Football: Tottenham need trophy to fulfil promise

Without a trophy since lifting the League Cup in 2008, Tottenham are in danger of becoming football's nearly men, a predicament that has raised the stakes for Pochettino and his players.
Without a trophy since lifting the League Cup in 2008, Tottenham are in danger of becoming football's nearly men, a predicament that has raised the stakes for Pochettino and his players.PHOTO: REUTERS

Poch has built a quality, fluent side but they flatter to deceive with regular near misses

LONDON • Tottenham open their Champions League campaign at Inter Milan today, bidding to banish the growing belief that they lack the steel to win major silverware.

Packed with young stars and well-drilled by charismatic manager Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham appear to have all the ingredients required for a winning recipe.

Having nine Spurs players among the four World Cup semi-finalists, without factoring in Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min, underlines just how potent their squad should be.

Yet since taking over in May 2014, Pochettino and Spurs have proved to be English football's ultimate tease.

Without a trophy since lifting the League Cup in 2008, Tottenham are in danger of becoming football's nearly men, a predicament that has raised the stakes for Pochettino and his players.

At an age when Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola were already established as managerial titans, the 46-year-old Pochettino is also awaiting his first career title.

Crumbling in the face of adversity has been a Spurs trademark for decades and, while the Argentinian has done much to raise standards at the north London club, he has yet to eradicate their tendency to repeatedly snatch failure from the jaws of success.

 
 
 

Manchester City's blistering form rendered all challengers irrelevant in the Premier League last season, but Spurs still managed to squander a great opportunity to make a statement in Europe.

Having overpowered holders Real Madrid in the group stage, they looked set for another impressive Champions League scalp after securing a 2-2 draw in their last-16 first leg at Juventus.

However, despite taking the lead in the return leg, Pochettino's men allowed the Italian champions to score two late goals that ended their European ambitions.

Entering this season with the exact same cast of players - there were no signings partly due to the financial constraints of a delayed new stadium - has left Pochettino with his hands tied and Spurs have reverted to type after two successive league losses to Watford and Liverpool.

And Harry Kane's laboured displays so far have added to the feeling that Pochettino faces the acid test of his managerial skills this term.

Yet with Spurs so heavily dependent on the England captain to lead the line, he simply has no other option but to run him into the ground.

Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of their Group B Champions League opener in Italy, Pochettino said: "We would be crazy to think different (and rest him). He's one of the best strikers in the world. I don't care that he wasn't great (against Liverpool last Saturday)."

While it is too early to write off Spurs' chances of ending their trophy drought, he has made it clear he regards the Premier League and the Champions League as the only prizes that matter.

But with Barcelona and PSV Eindhoven also in their group, a defeat at the San Siro would be a significant setback to his hopes of finally getting his hands on a long-awaited title.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2018, with the headline 'Spurs need trophy to fulfil promise'. Print Edition | Subscribe