Friday, July 30, 2021

Premier League Season in Review: Tottenham Hotspur

A promising start to the 2020/21 Premier League season gave way to a second half collapse and a seventh-place league finish for Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs led the league as late as December 13th but were to fall to as low as ninth in the table during a stretch of five losses in six matches which began with a late January loss to Liverpool. March brought misery in the Europa League when Spurs squandered a 2-0 opening tie advantage by falling 3-0 in the reverse fixture with Dinamo Zagreb in the round of sixteen. Spurs manager Jose Mourinho, hired with a mandate to win trophies, would be ironically fired just days before an April Carabao Cup final against Manchester City.

Despite knocking Leicester from a Champions League berth with a final day 4-2 victory over the Foxes, Spurs’ losses to Leeds and Aston Villa in two of their final four matches dashed their own Champions League hopes. Instead, the North Londoners were consigned to the inaugural Europa Conference League for the upcoming season. At least some form of European qualification and, more importantly, a finish above rival Arsenal can provide some consolation for Spurs fans who were teased by early season success. A four-match winning streak in October saw Spurs score 19 goals, a total inflated by a manic 6-1 defeat of Manchester United, Mourinho’s former employers, at Old Trafford.

Spurs boasted impressive attack capabilities as Harry Kane would lead the Premier League in both goals and assists. Teammate Son Heung-min would finish tied for fourth and third in Premier League goals and assists, respectively.

Despite the output of his two stars, Mourinho would suffer heavy criticism for employing a conservative style of play which failed to mask defensive deficiencies. Serge Aurier and Davinson Sanchez were susceptible to lapses. Eric Dier has yet to prove he can successfully transition to center back from his former defensive midfield role. Sergio Reguilon, having started well after his purchase from Real Madrid, suffered an injury and was abject upon his return. Reguilon’s own goal in the late season loss to Aston Villa was a devastating moment for the team’s season. Former Wolves right back Matt Doherty also suffered through a difficult first season in London. Joe Roden, acquired form Swansea, showed early promise but disappeared from the line-up under interim manager Ryan Mason. 32-year-old Toby Alderweireld was perhaps the most consistent defender, despite having lost a step, but has left the squad to play professionally in Quatar. Defensive midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, acquired before the season from Southampton, played well in stretches and flashed even greater potential with his recent Euro performance for Denmark.

Clearly, Tottenham Hotspur approach next season with uncertainty. Nuno Espirito Santo, formerly of Wolves, is the new manager. Gareth Bale, after a lackluster one-year loan, has returned to Real Madrid. Most critical to the club’s future is the stated desire of club captain and legend Harry Kane to leave for better trophy opportunities elsewhere.

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