Why Tottenham Will Overcome Their Wembley Blues Next Season
Tottenham Hotspur finished the Premier League in style with a 7-1 thrashing of relegated club Hull City on the final day at the KCOM Arena. The win came just three days after the North Londoners had subjected 2015-16 Premier League champions Leicester City to a 6-1 humiliation at the King Power Stadium.
That was some way to finish off the season that has been another huge success for Mauricio Pochettino and his brigade. Having finished 3rd in the preceding season, Tottenham managed to better it this time around, ending the campaign at 2nd place in the table – a feat that they had last achieved in 1963.
While the season marked continued progress for Spurs in their endeavour to become one of the best teams in England and Europe, it also came with a bitter moment for the club and the supporters. This season marked the end of the White Hart Lane as the home stadium for Tottenham as they are set to move to a new stadium starting from 2018.
The historic stadium, that had been Spurs’ home since 1897 has witnessed great highs and lows for a period of 120 years and it was fitting that Tottenham signed off from the White Hart Lane era with an unbeaten run at home in the Premier League. The final match that was played at the Lane was against Manchester United on May 14, 2017, which Tottenham won 2-1, thanks to goals from Victor Wanyama and Harry Kane.
It will be the start of a new journey for Tottenham when they move to their new stadium in 2018, a stadium that is tipped to become one of the best in Europe. But for the period between now and then, Spurs will be calling the Wembley Stadium as their home.
The international venue acted as Tottenham’s home for the European games in the recently concluded campaign, as UEFA regulations did not allow them to use the Lane due to the ongoing construction work. However, things did not turn out that well for the North Londoners at the Wembley.
In the three home games that they played in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, Tottenham were handed a defeat on two occasions – by Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen. They did manage a win against CSKA Moscow, but that came a little too late as they had already been dumped out of the competition.
A third-placed finish in the group ensured entry into the UEFA Europa League Round-of-32, where they took on Belgian outfit, KAA Gent. But they could just muster up a 2-2 draw in the home leg after a defeat in the away leg, which resulted in their exit from the competition.
Tottenham were then defeated 4-2 in the FA Cup semi-finals by Chelsea in April, as their miserable run at Wembley continued. Since the new Wembley was opened back in 2007, Tottenham have managed just 2 victories and have lost a total of 7 games and with one draw. Not a great reading for the fans, ahead of next season.
While the past records don’t bode well for Tottenham by any means, there are good chances that they will turn things around at the Wembley next season. Firstly, the fact that they will be playing there regularly, week in week out, will definitely help them get acclimatised better to the conditions and the atmosphere.
The most basic reason that Tottenham have struggled to put a good string of results together at Wembley this season is the bigger size of the pitch. That might seem weird to the general public, but these small things matter on the professional stages. The Wembley pitch is one of the biggest in England, whereas Tottenham are used to playing at the Lane, which is the second smallest in terms of area in the Premier League.
What happens is, Spurs’ style of play is based on pressing their opponents high up the pitch, boxing them into their own territory and on regaining possession, hitting them at speed with numbers. While that approach has worked wonders for them, it becomes somewhat difficult to implement when the pitch gets bigger. It drains the players out quickly and also more space is left behind with Spurs’ backline pressing high, allowing the opposition to hit them on the counter.
However, with them playing regularly at the Wembley next season, Pochettino’s team will be afforded more time to get better used to the conditions and plan better. One-off games between the season don’t allow teams much scope or time to change things up and adapt quickly, but the continuity that Tottenham will be getting at the national stadium in the upcoming campaign should aid them to equip themselves better for the long road ahead.