New stadium, same team may prove troublesome for Tottenham

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates with team mates after scoring his sides second goal and his 100th Premier League goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on February 4, 2018 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates with team mates after scoring his sides second goal and his 100th Premier League goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on February 4, 2018 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images) /

Tottenham are set to begin play in their new stadium in September, but a lack of summer signings could be a problem.

As inventive as England’s set-piece routines were at the World Cup, the end result of a couple of them still felt almost comfortingly familiar. “Harry Kane scores” is hardly a headline that’s going to make anyone choke on their morning coffee. For a player that’s averaged just over 26 Premier League goals a season since the 2014-15 campaign, the six total goals Kane bagged in Russia felt like a warm hug from a long-time friend.

There’s a certain air of familiarity that hangs over Kane’s club team heading into this season as well. Despite minor flirtations with Real Madrid, Mauricio Pochettino is back for his fifth season as Tottenham boss. The dependable duo of Christian Eriksen and Deli Alli will also be on board again. In fact, if you were tasked with making a list of all of the players that have left Tottenham this summer, you wouldn’t even need a pen. No one has left. Perhaps just as crucially, no one has arrived either. And in a league flush with money and teams that are eager to spend, there exists the increasing perception that merely maintaining the status quo simply isn’t good enough.

That brings us to the great, big, fancy thing that will be new in Spurs World this season. While the name may be a bit anodyne, Spurs supporters will be hoping Tottenham Hotspur Stadium leads to soccer that’s anything but. Tottenham will play their first home match of the season against Fulham at Wembley, but are set to debut in their flashy new home against Liverpool in mid-September. It’s a change of scenery that has prompted much speculation.

For the past few seasons Pochettino’s team have been firing metaphorical screamers into the metaphorical glass ceiling that has separated Tottenham from Europe’s elite. That ceiling has threatened to shatter, but ultimately it hasn’t suffered more than a few cracks. There exists no definitive criteria for what makes a club one of “Europe’s elite,” but generally for a club to be considered on equal footing with the Barcelonas and Bayern Munichs of the world, they need to win league titles and make deep runs in the Champions League a regular occurrence.

In the 2015-16 season, probably Tottenham’s best chance to win their first top-flight title since 1961, Leicester of all teams were able to beat Spurs to glory. And last season, after a promising 2-2 draw against Juventus in Turin in the Champions League round of 16, Tottenham agonizingly lost the tie by throwing away a one-goal lead in the second half of the return leg at Wembley. Impressive group-stage victories over Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund had many in north London sleeping with grand European dreams in their heads, but Tottenham were gone from the Champions League before the competition had even reached its business end.

“It would be time to say: ‘Now we will in the title,’” Pochettino said in December of Tottenham’s forthcoming move. Implied in Pochettino’s statement was the that the increased revenue generated by the new 62,062-seat stadium will aid Tottenham in building a squad that do more than just reside in the general vicinity of major honors. With another top-class player or two in their squad, perhaps Spurs would have held onto their lead against Juventus, or maybe they would have overtaken Leicester to have won the Premier League title. The question is when these top-class players will actually arrive.

Construction costs of Tottenham’s new stadium have risen to previously unanticipated heights. It’s now estimated the stadium will have ultimately cost around £1 billion upon its completion. That’s more than double the original projected cost of £400 million. These escalated fees may have been on Pochettino’s mind in April when he sang a slightly more measured tune about Tottenham’s ability to immediately challenge for silverware after arriving at their new stadium.

“The move to the new stadium is not suddenly going to change everything and millions of pounds will rain from the sky. You have to manage and know exactly the expectations. It will be important to review and set the principles again,” Pochettino said.

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A quote like that from the manager, coupled with the dearth of signings, top class or otherwise, this summer gives the strong impression that there could be a delay in Tottenham engaging in the kind of transfer activity that matches the ambitions of their state-of-the-art facility. If indeed no major acquisitions are made prior to the close of the transfer window on Aug. 9, Tottenham supporters will have to hope the status quo will prove satisfactory.

Of course, retaining a player like Kane and his preternatural ability to find the back of the net is nothing to scoff at. For all of the deserved attention Mohamed Salah received during his remarkable campaign last season, it is somewhat surprising to glance at the Premier League scoring leaders from the 2017-18 season and find that Kane was only two goals off the Liverpool man’s scintillating total of 32. Is it possible to score a quiet 30 goals in the Premier League? Those 30 goals represented 41 percent of the 74 total goals Spurs scored. One has to wonder if Tottenham’s attack is a little too reliant on the Englishman.

In 2016-17, Dele Alli contributed 18 goals to the Tottenham cause, but could only manage nine goals last season in a slightly different role. Swiping Fernando Llorente from underneath Chelsea’s noses last summer likely elicited a few giggles from Spurs fans, but the Spaniard has generally been abject at leading the Tottenham line. Without another reliable out-and-out center forward (Heung-min Son has filled in reasonably well when tasked with the role, but it’s not necessarily his ideal position) to lift some of the scoring responsibility off Kane’s shoulders, Tottenham will want Alli to regain his ruthlessness in front of goal.

Hoping that the squad already at his disposal is capable of accomplishing the desired results (as opposed relying on incoming reinforcements) is something that should feel pretty familiar to Pochettino. Familiarity isn’t always comforting, though.