It’s very clear that the team has a habit, or even a reputation or history, of being distasteful when their name is used as a definition for it. The term ‘Tottenham’ has been around since the start of the Premier League, which makes it clear what everyone thinks about Spurs. No matter how good things appear to the surface, no matter what they are on the cusp of happening, something will happen, and it will almost certainly be of their own making. Nobody blows their toes like Spurs. This is a team that could lose a place in the Champions League on the last day of the season when the whole team is They literally disgust themselves. Or sour a relationship with perhaps The smartest manager I’ve already had them. Or you fail to hire another great manager because he wanted too much money and power, quiz around and find another manager who isn’t up to the job, then he has to go back to the first guy anyway. And all of this was only in the last few years!
However, on the eve of the new Premier League season, all is quiet on the Tottenham front. There is no transitional drama about Harry Kane like this time last year. There is no doubt about the director’s chair, but this chair can be stable when Antonio Conte sits on it. Expectations are high… except that they are all completely reasonable given where Spurs finished last year, what they did this summer, and the relative state of the clubs with which they are supposed to contend for Champions League places.
When there was anxiety, fear, and disgust, there was only excitement, contentment, and confidence. What is going on here? We may need Conte to take a bad look just so we can feel the pivot again.
The calm surrounding Spurs stems from a very effective and well-planned summer transfer business, as well as their exciting end to Season 4 last season. It also helped them close in force on the outside to eliminate fellow North Londoners from Arsenal. Nothing satisfies them quite like that. Spurs knew what they needed to add, and they did it quickly, and pretty much everything was settled before they returned to pre-season training.
Depth up front was secured with Richarlison joining from Everton. While it may not start when Kane, Son Heung-min and Dejan Kulusevsky are healthy, Spurs will play plenty of games with Champions League commitments (especially this season where the entire group stage will be crammed into before the World Cup) and Richarlison could get into any of the points The front three are in the Conte group. He will not go to the bench. They’ve added more depth on the wing with the free transfer of Ivan Perisic, a beloved Conte from Inter who could be a wide striker or full-back depending on the day. The midfield was interrupted by a capture by Brighton’s Yves Bisoma, and although he looks a bit like Pierre-Emile Hojberg or Harry Winks, he has depth due to a heavy schedule.
Even defense has been buffeted by the reclamation project of Clément Lenglet, who had his rep pretty much shattered amongst the ruins of Barcelona’s what-have-ya, but is still the player who got to the Nou Camp in the first place and is a regular with the France squad. If anyone can get him to realize his full potential, it’s Conte.
All of this was added to a team that closed with a flourish. Spurs won eight of their last 11 games last season, including getting a draw at Anfield and clubbing both Arsenal and West Ham along the way. They didn’t lose to either Liverpool or City last season, in fact, they beat the latter twice. Once Conte settled in after some pretty heavy turbulence after his introduction to Tottenham (nothing can ever be truly smooth with either him or Spurs), Spurs looked every bit the third-best team in the country, and finished only three points behind Chelsea. Considering how Spurs’ summer has gone and the way Chelsea’s has gone, it’s no wonder that more than a few are wondering if Spurs aren’t going to slip by them this time around while still probably not getting into the gated community of Liverpool and City.
The signing of Richarlison makes Spurs more Son and Kane-injury proof than they’ve ever been. Both are certainly going to miss time somewhere along the line, and usually, that meant the goals dried up for Tottenham. Richarlison is used to leading a line on his own with Everton and can certainly fill that gap if he has to.
If there’s one spot that looks a little short, it’s creativity from midfield. There are a lot of destroyers and fortifiers there without a lot of inspiration, though there’s more in Hǿjbjerg to be mined if they want. But Conte teams prefer to keep the center of midfield a security zone rather than an art museum, preferring to attack at high speeds through the wingbacks and forwards, which Spurs certainly have more than enough of. Perhaps when they run up against teams that are happy to camp around their own box and just give Spurs the ball they may struggle, but that is no guarantee.
Of course, this is Spurs, and this is Conte. When something goes wrong for either of them, it tends to go all wrong in a hurry right behind it. It’s just hard to see where that could fissure from with this team. Chelsea still needs a lot of help after what it lost this summer. Arsenal is looking pretty tasty, but has been just as Spurs-y as Spurs of late and its improvements are no more than what Tottenham has done. No one has any idea what United will be. Conte’s record in Europe is still very spotty, but Spurs aren’t expecting to win the Champions League this season anyway. This is a team that’s completely bought into what Conte is selling, and when that happens trophies tend to follow (see: Juventus, Chelsea, Inter). It may not last long, given Conte’s proclivity for getting antsy pretty quickly, but for now, it sure appears it’s all systems go. And even if he does, former beloved manager Mauricio Pochettino is practically pacing outside of the Tottenham Hotspur stadium waiting to volunteer to take his place.
Spurs a smooth-sailing ship. Strange days indeed. Most peculiar, mama.