It has been a good few weeks for Tottenham Hotspur. Just over a fortnight ago, Antonio Conte’s side wrapped up a top-four finish in the Premier League by demolishing Norwich City on the final day. That win at Carrow Road secured their place in next season’s edition of the Champions League after missing out for two years on the bounce.
News soon followed that Conte would be staying in north London, despite incessant speculation that he would seek pastures new this summer (largely derived from the manager’s own statements throughout the season). It is hard to overstate how positive a development that is for Spurs. Conte’s decision was no doubt influenced by the injection of £150m into the club’s coffers by its owner, ENIC Group.
The signing of the 33-year-old Ivan Perisic, who has put pen to paper on a two-year deal after his contract with Inter expired, is indicative of the direction of travel. Conte appears to have won his argument with Daniel Levy, their chairman and his immediate boss: Tottenham are prepared to think shorter term than usual in a bid to win something soon.
That makes sense. Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are two of the best forwards in world football, and both players are at or approaching their peak years. In Conte, Spurs have one of the best managers on the planet. The Italian’s contract at the club expires next summer, and he has never been one to stick around for too long anyway. Spurs might never get a better chance to win the Premier League title.
That might sound overly ambitious. After all, Tottenham finished a whole 22 points behind Manchester City last term. They scored 23 fewer goals and conceded seven more. In every department they were markedly inferior to the champions.
Yet those numbers do not tell the full story. They include the dismal tenure of Nuno Espirito Santo, a manager who was on the verge of taking charge of Crystal Palace before a desperate Levy came calling last summer. Had the season started on January 1, by which time Conte had had two months to get to grips with his new job, Tottenham would have finished much closer to top spot.
Of course, every club in the division could pick an arbitrary date which shows them in a favourable light. But if Tottenham can continue strengthening their squad in the coming weeks and months, the evidence is there to suggest they will be able to at least close the gap to Manchester City and Liverpool.
It is not like Son and Kane are their only assets at present. Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur were excellent after joining from Juventus on transfer deadline day in January. Cristiano Romero was one of Tottenham’s standout performers all season long. Hugo Lloris seems to be getting better with age, while Eric Dier, Ben Davies, Matt Doherty and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg each improved under Conte.
It would take a monumental effort for Spurs to win the title next season. Manchester City and Liverpool seem to amass 90-plus points as a matter of course these days. Their relentless brilliance must be daunting for the rest of the Premier League. But Conte is a proven winner who has lifted trophies with Juventus, Chelsea and Inter. Spurs will be outsiders next season, but if they do some smart business this summer a title tilt might not be out of the question.