Spurs’ season anything but a bottle job
Progress in football is often hard to measure. Trophies are what every club aims for, with the size of the club’s cup cabinet the source of great pride or, equally, much embarrassment.
The Japanese philosophy of Kaizen is much less focused on such gratification of success, more on the premise of continual improvement, with Spurs a strong exponent of such an ideal.
The behemoth that the end of last season became ruined much of their good work last season. Arsenal’s late surge to usurp Spurs from second place lead to much consternation in north London, as Spurs had done it again; they’d done a Spurs.
Mauricio Pochettino then took a risk. While Spurs’ rivals splashed the cash and brought in the best managerial knowhow money could buy last summer, the Argentine kept faith in the side that had run Leicester so close last season. The result; steady, sustainable improvement.
2014/15 saw Spurs challenge for the top four once more, but ultimately miss out, finishing fifth. Then, a return to the Champions League was secured with that third-placed finish last time out, before now second awaits.
Big summer ahead on an off the pitch
This steady rise back towards the top of the table has all come about amidst the rebuilding of an impressive new stadium, giving fans even more to look forward to.
Keeping the squad together once more is even more essential. Dele Alli has attracted interest from Real Madrid, Toby Alderweireld from cash-rich Inter Milan and Kyle Walker from the Manchester clubs. Letting even one go could be really damaging.
There is a real cohesion and understanding between the close-knit squad that has taken Pochettino those three seasons to instill. Rarely has a squad seemed to sing from the same hymm sheet so tunefully.
Spurs have a relentlessness that has helped them continually improve in such a competitive league. They have learned their lessons from last season, which is fundamentally important to adhering to the principles of Kaizen.
Last season they took their foot off the gas too early, lost their heads and allowed their bitter rivals to once again finish ahead of them.
Against Leicester on Thursday night, Spurs looked unstoppable. As they cruised to a half-time lead, in a game that had been rendered meaningless with second already sewn up, they didn’t relent, with Pochettino keeping all his big hitters on the pitch as they hammered the Foxes to the tune of six. Rather than finishing in a meek manner like many rivals, Spurs are looking better than ever.
Pochettino the safest pair of hands
There are two caveats to fan optimism. Wembley awaits next season, a ground where Spurs have struggled in recent times, and with the Manchester clubs and title winners Chelsea tipped to splash the cash in the summer, competing in the transfer market could prove to be tough.
It is fair to say Spurs didn’t strengthen their squad as well as they had hoped last summer. Their two big-money arrivals – Vincent Janssen and Moussa Sissoko – have flopped, while they have looked a little stretched when injuries have taken hold.
But Pochettino has a plan. He always has a plan.
“We try to sign players who can improve our squad not only in terms of football quality,” Pochettino said last month. “If they are very good people, it is even better. We are a company. Football is the most important thing but it is not only about football.”
The Argentine knows that Spurs haven’t had to do anything drastic to get to where they are, and continuing to adhere to this principal could take them even closer to the title next season. Steady as she goes.