of investment, not because of it.