Another Great Tottenham Season Is Being Overshadowed
A year ago, the amazing Leicester City story dominated the Premier League, and rightfully so -- it was incredible.
But the Foxes’ miracle title overshadowed another underdog story: Tottenham Hotspur.
Compared to Leicester, Tottenham isn’t a small club, but in almost any other season, Spurs -- an underdog themselves when compared to England’s other elite clubs -- would have been the little guy that could. Instead, with the way the 2015-16 campaign unfolded, Spurs were the status-quo side -- the big club with deep pockets -- trying to knock down itty bitty Leicester.
Leicester’s run to glory and Tottenham’s late stumble, which resulted in Spurs again finishing behind rival Arsenal, took away from Tottenham's incredible season in 2015-16. An up-and-coming team team led by Mauricio Pochettino, their promising young manager, spearheaded Spurs best-ever finish in the Premier League.
Well, it's happening again as Tottenham are being overshadowed again this season.
The two big storylines from the Premier League this campaign have been Chelsea’s dominance and the battle for the top four. Sitting in second, Spurs are pretty safely locked into a top-four spot, and they aren’t real threats to catch the Blues (as of now), which has caused the excellent play of Tottenham to again go overlooked.
Let’s give this exciting group some love.
Not a Fair Financial Fight
Starting with the 2009-10 season, Tottenham have finished in the top six for seven straight years, and they’re going to make it eight straight this year.
They’ve consistently been among the best teams in the Premier League for the better part of a decade, but that doesn’t mean they spend like the big boys.
Since Pochettino was appointed manager in 2014, the club’s spending pales in comparison to England’s other top clubs.
|Club||Money Spent Since 2014|
|Manchester United||€427 million|
|Manchester City||€417 million|
Tottenham spent merely the ninth-most money this season, starting with the 2016 summer transfer window and concluding with the January 2017 window, per TransferMarkt.com.
Not only were Spurs outdone by the typical big clubs, they splashed less cash than West Ham, Everton and Crystal Palace.
|Club||Money Spent in 2016-17|
|Manchester City||€213 million|
|Manchester United||€185 million|
|Crystal Palace||€100.3 million|
|Leicester City||€91.1 million|
|West Ham||€83.5 million|
As Southampton, Liverpool and Tottenham show, there is more to winning soccer matches than spending ungodly amounts of cash on the roster, but the financial backing England's top teams receive undoubtedly gives them an advantage.
It is worth noting that since Spurs retained much of the same starting XI from last season's successful campaign, they didn't have a pressing need to go spend big. There's something to be said for building a cohesive core and sticking with them through multiple seasons, especially when said core is very good, but Tottenham could have upgraded their bench to help supplement their superb starting lineup.
Looking at it financially, Spurs are doing what the Oakland Athletics used to do in baseball -- assembling a competitive, title-contending team without spending like their counterparts.
That alone is impressive enough, but it gets better.
Impressive for Their Age
Tottenham have fought their way near the top of the Premier League table with an incredibly young roster -- a historically young roster, in fact.
Per a study done by Football Observatory, Spurs entered this year with the youngest average age in the history of the Premier League.
Focusing on just starting lineups, here's how the average age of Spurs' starting XI compares to the other top-six clubs in England.
|Club||Average Age of Starting XI|
Being young isn't necessarily a deterrent, but being as young as Tottenham are may be a reason why they've struggled in some of their big matches -- namely European competitions as well as big Premier League matches away from home.
Spurs failed to progress past the group stage in this year's Champions League, and then they suffered a disappointing Round of 32 loss to Gent in the Europa League.
Playing a Premier League match on the road against a fellow top-six club is always going to be a challenge, but Spurs have taken just two total points -- ties at Manchester City and Arsenal -- from their five road fixtures against the teams in the above table.
Tottenham have shown they are more than capable of beating fellow contenders at home, pulling seven total points from their home matches against Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, including 2-0 wins over City (sans Harry Kane) and Chelsea (they have yet to host Arsenal and Manchester United at White Hart Lane).
For a group of players without much experience on big stages, maybe their age has been a hindrance on the road and in Europe.
Over the totality of the last two seasons, Tottenham have been the best team in the Premier League. In that span, they've scored the most points, allowed the fewest goals and are tied for the most goals scored among Premier League teams.
But they aren't going to have any hardware to show for it, barring an epic Chelsea collapse or an FA Cup title (they face Chelsea in the semifinals).
In today's day and age, when a trophy-or-bust mentality rules, there's a chance these past two Spurs seasons may get lost in the shuffle, especially if they lose Dele Alli, Kane -- two players who have been the subject of transfer rumors -- or any other integral pieces of their exceptional young core.
That would be a shame, because the way Tottenham have played and what they've achieved -- if they finish second in the Premier League this year, it would mark their second straight best-ever finish -- under Pochettino is pretty remarkable.