EPL

Tottenham Hotspur’s 2017/18 Wembley Season Preview

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 14: Fans look on to the pitch for the Finale celebrations after the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane on May 14, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Craig Mercer - CameraSport via Getty Images)
Tottenham Hotspur’s 2017/18 Wembley Season Preview

How Will Tottenham Fare At Wembley? The 2016/17 season proved to be particularly a strong one for Spurs. Their formidable home form in the finale season of White Hart Lane resulted in stringing together an invincible 19 game streak. Was this just an added farewell effort or will they miss their home ground since 1898?

A decision was announced by the Spurs board on April 28 to activate their option with Wembley National Stadium Limited (WNSL) to play their entire 2017/18 home games at Wembley stadium. This agreement was made as the construction of the North London side’s new ground is underway and will be developing throughout the next 12 months. Although the switch of homes may sound luxurious and will certainly bring added attraction, at club level, Wembley leaves many dubious.

One of the prominent concerns is the increase of pitch size. Spurs will have to adjust from the 100m long x 67m wide pitch at White Hart Lane to Wembley’s 105m x 69m. A result of this has shown sides to not only tire quicker due to covering more ground, but this has also provoked changes in tactical systems, tempo and style of play. The 90,000 seats await…

 

The Wembley curse
It wasn’t just Spurs who struggled transitioning to the pressure of Wembley. In 1998-1999 & 1999-2000 Arsenal borrowed Wembley for their Champions League fixtures whilst Highbury was likewise being worked on. Over the two years, they lost 3/6 home games, hindering them so severely for them to not even proceed past the group stage on either season. Baring in mind, Arsenal were regarded to have one of the best teams in the club’s history. The borrowing of the ground wasn’t exactly appreciated by Arsene Wenger, who described it as a ‘nightmare’. Emanuel Petit showed little gratitude also, labelling the temporary switch as a ‘disaster’.

 

Premier League impact
It’s difficult to draw any real positives out of Spurs’ upcoming conquest in the Premier League. They will be the first side to use Wembley for this purpose, so from the perspective of going into the unknown and facing new experiences, this is surely an uphill battle. The main issue Spurs will have to confront is the competitive nature of visiting sides – you would expect all teams to treat an away trip to Wembley like a cup final. Building on that, fans will be expected to travel in the masses to see their club perform in the biggest capacity of English football. The White’s need a positive run of initial results to give them confidence and to gain momentum going into the 2017/18 season. The opening fixtures could well define their Wembley-bound season, as other competitions will likely follow the same pattern of performances.

 

European football
Last season’s Champions League success was at a low for the Lillywhites. Mauricio Pochettino’s men were drawn what looked like a relatively easy group considering they avoided the European giants. AS Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen and CSKA Moscow proved to be a tougher task than first thought. Tottenham’s home form at England’s national ground was just as disappointing as the results on the road in the Champions League – a sign of a team adjusting to a new atmosphere and surroundings? Spurs will of course be hoping they can utilise the experience they gained from Wembley last season and familiarise themselves quickly with old territory.

 

English Cup competitions
If anything, Tottenham could have a slight advantage in the FA Cup and EFL Cup. Psychologically this could work in their favour, particularly in the scenario that a semi-final or final is achieved. Bearing in mind both cup finals are in February and May, by these points of the calendar, Spurs would hope to hold an advantage over other sides. Both performance level and mentality of settling into the new ground may be on the up by 2018. For sides travelling to a semi-final or final, stage fright can kick in on the big occasion – something which may not faze Tottenham as significantly.

 

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