Tottenham: Is this the season for Mauricio Pochettino's side to deliver trophies?

By Simon StoneBBC Sport in Shanghai
Mauricio Pochettino has assembled a squad that is arguably greater than the sum of its parts

It has been 58 years since Tottenham last won the league - a time when the Beatles released their first single and England were half a decade away from winning their only World Cup.

But after years of battling against the odds, Spurs have a stadium and training ground that rank among the very best in the world. They have kept a manager who was heavily linked with Real Madrid and Manchester United last season and their squad includes seven players who reached the World Cup semi-finals or better 12 months ago.

And, crucially, they have just broken their transfer record by paying Lyon £53.8m for midfielder Tanguy Ndombele.

So, after reaching the Champions League final for the first time in their history last season, is it right to ask whether it is time for Tottenham to deliver?

'We're the inspiration'

I'm not a person who avoids difficult situations - Pochettino

When he sat down to face the media for the first time on Tottenham's 10-day pre-season trip to Asia, manager Mauricio Pochettino responded to a question about whether his side could use Liverpool's improvement last season as an inspiration for the forthcoming campaign by saying the comparison was unfair.

He said clubs should use Tottenham as an inspiration for the way they have overcome seemingly overwhelming financial odds to finish in the top four for the past four seasons.

In fact, Spurs have not finished outside the top six for a decade. Manchester United and Chelsea have done so once each. Liverpool have suffered the experience three times.

In the 2017-18 Deloitte Money League, Tottenham were sixth. They did record the biggest profits ever by a football club but their £380.7m turnover is roughly 64.5% that of Manchester United. Their £148m wage bill is the sixth highest in the Premier League but is dwarfed by Arsenal's £240m, which is the fifth.

"We are competing always with big sides who make an unbelievable investment," said Pochettino. "With us and our project and philosophy, we try to fight."

Are expectations around Spurs realistic?

The last time Tottenham won the league was in 1961 when they completed the double

Pochettino's critics point to a lack of trophies since the 47-year-old joined the club from Southampton in 2014.

Yet it is hardly the case that the Argentine is failing where others have succeeded.

Since beating Anderlecht on penalties in the 1984 Uefa Cup final, Tottenham have won one FA Cup and two League Cups, the most recent of which came in 2008.

Their status as one of England's original "big four" along with Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United comes from a 12-year period between 1956 and 1967. The high point was becoming the third side to complete the English domestic double in 1961.

In addition, they won the FA Cup in 1962, the European Cup Winners' Cup a year later and the FA Cup again in 1967. During that period they were second in the old First Division twice, third four times and registered two more top-six finishes.

And between 1959 and 1962, Tottenham had the highest average attendance in England.

It is against that glorious past that Pochettino appears to be being judged, even though the last quarter of a century has been a relative struggle.

Until 2017, when he finally broke the cycle, Tottenham had finished behind north London rivals Arsenal 21 seasons in succession. Between 1991 and 2009, they never finished higher than fifth, which they did twice. On seven occasions, they ended the season below 10th.

It is this recent history that Pochettino feels justifies him saying "we are not a big team".

A transition to the European elite - on and off the pitch

Everyone here wants to win trophies, says Winks

The change in perception of Tottenham is down to three things.

First, through a combination of excellent home-grown talent (England skipper Harry Kane and midfielder Harry Winks), astute signings of young players (forward Dele Alli, full-back Danny Rose and midfielder Eric Dier), lesser-known older ones (Son Heung-min) and the occasional bigger name (Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld and Christian Eriksen), they have put together a squad that consistently holds its own - and in many cases betters - rival clubs with access to far greater resources.

Secondly, Tottenham's training ground at Enfield, with its 15 grass pitches, has been recognised as one of the best in Europe since it was opened in 2012 and was used by Brazil as a base to prepare for the 2018 World Cup.

And finally, there is the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Although it was hit by massive delays, the 62,000-capacity arena has received almost universal praise since it was opened in April.

Club officials openly admit it has been built with an eye on becoming a permanent home for a London-based NFL franchise and will host its first two "road games" in the autumn.

For a lifelong fan like Winks, Tottenham's evolution has been eye-opening.

"I have managed to see the transition of Spurs over the last 10 to 15 years," he said.

"I watched as a fan but since the gaffer came in, as a player, I have seen how the club has gone forward. It is not only in the Premier League. Now we are respected in Europe and around the world. It is an exciting place to be."

The 'massive challenge' to compete consistently

Tottenham's new stadium should help propel them to sit alongside Europe's elite, but it must be paid for

The stadium should be the catalyst for Tottenham to grow their revenue streams significantly, but it does have to be paid for.

The estimated cost exceeds £1bn. For obvious reasons, Tottenham will not say how this bill is going to be met. Finance experts believe it will be done over 25 years and the annual repayments are likely to exceed £50m.external-link

It is worth noting Arsenal have not won the Premier League and finished second only once since the Emirates Stadium was opened in 2006.

So, as the demand for Spurs to recapture past glories intensifies, maybe Pochettino's words of caution are more than just a manager trying to downplay expectation.

He said: "I cannot change the perception from the people, my club, my chairman. The perception is the perception. The reality is there.

"To get to one final, or win one title, is one thing. A different thing is to keep this type of level.

"Being in the Champions League for the last four years is the first step to being something but then you need to push hard because the last step is always the most difficult.

"We are fighting with big clubs, so we need to be creative, to push ourselves and to find ideas from inside yourself. That is a massive challenge."

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