Much of the limelight has recently been focused on Mauricio Pochettino’s recent efforts in galvanising Spurs towards domestic and European success. Pochettino’s recurring deliberation of his team’s recent performance emphasises his appraisal of Spurs’ character; particularly amongst European competition. Tottenham encountered Turkish side Besiktas on Thursday in efforts to claim top position in group C of the Europa League; a competition often overlooked by superior clubs who have the monetary resources of competing in the Champions League. However, as Pochettino indicated, the Europa League is undoubtedly a ‘European stepping stone’ capable of providing teams with significant experience to consequently progress towards Champions League football. Despite Besiktas acquiring the three points in their fixture with Tottenham, Pochettino’s side successfully qualified from group C with 11 points.
The Argentine manager reflected on his side’s performance, “I am proud of my team’s overall performance in Europe and we are ready to build on our success in later rounds”. The North London manager also alluded to the subsequent break in European football aiding his prospects of Spurs climbing into the Premier League top four. Spurs have accumulated over 12,000 miles this season traveling to their four away Europa League matches in Limassol, Belgrade, Tripoli and Istanbul. Pochettino said “It is important that we can now focus on domestic competition, where all the teams will likely play in the same (physical) condition”.
Tottenham translated their European momentum domestically, whereby a visit to the Liberty Stadium proved a challenging fixture with Swansea in an effort to clinch back-to-back Premier League victories. Spurs were certainly pressed to withstand lengthy spells of resolute defensive work throughout the game, creating an entertaining tactical affair between the two sides. Spurs initially led through Harry Kane’s early header in the 4th minute, before being pegged back by Wilfried Bony’s eighth goal of the season after a sustained period of Swansea forward play. However, the occasion was capped with a late Christian Erikson goal for the Danish midfielder after crafting some space for a driven shot in the penalty box. The result allowed Spurs to overtake Swansea in the table and moved to within two points of London neighbours Arsenal.
Alluding to the precise factors reversing Tottenham’s recent run of results may be through the promising displays from the younger squad players. Pochettino appeared impressed with the “strength of character displayed” by the youngsters, one of which being Kyle Walker; who played his first game in nine months in after undergoing abdominal surgery. The English right-back revealed that his return to Premier League action “was an uplifting occasion, and accredited the efficiency of his fitness coaches to his restored condition”. Pochettino said, “I think that Kyle Walker had a complete performance and proved he was fit to play for 90 minutes in his first game back since his long absence”. Additionally, an English striker with a recent appetite for goals, while also displaying desires to work hard for his team, Harry Kane scored his 11th of the season to set his team to victory on Sunday. Considering the 21-year old began the campaign as very much the understudy to Emmanuel Adebayor, he has certainly presented a new dynamic into Pochettino’s side, where the combination of pace and high work rate on and off the ball provides an additional outlet for the manager. Some may cogitate that the fitness levels of younger players are incomparable to the very top forwards in the league, however if goals are the currency in which strikers trade, Kane has certainly outshone many in that regard (scoring 17 goals in 23 senior starts).
Roy Hodgson may have caught sight of the encouraging array of young English talent that Spurs and Pochettino are nurturing, that are a part of a season campaign appearing to have a promising direction for the club. The combination of the players’ adaption to the new managerial philosophies, the experience acquired via European competition, as well as the development of youngsters within the club, reaching a top-four spot in the Premier League appears to be a nearby prospect.
What additional factors may be contributing to Tottenham Hotspur’s progression during the 2014/2015 season?