Mauricio Pochettino enjoyed a promising start to his first season in charge at Tottenham but a fifth placed league finish and an appearance in the Capital One Cup Final did little to convince the more cynical sections of the Spurs faithful.
In fact, some were concerned that the Argentinian would suffer the same ‘Second Season Syndrome’ that saw Andre Villas-Boas fall away and lose his job after a strong opening campaign.
So, imagine our surprise as we home in to the business end of 2015-16 with an outside chance of taking the title while Champions League Football should (should) be a certainty for only the second time in the club’s history.
Faith in the future
When Roy Hodgson names his squad for Euro 2016 in mid-May, Tottenham will be the dominant club with Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Kyle Walker and Dele Alli looking like certain inclusions while Danny Rose and Ryan Mason will also be hoping to make the cut.
Their progression is a reflection of Pochettino’s faith in youth and a will to build the side around young domestic players. Added in is a sprinkle of young overseas talent in the shape of Erik Lamela alongside some older hands – Mousa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen included.
The importance of the last two is another endorsement of Pochettino’s leadership. Dembele was widely linked with a move away from the club before the current campaign had started while Vertonghen’s body language last season suggested he’d had enough of Europa League football.
Others, however, have been jettisoned and once again, this gives us a clue to Pochettino’s philosophy.
The manager and the club will have to deal very carefully in the summer as they look to strengthen their squad for a probable Champions League assault. The appeal of playing in Europe’s elite club competition will be a draw for many and we’re already seeing a number of names linked with a summer switch to White Hart Lane.
Some will ask if we even need to go into the market but there is an obvious demand for a second striker. The club has ‘winged it’ to an extent and been extremely fortunate that Kane has stayed free of injury but this can’t go on.
So who does Pochettino go after in order to strengthen the team without upsetting the balance and the spirit of this young side?
Without naming any specific names, those players with huge egos or perceived attitude problems have been allowed to leave the club. If that hints at the manager’s beliefs, then it would tend to rule out a rumoured move for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, even if Spurs could meet wage demands that are on the mad side of ludicrous.
Any salary package for the Swede is likely to make Adebayor’s take home pay look like he was managing a paper round but there are those that suggest Zlatan is the missing link – citing a certain Eric Cantona’s influence at Manchester United some 20 years ago.
Other suggestions seem to fit more into the current ethos of the club and Ousmane Dembele, an 18 year old centre forward who has scored 18 goals in 22 appearances for Rennes so far this season, looks to be the type of player that Pochettino can bring in without unsettling this squad.
It has been said that while likely champions Leicester are unlikely to repeat their incredible season, this Spurs side is the real deal and could replicate the type of dynasty that a young Manchester United squad claimed in the 1990’s. That remains to be seen of course but this summer’s transfer activity could go a long way towards defining Tottenham’s long term future.