As a football fan first and foremost, it might seem a little strange to feel pleased to see the back of a Premier League season. But even by the unrivalled levels of torture that Tottenham Hotspur tend to put us through every year, this term has been one of the most exhaustive in recent memory.
Whether it’s been the lingering suspicion that’s continued to bubble under the surface towards a new manager with something to prove, or unease around the new blood drafted in to form an entirely new spine of the team, more than anything, we were hardly short of anything to worry about over the course of what is now ‘last’ season.
Perhaps it’s just the fact we’re slowly getting older, more miserable and a lot more pessimistic, but it feels hard to remember a time when every single game, kick and managerial decision was forensically examined in such detail.
From the tiring amounts of transfer speculation to the continued arguments over formations, injuries and the dominating sub-plot that seems to have been our chairman’s transfer philosophy, maybe there’s been so much going on at the club this season, we’ve been unable to sometimes see things for what they are.
So when all’s said and done, what have we really learned?
On face value, a fifth placed finish in the league with a record points total, during a season in which we have indisputably possessed a team in transition, is an extremely commendable achievement indeed. Out of the four teams who finished above us, considering the smallest gulf in resources is the £90million that separates Arsenal and ourselves, it does in some way put in perspective how well we’ve done to stay in contention for Champions League football – only one point, in fact.
Throwing in the attributable factors – and Christ, there haven’t half been a few of them – and that fifth placed finish does of course suddenly look a whole lot brighter indeed.
Arguably our most important player (however much that will hurt some of you to read) over the last two seasons in Luka Modric, left us last August. The talismanic and regular goalscoring presence of Rafael van der Vaart, also disappeared, along with the man, myth and legendary presence of the best No.26 to have ever walked the earth.
The impact of change in manager has perhaps also been underrated in some quarters. Shelve all the bias and conceptions you may have about either Harry Redknapp and Andre Villas-Boas – the way in which we play our football underwent a really quite industrious change and that’s a process that took a lot longer than many of us perhaps predicted. Certainly, it wasn’t helped by Daniel Levy’s reluctance to hand AVB the tools he craved to catalyze that change.
So if your glass is half full – as thankfully it seems with many of us – it’s hard to not feel pride and admiration for our league efforts this term. And for the most part, that’s probably the right view to harvest moving forwards.
Yet it seems odd how the fierce determination to back the manager and focus on the future, has seen anyone with a remotely pragmatic view of the past nine months shot down like a clay pigeon. Because for as admirably as we’d performed, the fact is we should have finished fourth – however you want to frame the attributing factors.
Has the depth of the squad been extremely suspect? Yes. Were our fourth-placed efforts hugely undermined by a failure to buy a striker in January? Most probably.
Can the aforementioned take the sole blame for why we took only one point off the relegated Wigan over two games, a mere two against a painfully mediocre Norwich side home and away, in addition to a failure to pick up maximum points against QPR at Loftus Road and Fulham at home, when we desperately needed to? We’re not so sure.
Our failure to sign more firepower up front played its part in our struggle to solve our continued inability to cut it against the smaller teams. And while some will accuse us of cherry-picking games here, wins against United away and City at home are very well, but they have to be in addition to winning the bread and butter games – not instead of.
And perhaps the biggest urban myth of this campaign, has been this notion that one striker would have had offered us some form of divine intervention to our hopes of Champions League qualification- Spurs finished the season with the worst defensive record out of the Premier League’s top seven teams. Who knows what difference another face up tops would have made? But for as much as we were lacking up front, it was no more impactful than the slew of cheap, soft goals we shipped all season at the back.
So what are we ultimately saying? The club have weathered a change of manager, system and an entire change of spine. Fifth placed should be considered, without hesitation, a positive season and our record points total has only been undermined by what was begrudgingly an unbelievable run of form the Arse.
But a resounding success? That’s more difficult to say. For all the talent that we boast, the squad possesses some really quite destabilizing holes and Levy must back Villas-Boas this summer. But perhaps it’s time to stop focusing on one, singular solution to our woes and look to strengthen as a collective. Something that could probably apply as much as us, the supporters, as it does to the first team.