Tottenham Hotspur: 3rd
FA Cup: Round Five
Capital One Cup: Round Three
Europa League: Round of 16
With a talented young squad and one of Europe’s most promising managers at the helm, Tottenham were clearly on the up when the season began and their target, as ever, was to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League. However, very few would have expected them to achieve this with several weeks still to spare and indeed make a sustained challenge to win the title. This they did, and as such they were bitterly disappointed not to end a wait that has gone on for over half a century.
In order to have a chance of meeting their objectives, changes were needed at the back as too many goals had been conceded in 2014-15. So in came Toby Alderweireld, who soon formed a winning partnership with fellow Belgian Jan Vertonghen and also contributed regularly to the team’s attacking play thanks to his excellent passing range. Kieran Trippier arrived to challenge Kyle Walker for the right-back slot, while South Korean forward Son Heung-min arrived for big money from Bayer Leverkusen.
The other high profile new face at White Hart Lane was Dele Alli, who had continued to play for Milton Keynes Dons after signing for Spurs in January 2015. One of the hottest prospects from below the Premier League, Alli had been touted for great things by all who had worked with him, but surely nobody could have envisaged the impact he would go on to make at the highest level for both club and country.
The first month of the season provided no real indication of the successes that lay ahead, as they failed to win any of their opening four Premier League encounters. A Walker own goal condemned them to an opening day defeat at Manchester United, before a two-goal lead was squandered against Stoke City, an Alli header was not enough to earn victory at Leicester City, and a succession of chances were missed as Everton left North London with a point.
That elusive victory finally came at Sunderland and it brought about an upturn in fortunes despite a Capital One Cup exit at the hands of rivals Arsenal. Eric Dier, playing in a new role in front of the back four, was among the scorers as Manchester City were beaten 4-1, which showed many signs to suggest that the team was developing the killer instinct needed in order to compete with the best.
By the time they went to Bournemouth there were a number of question marks over the form of leading striker Harry Kane, who had only scored once in the top-flight up until that point. There had been a furore surrounding him the previous season and some felt that he may be losing his touch, but a hat-trick in the Dorset rumours silenced such doubts and for the remaining months he would grow as an all-round player while maintaining his scoring prowess.
The England international would go on to score four times in the following three league games, during which Spurs really began to show what they might be capable of. A strong West Ham United team was dispatched, before qualification for the knockout stages of the Europa League was secured with three successive wins to end their Group J campaign.
The lead up to the festive period brought some ups and downs including a surprise home defeat to struggling Newcastle United, but they then managed three wins in a row as Southampton and Norwich City were beaten convincingly before Son scored in the dying moments to secure maximum points at Watford. This left them third in the table and just four points off the top, with only two defeat to their name.
There were star performers all over the team, with Erik Lamela having his best season in English football to date and Mousa Dembele acting as a midfield colossus. Danny Rose was also outstanding at left-back, so Pochettino was getting the very best out his squad, finding a settled team which had the youngest average age of any in the Premier League.
It was in mid-January when the momentum well and truly started to build and it became apparent that they were in the title race for the long haul, battling with Arsenal, Man City and surprise leaders Leicester, who crucially triumphed at White Hart Lane on the eve of this great run. Alli and Kane had forged an almost telepathic understanding, and it was the former who scored possibly the goal of the season to help them to victory at Crystal Palace.
Wins then followed against Norwich City and Watford, before they pulled off a marvellous win at Man City that moved them to within two points of Leicester with 12 games remaining, as Christian Eriksen. Now they sensed a chance to make history, but five all-important points were dropped at the beginning of March as they lost narrowly at West Ham and then failed to hold on to a 2-1 lead against the 10 men of Arsenal in a classic derby.
With the Foxes continuing to upset the odds and not lose their way, it was always a case of playing catch-up, and April saw a slow build up of momentum. By now they were out of the Europa League after losing comprehensively over two legs to Borussia Dortmund, and with each passing game the determination of the club to come out on top was clear to see, with Pochettino passionate on the touchline to the extent that he greeted the final whistle at Liverpool by punching the turf with frustration.
In normal circumstances a draw at Anfield would have been met with a degree of pleasure, but now every point mattered. With Leicester holding a handsome advantage and the games beginning to run out, they staged two masterclasses which they felt lifted them back into contention. The delight was tangible after Man Utd were crushed by three quick-fire goals, but the display at Stoke City on April 18 will go down as one of the club’s best in recent memory as they won 4-0.
But Leicester refused to buckle under the pressure while Tottenham found their intensity too difficult to maintain, tripping up at home to West Bromwich Albion before the fatal blow was inflicted by Chelsea in their third successive Monday night game. Two goals ahead at half-time and looking set to keep their increasingly faint title hopes alive, they were pegged back in dramatic fashion and were left crestfallen.
It was a night where tensions boiled over and the team totally lost their discipline and self-control as nine players were booked and Dembele was charged for six matches for appearing to gouge the eye of Diego Costa. All the same, it was an honourable failure as they battled gamely right up until the end and played some delightful football in the process.
Now the focus was finishing above Arsenal for the first time in 20 years. This looked a formality, but unbelievably they lost their final two games including a 5-1 mauling by a Newcastle side that had already been relegated, allowing the Gunners to overtake them by a point. Kane ended as the Premier League’s Golden Boot winner though, and he along with Alli and Dier will be vital to England’s hopes at Euro 2016.
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