After six consecutive seasons of finishing between fourth and sixth position in the Premier League from 2010-2015, Tottenham Hotspur finally broke into the top three in the 2015/16 campaign.
In fact, Spurs actually competed with eventual champions Leicester right up until the last few matches, before they eventually slipped from second down to third on the final day.
With the likes of Dele Alli and Harry Kane impressing, and with a strong spine of Mousa Dembele, Eric Dier, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Hugo Lloris behind them, Mauricio Pochettino knew that he was starting to build a side that had the potential to consistently compete for the top flight trophy.
That proved to be the case last term when the north London outfit finished runners-up to Chelsea having accumulated an impressive 86 points – 25 more than the previous season.
With Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola always going to spend after disappointing domestic campaigns respectively, Tottenham should have known that they needed to act in the transfer market if they wanted to win the title this term.
That didn’t mean they needed to make wholesale changes, but two or three quality additions in key areas across the team, as well as searching for others that were better than what they already have seeing as you can’t afford to get complacent or stand still in this division.
Pochettino and chairman Daniel Levy would surely have wanted those deals tied up early in pre-season, but instead they hadn’t signed anyone with just over a week to go until the summer transfer window slammed shut.
They did eventually bring in five players – Davinson Sanchez, Paulo Gazzaniga, Juan Foyth, Serge Aurier and Fernando Llorente – before the end of August, but the Argentine boss surely wouldn’t have been completely satisfied with his business on the back of such a good opportunity to push on and progress.
While Sanchez has certainly proven that he is a really good player with plenty of potential, the jury is probably still out on most for Aurier, striker Llorente has only scored one goal in 18 appearances in all competitions while Foyth and Gazzaniga have barely been seen on the pitch.
In truth it wasn’t good enough, and Spurs have paid the price so far this season.
They currently lie in seventh position in the table, 21 points behind leaders Manchester City and one point behind surprise package Burnley, and they are in danger of missing out on Champions League football despite easily qualifying from their group in the same competition this term.
It has been their results against their some of their fellow top six sides that has been particularly worrying, and ones that suggest they are in danger of being left behind unless they are willing to invest and raise their wage cap – The Times reports that top earner Kane is on around £120,000-a-week.
Tottenham were beaten 2-1 at home by Chelsea back in August, but it is their results and performances away from home against their rivals for a top four spot that will be particularly concerning for Pochettino and supporters.
The north London outfit have taken no points and scored just one goal in defeats away at Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City this season, and they have offered little attacking threat in any of those fixtures.
The latter was a 4-1 defeat last Saturday, where the real gulf in class between Guardiola’s side and them was shown.
To be fair, that has been the case for most other Premier League teams when they have faced City, but it was also a sad indictment of how far Spurs have fallen and why many sides won’t fear facing them this season – especially when they are hosting them.
The Citizens went out and added Bernardo Silva, Kyle Walker – who Tottenham weren’t willing to break their wage cap to keep – Ederson, Danilo and Benjamin Mendy to their squad, and while some of those may not be regulars yet they have pushed those in the team to up their performances.
Again, that is something that has happened at Tottenham and with little strength in depth, they perhaps have some players that have become complacent and who know they won’t lose their place in the side even if they put in a below-par showing.
Man United also have plenty of competition in their squad and they lie in second position, which perhaps isn’t a coincidence.
Ahead of the January transfer window Tottenham and Levy have got to decide what they are now and where they want to be.
For those that argue that the north London outfit don’t have the money to compete, a report by City A.M. in May 2016 suggested that their turnover – the sixth best in the Premier League at the time – was set to grow as they qualified for the Champions League, and it should be even higher following their second-place finish last term and their progress to the knockout stages of Europe’s elite competition this term.
With Levy also reported to be highest-paid director of any English top flight team in the same report by City A.M., now is also the time to start rewarding the players on the pitch with the contracts they want to stop them leaving, and raising that wage cap so they can compete to bring top players into the club as well.
If they fail to do that and don’t compete for trophies in the near future, they risk losing the likes of Kane and Alderweireld.