It’s pretty obvious a team has a habit, even a reputation or history, of being a fuckaround when its very name is used as a definition of that. “Spursinees” has been a term thrown around since just about the Premier League’s beginning, which makes it clear what everyone thinks of Tottenham. No matter how good things appear on the surface, no matter what they are just on the cusp of, something will happen and it almost certainly will be their own doing. No one blows off their own toes quite like the Spurs. This is a team that can lose out on a Champions League place on the last day of a season when the whole team is literally shitting themselves. Or sour a relationship with maybe the most brilliant manager they’ve ever had. Or fail to hire another great manager because he wanted too much money and power, scrounge around and find another manager not up to the job, and then have to go back to the first guy anyway. And all of this was just in the past few years!
However, on the eve of the new Premier League season, all is quiet on the Spurs front. There is no transfer drama around Harry Kane like this time last year. There is no uncertainty in the manager’s chair, however stable that chair can be when Antonio Conte is sitting in it. There are high expectations…except they’re all completely reasonable given where Spurs finished last year, what they’ve done this summer, and the relative state of the clubs they presumably will be competing with for Champions League spots.
Where once there was angst, trepidation, and disgust, there is only excitement, satisfaction, and confidence. What is going on here? We may need Conte to throw a shitfit just so we can feel on axis again.
The serenity around Spurs stems from a pretty efficient and well-planned summer transfer business, as well as their rousing finish to 4th last season. It also helped that they closed hard on the outside to nip fellow North Londoners Arsenal at the wire. Nothing satisfies them quite like that. The Spurs knew what they needed to add, went about it quickly, and everything was pretty much settled before they even returned for preseason training.
Depth up front was secured with Richarlison joining up from Everton. While he may not start when Kane, Son Heung-min, and Dejan Kulusevski are healthy, Spurs are going to play a lot of games with Champions League commitments (especially this season as the entire group stage will be crammed in before the World Cup) and Richarlison can slot in any of the three forward spots in Conte’s set-up. He will not go stale on the bench. They added more depth on the wing with the free transfer of Ivan Perisic, a Conte darling from Inter who can be a wide forward or a wingback depending on the day. Midfield was shorn up with the capture of Yves Bissouma from Brighton, and while he’s a bit same-y as Pierre-Emile Hǿjbjerg or Harry Winks, he’s depth for a heavy schedule.
Even defense has been buffeted by the reclamation project of Clément Lenglet, who had his rep pretty much shattered amongst the ruins of Barcelona’s what-have-ya, but is still the player who got to the Nou Camp in the first place and is a regular with the France squad. If anyone can get him to realize his full potential, it’s Conte.
All of this was added to a team that closed with a flourish. Spurs won eight of their last 11 games last season, including getting a draw at Anfield and clubbing both Arsenal and West Ham along the way. They didn’t lose to either Liverpool or City last season, in fact, they beat the latter twice. Once Conte settled in after some pretty heavy turbulence after his introduction to Tottenham (nothing can ever be truly smooth with either him or Spurs), Spurs looked every bit the third-best team in the country, and finished only three points behind Chelsea. Considering how Spurs’ summer has gone and the way Chelsea’s has gone, it’s no wonder that more than a few are wondering if Spurs aren’t going to slip by them this time around while still probably not getting into the gated community of Liverpool and City.
The signing of Richarlison makes Spurs more Son and Kane-injury proof than they’ve ever been. Both are certainly going to miss time somewhere along the line, and usually, that meant the goals dried up for Tottenham. Richarlison is used to leading a line on his own with Everton and can certainly fill that gap if he has to.
If there’s one spot that looks a little short, it’s creativity from midfield. There are a lot of destroyers and fortifiers there without a lot of inspiration, though there’s more in Hǿjbjerg to be mined if they want. But Conte teams prefer to keep the center of midfield a security zone rather than an art museum, preferring to attack at high speeds through the wingbacks and forwards, which Spurs certainly have more than enough of. Perhaps when they run up against teams that are happy to camp around their own box and just give Spurs the ball they may struggle, but that is no guarantee.
Of course, this is Spurs, and this is Conte. When something goes wrong for either of them, it tends to go all wrong in a hurry right behind it. It’s just hard to see where that could fissure from with this team. Chelsea still needs a lot of help after what it lost this summer. Arsenal is looking pretty tasty, but has been just as Spurs-y as Spurs of late and its improvements are no more than what Tottenham has done. No one has any idea what United will be. Conte’s record in Europe is still very spotty, but Spurs aren’t expecting to win the Champions League this season anyway. This is a team that’s completely bought into what Conte is selling, and when that happens trophies tend to follow (see: Juventus, Chelsea, Inter). It may not last long, given Conte’s proclivity for getting antsy pretty quickly, but for now, it sure appears it’s all systems go. And even if he does, former beloved manager Mauricio Pochettino is practically pacing outside of the Tottenham Hotspur stadium waiting to volunteer to take his place.
Spurs a smooth-sailing ship. Strange days indeed. Most peculiar, mama.