How do Tottenham improve on last year?
The simple answer is probably that they will improve naturally. The team has been together for a while now, and Mauricio Pochettino is instilling a team spirit and a desire for a collective effort rather than a stellar team built up of ready-made stars who want the glory to themselves and are loyal to their pay cheques rather than their teammates.
But that doesn’t mean that the team can’t be improved.
Tottenham weren’t the third best team in the league last season, even though they finished third. They were at worst the second best team, and there are surely more than three squads in the Premier League who are made up of better individuals.
But the collective trumps the individual in team sports, and that’s what Pochettino is aiming for.
With that in mind, an XI Spurs could have had at the end of the transfer window is more difficult than it is for other clubs – why would Spurs fans want too many changes to a team that really should have won the league last year despite being tipped only for a Europa League spot at the start of the season?
Is there a better goalkeeper in the league than Hugo Lloris? You might say David De Gea, but even then, is he better or is he just called upon to make more saves, making him look better?
Either way, Pochettino won’t care if he’s the best or not – he’s Tottenham’s number one, he does a spectacularly good job, and that’s all that matters.
One of the few England players – alongside his fellow Tottenham full back Danny Rose – who actually came out of Euro 2016 with his reputation enhanced.
Walker was perhaps seen as an erratic full back at times last season, and he may have been in the frame to be replaced this season, but he’s started the season at right back for Spurs and played reasonably well.
Part of one of the most reliable centre back pairings in the Premier League last season, though Alderweireld is perhaps the less heralded of the pair. That’s a little unfair on him though, as he is strong, solid and reliable, even when the silkier Vertonghen isn’t.
Jan Vertonghen is forming a very reliable partnership with Toby Alderweireld in the Spurs back line, and it’s that kind of team ethic that makes Spurs such a force these days.
Without playing well against Liverpool, Tottenham came back and forced a draw – and surely that has a lot to do with team spirit.
Danny Rose has blossomed under Mauricio Pochettino in a very Pochettino way: it’s been understated, but it’s been very real indeed.
Tottenham get incrementally better, and so does Danny Rose – why would you replace him at full back?
Another young player at Spurs who will only get better as he gets older.
Another one of the few Englishmen who went to the Euros and actually had a good tournament, Dier moved from the disciplined defensive anchor into the ball-spreader for England, who had tonnes of possession.
It wasn’t his fault the men in front of him couldn’t penetrate, but he kept things ticking over and protected the defence too.
Spurs miss Mousa Dembele this season. The Belgian midfielder is suspended for the start of the season after being given a ban for his involvement in the ugliness at Stamford Bridge last season when Tottenham were finally relieved of their title challenging duties.
But Dembele is the box to box midfielder who keeps the energy high in Pochettino’s team. He’s strong, his centre of gravity is low, and when he’s on the ball, there’s no knocking him off.
With an energetic midfield behind him, Dele Alli is freed to get up the pitch and take up advanced positions. And he thrives on this when he’s able to find space.
Few would have predicted his meteoric rise since signing from MK Dons, but Alli’s breakthrough season saw him get an England call up and a major international tournament under his belt.
When Jose Mourinho took over at Manchester United, many thought that would spell the end of Juan Mata’s time at the club. The Portuguese manager forced Mata out of the club when he arrived at Chelsea, and it looked like he’d do the same at Manchester United. And there’s still time.
There were times last season when Spurs lacked something of a cutting edge, and Mata’s eye for a pass and his ability to read the game could be crucial when taking over the creative role at a team like Spurs.
Another player who looked like he could have been forced out of a big club, and yet remains there after the end of the transfer window, Isco would have been another perfect playmaker for Tottenham.
Although playing with Isco or Mata would make width more of a problem for Spurs, the two flying full backs are adept at playing as wing backs, especially if Eric Dier can drop back to make a back three when his team are in attack. This would have allowed the likes of Isco and Mata – and still will allow Christian Eriksen and an improving Erik Lamela – freedom to roam around central areas behind the striker.
The arrival of Vincent Janssen will take some of the goalscoring pressure off Harry Kane, but the England international was Tottenham’s top scorer last season, and just seems to continue to find the net.
Kane won’t be knocked off his perch unless it’s by someone with an insane goalscoring rate – in which case, he’d probably hold his hands up!