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BRIAN READE: Spurs have been superb, but unless they are careful their next step will be backwards

Date Posted,May 31, 2017

There’s been much talk between fans of the top clubs about who had the best season.

It’s all been a bit “My dad’s bigger than your dad”, with nobody outside of Chelsea able to confidently state who’s is.

In north London, with St Totteringham’s Day being scratched from the 2017 calendar, Spurs fans are right to crow.

But how loudly?

At the end of April, when they beat Arsenal to ensure their first finish above them in 22 years, it looked like the two sides were heading rapidly in opposite directions.

Tottenham fans were buzzing at White Hart Lane’s last derby, but the picture has changed since (Photo: Rex Features)

Tottenham were still in with a shout of the title, their young, free-scoring team tipped to be on the brink of greatness; the Gunners were facing Champions League exile, with their manager, top-earning players, board and fans mired in an ugly civil war.

But six straight wins for Arsenal, including that stunning FA Cup final victory over champions Chelsea, has changed the weather slightly.

Had a victory parade not been ruled out after the Manchester bombing, the Gunners would once again have been the team riding around north London showing off a trophy — a reminder that, for all their progress, Spurs are yet to win anything under Mauricio Pochettino.

For the second year running, they ended up Premier League bridesmaids when they could, and maybe should, have been brides.

Pochettino needs new signings at least as good as those of the other top six sides (Photo: Getty)

Arsenal being the only top-six finisher not in the Champions League next season has been used as a stick to beat their manager with. But don’t rule out it actually working in his favour.

Without the pressure to finally succeed against Europe’e elite, Arsene Wenger’s focus will be solely on a title challenge.

Keep the exits to a minimum while finally spending the latest war-chest he’s been promised and he’ll have a squad capable of doing that.

But what of Spurs?

Dele Alli and co need to keep up the away form that saw them thrash Leicester a fortnight ago (Photo: Getty)

Last season, they were unbeaten at White Hart Lane but failed to win away against any top-seven side.

At Wembley, they were beaten by Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen and Chelsea, meaning they’ve won only once in their last nine visits to the ground where they will play all home games next season.

They may well adapt quickly to Wembley, but even if the enforced move isn’t a disaster on the West Ham scale, leaving White Hart Lane, where they won 17 and drew two of their 19 league games last season, is bound to hit their points haul.

Spurs will surely improve their Wembley record — but will it be by enough to contend? (Photo: Rex Features)

So they’ll need to get much better on the road against their rivals, and that means improving their squad at least as well as rivals who’ll be spending £150m-£300m each over the coming months do.

Spurs’ net spend of £1m in the past five seasons borders on miraculous, but it surely can’t go on — unless Daniel Levy sells top players such as Kyle Walker to fund it.

This is a huge summer for Tottenham. In many ways, bigger than Arsenal’s.

With their financial focus on a new stadium they’ve yet to sell naming rights for, and a disruptive temporary move to one known to other sides as a neutral venue, Levy cannot afford to cut corners in the transfer market.

Fortress White Hart Lane is disappearing by the day… (Photo: Tottenham Hotspur/Twitter)
…to be replaced by another ground Spurs won’t be familiar with for 2018-19 (Photo: Tottenham Hotspur via Getty)

After losing at Anfield in February, a downbeat Pochettino said “We are a club fighting for the Premier League with different tools in a different project. We’ll see how we cope.”

Some took that as a dig at his board for missing out on Sadio Mane last summer when they refused to match the £90,000-a-week wages Liverpool had offered the then-Southampton forward.

On a relatively small transfer and wages budget, Spurs have done remarkably well over the past two seasons to be fighting for the league right up to the death.

But unless they have a summer that shows they’re determined to take the final step and win it, with the ambition of the teams behind them, the next step could be backwards.

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