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EYE ON EPL

Failure could spur Tottenham to victory in 2017

While Leicester City fans, players and officials revelled in the English Premier League (EPL) title win at the King Power Stadium on Saturday, a certain North London club were left licking their wounds.

For all their spirited effort in the last few months, Tottenham Hotspur's attempt at spoiling the Foxes' party proved futile.

To me, the turning point was the game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. With anything less than a victory meaning they would cede the title to Leicester, I think they were under huge pressure.

Being the EPL's youngest team (with an average age of 25), their inexperience coping with pressure definitely told. Instead of keeping cool heads, they gave in to anger, which resulted in nine yellow cards.

I watched their game against Southampton on Sunday. The players did not show any urgency. They had a lot of possession but were sucker-punched by two goals that came from counter-attacks.

It did not help that Mauricio Pochettino lashed out about how he thinks clubs and players are favouring Leicester. It only makes it worse for the players, thinking everybody is against them.

I believe that the players were mentally empty after giving everything against Chelsea. They went flat, and were unlike the Spurs we saw throughout most of the season.

These things can happen, especially having lost a long-awaited title shot after an arduous season.

They now face the possibility of losing second spot to their bitter rivals Arsenal. Though I strongly believe that Spurs (70 points) still have a better chance of finishing second ahead of the Gunners (68), an away match at relegation-threatened Newcastle United will be a tough battle.

In contrast, Arsene Wenger's side will be hoping to finish ahead of Spurs for the 21st consecutive season, with a home game against already-relegated Aston Villa to round off their campaign.

It did not help that Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino lashed out about how he thinks clubs and players are favouring Leicester.

It only makes it worse for the players, thinking everybody is against them. They have nobody else to blame other than themselves for their late failure.

But take nothing away from their progress this season. Having been in Arsenal's shadow for so long, this is the closest they have come to winning the title in their EPL history.

Their record against the so-called big clubs is superb - aside from an away loss to Manchester United in the opening game of the season, they are undefeated against Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea, even thrashing United 3-0 and City 4-1 for good measure.

They also have the meanest defence in the league (30 conceded), and are second in attack (68 scored) behind City.

It remains to be seen, however, if Pochettino will have the same team to depend on next season, especially with his players strutting their stuff at the upcoming Euro 2016.

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy's propensity for selling key players for substantial amounts is well documented, exemplified by the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid in 2013.

Yet, if the core players remain, along with a few players to bolster a thin squad, don't put it past Spurs to eventually land the big one next season.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2016, with the headline 'Failure could spur Tottenham to victory in 2017'. Print Edition | Subscribe