No sane Tottenham Hotspur fan would have twisted their nose at the prospect of direct qualification for the Champions League at the start of last season, let alone a small dash for the title in the months of April and May. What they didn’t subscribe to, however, was the emotional capitulation that ensued versus West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea, subsequently rounded off with a 5-1 hammering at the hands of relegated Newcastle United on the final day of the season that saw the north Londoners finish behind rivals Arsenal. Again.
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino is now tasked with lifting the spirits of his team, which includes those who suffered further humiliation at Euro 2016 with England, meanwhile also attempting to transform his also-rans into something even more memorable than the work exemplified throughout most of last season. Here’s how the starting XI could pan out: Formation: 4-3-3.
Back Five: Hugo Lloris, Kyle Walker, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose
Hugo Lloris’ spot as number one is pretty much uncontested, the antithesis of what is found on the flanks. With Ben Davies, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose to choose from, it’s the latter two who conveyed Pochettino’s message best of pressing high up the pitch and, when in possession, offering a solution to attack via overlaps.
No full back to have played consistently throughout last season won more duels for the ball than Rose (6.21 per game), whereas Danny Simpson was the only right back to top Walker’s number of 92 interceptions throughout the season, as the England international also ranked in the top 10 for tackles won with 72.
In the Belgian duo of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, Spurs had the foundations of the tightest defence all season, sharing that particular title with Manchester United after conceding 35 goals after 38 league games. Vertonghen could miss out on Spurs’ first game of the season away to Everton after he tore his ankle ligaments during Euro 2016, but in Kevin Wimmer, who missed out on much of pre-season as well, Pochettino should be left at ease.
The left-sided centre back only featured in one Premier League defeat all season, losing 1-0 to West Ham United at the Boleyn Ground, as he deputised for a then injured Vertonghen. That’s seven victories in ten league appearances. With Spurs again involved on the continental stage, Davies, Wimmer and Trippier will all be key in allowing Pochettino to rotate his hard-working squad in confidence.