LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 27: Julian Speroni of Crystal Palace saves a penalty from Kieran Trippier of Tottenham Hotspur during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park on January 27, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

After a second cup exit in three days, Tottenham Hotspur are looking at another season without any silverware to show for their endeavours. They still have the Champions League to aim for and are mathematically still in the Premier League title race, however, Mauricio Pochettino feels that winning trophies creates egos and finishing in the top four is more important.

Last Word on Football considers why the North London club need to decide what success means.

“Again we’re going to have the debate whether a trophy will take the club to the next level. I don’t agree with it. It only builds your ego. The most important thing for Tottenham right now is to always be in the top four.”

Pochettino’s comments after the 2-0 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace in the FA Cup on Sunday didn’t go down well with many fans. Few can argue with the job that the Argentinian has done at Spurs. He has taken a club who saw the top four as a mere aspiration to a club that expects top four every season, and all on a shoestring budget.

In the modern era of huge wages, demands for success have never been higher in football, but if trophies only create ego, at what point do Spurs decide what success really is?

Winning is a Habit

‘Net spend’. ‘Punching above their weight’. ‘Not going bankrupt’. These are fast becoming sound bites out of Tottenham that sound as constructed as ‘Brexit means Brexit’.

It may be unfair to compare Spurs with Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal, yet, in reality, you can’t not compare with the teams around you. Liverpool have not won trophies for ten years, yet in the last 30 years have won silverware. United have struggled since Alex Ferguson retired yet have still won trophies. City are still in their golden period and show little signs of slowing down just yet. Chelsea have a merry-go-round of managers and even Arsenal, a club in crisis according to Arsenal TV, have still won trophies as they try and rebuild. Even in the bad times, winning still breeds winning. It is a habit and it is a habit Tottenham haven’t got into; yet.

Stick or Twist

Mauricio Pochettino and Daniel Levy choose to run the club their way. Wage caps but huge bonuses; net spend as low as can be; not buying players just for the sake of buying them. The defeats to Chelsea and Palace revealed a deficiency in that plan. Once you get injuries, you need to have quality back-up to fill the void. Spurs’ lack of taking any risks with transfers has meant injuries have hit hard. This current squad has hardly changed in the past four seasons. Keeping continuity is not a bad thing, yet not strengthening at all is hardly positive.

Levy and Pochettino need to decide what their ambition really is in the long term. Being top four certainties has been a huge achievement but how long can that remain the only ambition?

A world-class training facility; nearly completed stadium that will wow the football masses; top four regulars. Trophies since 2008? Zero.

Tottenham Hotspur have achieved huge amounts in the last six years, but what is next? Is it a trophy success that breeds success? You only have to look around to see that this is a fact, not a notion picked out from thin air – or simply top four each year and never getting over the line when it comes to silverware?

Footballers don’t want to finish their careers talking about getting lots of top-four finishes which don’t win you medals and, whilst Pochettino is right to say that top four is a remarkable effort based on money spent and ‘doing things the right way’, just how long can the club really stay at that level if the players never become winners? It’s a conundrum that looks set to continue for years to come.

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