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Antonio Conte

Tottenham Hotspur in 2021: A promising end to a turbulent year

There hasn’t been a whole lot to celebrate for Tottenham Hotspur over the past year.

There were some promising moments, but they ended the league campaign in seventh place. On top of this, they went another year without a trophy, losing in the Carabao Cup final to Manchester City.

And yet, they are in high spirits going into the new year.

Best player – Heung-min Son

Last season, Harry Kane and Heung-min Son were the two best players at the club. While the Englishman has struggled to get going this term, Son has continued to deliver the goods.

The winger has elevated himself into one of the best wide players in the league, scoring 17 goals in all competitions. He’s quick, a frightening dribbler, good on both feet, and a deadly finisher.

His record in the big games has also been impressive over the last year. He found the net against Man City, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Arsenal, as well as against Brentford in the Carabao Cup semi-final.

Best game – Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Manchester City

Spurs’ opening game couldn’t have been much tougher. They faced a Man City side who had just cruised to the title, finishing 12 points clear at the top.

Much of the pre-match chat surrounded Kane, who had been strongly linked with a transfer to the visitors over the summer. He was left out of the matchday squad.

Many expected an away win, but Tottenham managed to pull off a shock. In the second half, Son picked up a pass from Steven Bergwijn, cut inside onto his left foot, and bent a shot into the far corner. That was the only goal of the game, as the Lilywhites got off to the perfect start to the season.

In truth, it didn’t lead to much. They won their next two league games, but hit a poor run of form which saw manager Nuno Espirito Santo sacked. But still, it was an impressive win against one of the best sides in Europe.

Worst game – Dinamo Zagreb 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur

There were a few options for this spot. The Carabao Cup final defeat to Man City will have hurt, as well as the derby day rout at the Emirates Stadium in September.

But their Europa League loss to Dinamo Zagreb was arguably the most damaging and humiliating.

Spurs travelled to Croatia for the second leg of their round of 16 tie. They were in a reasonably comfortable position going into the fixture, having won the home leg 2-0 thanks to a brace by Kane.

The first hour had been quiet, and the north Londoners seemed well on their way to reaching the quarter-finals. Then Mislav Orsic began to have his say.

The Croatian winger restored some hope for Dinamo Zagreb with a screamer in the 62nd minute, curling a beauty into the top corner with his right foot. Then, in the final ten minutes, he levelled the tie up, sweeping in from Iyayi Atiemwen’s low cross.

Kane came close to netting a crucial away goal shortly before full time, but his header was brilliantly saved by Dominik Livakovic, taking the game to extra time.

At the beginning of the second half of the extended period, Orsic wrapped up his hat-trick with a fine solo goal.

The winger picked up the ball on the halfway line, dribbled past Serge Aurier, Moussa Sissoko and Tanguy Ndombele before firing into the bottom corner from 20 yards out.

Now Tottenham needed a goal to prevent their elimination. They pushed hard in the closing stages, but Livakovic was again at his best.

He kept out a powerful strike by Gareth Bale and denied Kane for a second time – although the striker ought to have scored.

The final whistle went, and Dinamo Zagreb had completed an incredible comeback. As for Tottenham, it was an embarrassing early exit and a huge missed opportunity.

Transfer business

There weren’t any transfers to report in January. In the summer, however, there was plenty to talk about.

The Lilywhites brought in five players in total. Cristian Romero and Pierluigi Gollini were signed from Atalanta, Bryan Gil arrived from Sevilla, Emerson Royal came from Barcelona, and Pape Sarr was signed from Metz.

Romero had made an encouraging start to life in England, but suffered an injury which has kept him out of action since early November. Emerson has played regularly, registering one assist and contributing to four clean sheets in 18 outings.

Meanwhile, Gollini and Gil have spent most of the season on the bench, and Sarr was sent back to Metz on loan.

As for outgoings, a fair few players left. Erik Lamela went to Sevilla as part of the Gil deal, while Toby Alderweireld, Juan Foyth, Danny Rose, Moussa Sissoko, Joe Hart and Serge Aurier also departed.

But the big story of Tottenham’s summer was the transfer that didn’t happen. Kane seemingly had his heart set on a move away and reportedly refused to train to get his way – although the player denies this.

The England captain remained at the club, but his early season form suggests that Spurs may have been better off cashing in on him.

How has the manager done?

Well, it depends which one you’re talking about. Tottenham have had FOUR managers over the last year.

Jose Mourinho was in charge up until April. He was sacked after taking the club to seventh place – although he could have ended their trophy drought had he been given the chance to manage the Carabao Cup final.

That responsibility fell to Ryan Mason, who took over as interim boss after Mourinho’s departure. He was in charge for seven games, winning four and losing three.

The former midfielder signed off with an impressive 4-2 win away at Leicester City to seal their place in Europe for the 2021/22 campaign.

The club searched long and hard for their next permanent manager, bouncing from one candidate to another. They eventually decided on former Wolverhampton Wanderers boss Nuno Espirito Santo.

The Portuguese won Premier League Manager of the Month in his first month in charge, defeating Man City, Wolves, and Watford. But this bright start was soon forgotten after a string of poor performances, and he was out the door by November.

His replacement was Antonio Conte, who has won six league titles as a manager. Aside from a defeat in the Europa Conference League to NS Mura, the Italian has had a positive impact at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

There is renewed faith that he could take the club back into the top four.

Overall consensus

They may have ended strong, but 2021 isn’t a year that Spurs fans will look back on with fondness.

Their league campaign gave them very little worth celebrating, as they ended the season in seventh place. This was enough to qualify for the inaugural Europa Conference League, but they exited in the group stages.

Furthermore, their trophy drought continued, and they remain without silverware since 2008. The loss in the Carabao Cup final to Man City was to be expected. However, the defeat to Dinamo Zagreb was an avoidable disaster.

The north London club will have the opportunity to end this drought in the Carabao Cup in early 2022. They face Chelsea in the semi-finals and will be up against Liverpool or Arsenal if they progress to the final.

In usual circumstances, they would probably be the least fancied out of these four to lift the trophy. However, Conte is a proven winner, and has already had an impact on the club. It should be interesting to see whether he can bring some silverware to Tottenham.

Read also: Liverpool in 2021 – So close, yet so far?

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