Premier League: Tottenham’s fall from Champions League finalists in 2019 to drubbing at the hands of Arsenal

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A blow by Dele Alli sends Lucas Moura Racing into the Ajax penalty area. A sweep of a left foot later, and the Brazilian sends an entire fan into a state of delirium.

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Moura’s second-half hat-trick completed one of the most famous European comebacks yet – down 0-3 with less than half a match played, his goal in the sixth minute of injury time sent Tottenham Hotspur In his first European final.

Talisman manager Mauricio Pochettino hugs his staff and players in tears. Nearing the fifth anniversary of his arrival at Spurs, Argentina have taken the club from the Europa League to a Champions League regular. Overwhelmed by emotions, he gets down on his knees.


17:04 BST. September 26, 2021. London. After more than two years.

Harry Kane falls to his knees as Bukayo Saka plays Arsenal barely half an hour into a three-goal lead over their arch-rivals.

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As stone-faced manager Nuno Espirito Santo stared down the barrel of a third consecutive 3-0 league loss to a fellow London club, some Spurs fans already began marching towards the exit from Emirates Stadium. Have given.

A consolation goal by Son Heung-min in the closing stages makes the scoreline slightly less embarrassing, but Spurs have been widely battered by an Arsenal side that started the campaign with three straight losses.

In just two years, Tottenham have fallen from arguably the happiest night in their recent history to the worst fate imaginable – being torn apart by their biggest rivals.

Spurs eventually fell short in the final of the 2019 Champions League, falling 2-0 to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in Madrid, a result that many marked as the team’s breaking point.

Yet the damage was done long before that night, with the Spurs currently paying the price for long-term strategic neglect.

no furniture

Nostalgia is never stronger than in times of conflict, and rarely a day passes when Spurs fans are reminded of the team that scored 86 points in the 2016/17 season – a tally that saw them Winning the league would have seen five points over Leicester a year ago.

Unfortunately for Spurs, Antonio Conte’s 93-point season by Chelsea deprived the North Londoners of the first Premier League crown, but there was a feeling among fans that, under Pochettino, the club was on the road to success. . With the right investment, spurs can eventually go out of line.

The following season, Spurs rioted in a 4–1 loss to Liverpool. Nine of the eleven players Pochettino introduced that day lined up for the Champions League final against Liverpool in Madrid two years later.

to Liverpool? Just four.

Clearly masked by that incredible Champions League run, it’s easy to forget how poor Tottenham’s form was in the second half of the 2018/19 season.

After an excellent start, a seismic collapse occurred in late February – Pochettino’s team won only three of their final 12 league matches, scored only six, and finished in the top four on the final day of the season. Made.

They were not and will not be the first to start a dazzling cup run despite sub-par league form. Chelsea’s two Champions League victories in 2012 and 2021 placed sixth and fourth respectively, a far cry from the European champions’ domestic pedigree.

However, it was clear at the time that the Spurs were in dire need of a reboot. Pochettino had done wonders to move the Spurs from a fun team of also-rans to a team that fought for the title for two consecutive seasons between 2015 and 2017, but two years later, he became an aging squad. which he had squeezed the maximum. .

The blueprint had already been drawn up by their eventual winners Liverpool, who showed the potential glory that can come with intense trading and strategy.

With Pochettino in the same position as the early Spurs sides a few years ago, the smart reinvestment of fees from the sale of Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho into Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and others turned Jurgen Klopp’s side into domestic and . European powerhouse.

In contrast, Spurs did not buy a single player prior to that 2018/19 season.

“When you talk about Tottenham, everyone says you have a wonderful house, but you need to put up the furniture,” Pochettino said a few days before that famous night in Amsterdam.

“If you want a beautiful home, you probably need better furniture. And it depends on your budget that you’re going to spend the money.

“Now, it’s about building another chapter and having a clear idea of ​​how we’re going to build that new project. We need to rebuild. It’s going to be painful.”

a cautionary tale

And it was painful.

In November, after a poor start to the season, Pochettino was sacked and replaced by former Chelsea hero Jose Mourinho.

Tangui Ndombele, Ryan Sessegnon and Giovanni Lo Celso arrived but Spurs had lost two experienced first-team players to Christian Eriksson and Kieran Trippier. While a rebuild was needed, Trippier and Ericsson were far down the hill in terms of age, and it is a cruel irony that both have gone on to win their home leagues in Italy and Spain respectively.

A move dramatically collapsed for Paulo Dybala due to a painful complicity over image rights, a failed transfer that would have served as a massive statement of intent. Bruno Fernandes, now one of Manchester United’s leading men and one of the league’s best players, was reportedly a major priority for Spurs that failed to materialize.

Mauricio Pochettino applauds fans after the UEFA Champions League group match against Crvena Zvezda in November 2019.

It remains to be seen whether Ndombele, Sessegnon and Lo Celso will yield long-term advantages for Spurs, but the damage was already done. Granted, they may not have the financial muscles that Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs regularly flex, but a series of poor recruitment windows have seen Spurs fail to capitalize on the momentum Pochettino has built up.

The Harry Kane saga of the summer served to sum up the current state of Tottenham. The British are still cutting off a frustrated man in the campaign due to a failure to materialize the move, after allegedly trying to dive from a sinking ship onto a Manchester City-bound yacht. After scoring 166 goals in his career, Kane has yet to return to the nets this season.

Should Kane’s poor form continue, there will no doubt be many people in the Spurs hierarchy who do not regret cashing in on the forward if given a chance. There is an alternate universe in which Spurs began a Coutinho-esque rebuild with Kane Funds inspired by Liverpool, but that’s not the timeline.

As the club’s slogan goes – “To dare is to do” – Spurs are paying the price for their failure.


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