It’s hard not to be swayed by the belief that Spurs are on the brink of a new era. With Mauricio Pochettino signing on for an extended period, Harry Kane committing his future to the club, Dele Ali looking set to sign again, and with a new stadium almost ready to go, even the most pessimistic supporter could be led to believe that Daniel Levy and the board are changing the way the club is run.
The bookmakers so far have Spurs priced at similar odds to last year, as an example Mansionbet have Spurs priced at 14-1 to win the Premier League for the first time, fourth favourite behind Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United, and some way ahead of Arsenal at around 25-1.
The 2017/18 season was a success in so many ways, despite the lack of any silverware. Third place in the Premier League, an FA Cup semi-final, and topping the group in the Champions’ League (including beating Real Madrid) all point to a highly positive year — and yet it is hard to escape the conclusion that it all counted for nothing in the end.
What it has done, however, is to heighten the expectations for the 2018/19 season. Bearing all of the above in mind, what can therefore realistically be expected from the new campaign?
Mauricio Pochettino recommitting himself to the club is the prime cause for optimism in most supporters’ eyes. In a five-year deal worth £42.5 million, Pochettino is now one of the highest earning managers in the Premier League, a signal that Levy and the board are committed to achieving success — and are prepared to pay for it. Spurs reportedly had to fight off a number of suitors for the Argentine’s signature, including the threat posed by Zinedine Zidane’s surprise resignation at Real Madrid (who were rumoured to want Poch), and so this commitment undoubtedly shows a growing expectation of success in the boardroom.
The re-signing would also seem to suggest that the Club is backing Pochettino’s plans to overhaul the squad, which will no doubt require some serious investment (thought to be in the region of £150 million). This too would seem to represent something of a change in direction.
However, player retention will be just as vital to Poch’s plans for the squad, and there have been some hugely significant moves in this regard as well.
Harry Kane’s signature on a new deal has of course been the most totemic. Not only because of how vital he is to everything that Spurs do as the central plank in Pochettino’s plans, but also because of what it represents in terms of transforming the club’s wages policy — something that has for too long been a barrier to progress and success.
Kane’s new deal is worth £62.4 million and will put him in or near the top ten of Premier League earners, probably the first time a Spurs player has been in this bracket. Like the manager’s deal, Kane’s new contract seems to represent a greater willingness on Levy’s part to mix it with the big boys in terms of expenditure, and is an acknowledgement that the hitherto highly restrained approach to the wages bill is no longer sufficient to achieve success.
The imminent re-signing of another England international, Dele Alli, on a significantly enhanced long-term deal is also important both in terms of the player and what it means for the club’s approach. Having scored 36 goals in his first 100 Premier League games (along with 25 assists), Alli has been crucial to the way Poch wants Spurs to play, and keeping him at the club has for many supporters been a barometer as to just how serious the board is about doing what it takes to achieve success. The fact that a bigger and better deal for the 22-year-old is thought to be on the table is a positive sign of this changing intent.
When combined with the move to the new stadium, all of this good news, optimism and big spending nevertheless has bred a very large elephant in the room — what do Daniel Levy and the board expect in return? What are the expectations on the playing group in terms of the Premier League and European ambitions?
Much will depend, of course, on what rival title contenders do in terms of strengthening their own squads. No matter how much Levy loosens the purse strings, it’s hard to imagine that until the increased revenue from the new stadium starts to impact the bottom line that Spurs can match the spending of the likes of City and United.
At the same time, any drop down the league table or not getting out of the Champions’ League group stage would represent stagnation at best, failure at worst. Although there have been no public pronouncements to this effect, surely Levy’s spending is predicated on major silverware being won during Pochettino’s tenure, if not in 2018/19.
It is hard to see that anything else will be acceptable to Levy, considering the fact that he would now appear to have restructured the way the club’s finances are run. In order to justify this, major success domestically and/or in Europe will surely be not just a hope, but a clear expectation.
Should this not be achieved, can Spurs supporters expect to see a return to the club’s more parsimonious ways? This is why 2018/19 is shaping up to be one of the most significant in the club’s recent history, as success (or otherwise) will likely have a huge bearing on how the club moves forward and is run in the future.