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Spurs' strength in depth a key factor

Juggling the EPL and Champions League could prove a tough act for Spurs

THE BOSS

His star is shining so brightly that he was recently linked to the post of national coach of his home country.

Mauricio Pochettino later ruled himself out of the Argentina job, but another sterling campaign with Tottenham Hotspur like the last one will surely raise his stock further.

The Lilywhites were not expected to mount a title challenge last season.

It wasn't until the final four league matches of the term that they capitulated - claiming only two points out of a possible 12 - and eventually finished third.

Before that, they had genuinely looked the real deal.

The young team executed Pochettino's high-pressing, high-energy game to perfection, one which nearly ended a 55-year wait for the English top-flight crown.

The Argentinian's expert nurturing of young gems supplied the impetus in the first place.

The likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Eric Dier played influential roles, while the more experienced players moved their game up a notch.

For those familiar with the 44-year-old former centre back, his success with youth didn't come as a surprise.

Plenty of youngsters made their debuts for England when he was in charge of Southampton, or just shortly after he left the Saints in 2014.

Among them were Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne, Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers.

While Spurs ultimately failed in their title bid, it was not in vain.

Champions League football beckons and with it, their pulling power as a destination for top players significantly increased.

Vincent Janssen and Victor Wanyama look like solid additions to an already sturdy spine.

The true test, though, will be how Pochettino juggles both domestic and top-level European commitments.

He eventually chose to give up on the Europa League last season to focus on the Premiership.

It will not be an option this time round.

THE STARS

Hugo Lloris, 29, goalkeeper

Spurs had the joint-best defensive record in the 2015/16 season (along with Manchester United), conceding just 35 Premiership goals in 38 games.

The rearguard of Kyle Walker, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose proved too tough to crack for many strikers, but the presence of Lloris between the posts contributed significantly to their prowess.

Widely seen as one of the best in the business, the 29-year-old Frenchman registered 13 clean sheets in the league - the fifth most among Premiership custodians.

His experience in a young side will come in handy, too.

Dele Alli, 20, midfielder

Few teenagers have taken English football by storm as dramatically as Alli did.

In what was his debut Premier League season, the former Milton Keynes Dons player wasted no time in stamping his class.

Rightfully, he was named the PFA Young Player of the Year.

Forging a lethal partnership with Kane, Alli scored 10 league goals from midfield and chipped in with nine assists.

There was the zest, but it was his maturity, big-game temperament and knack of scoring spectacular goals that set him apart from his peers.

Still only 20, he looks set to play a crucial role once more.

Harry Kane, 23, striker

The dreaded second-season syndrome didn't hit Kane as many had predicted.

In fact, the 23-year-old marksman got even better, improving his previous term's league tally by four goals to bring it up to 25, to become the first English player to clinch the top-scorer's award since Kevin Phillips in 1999/2000.

Kane's ability to carve out space for himself in the penalty box, a crisp finish, a ravenous desire and, above all, a steely consistency, made him one of the most-feared strikers on the continent.

At times, Spurs looked over-reliant on him, but Pochettino has signed Janssen to ease his load. If the partnership hits the sweet spot - providing the manager intends to field a front two - Spurs' fans will be in for a treat.

THE ANALYSIS

Spurs surpassed expectations last season, despite having the majority of their players yet to reach their prime years.

In fact, for a long time, they looked the most impressive club in the Premier League.

There is great potential for them to get even better this term.

Pochettino has done remarkably well in pre-season by keeping the nucleus of the team intact, fending off the big clubs who eyed their talent.

Not just that, the shrewd recruitment of Janssen and Wanyama will add to the depth of their squad, something which they appeared to lack previously.

But, have the club bought enough?

The extra shifts that Champions League football demands have taken a toll on many teams in the past.

And, considering how badly Spurs faded in the last four matches of last season, which many believe to be a consequence of their high-tempo game, it remains to be seen if they have the stamina for the final stages of this campaign.

A disappointing Euro 2016 for many of the Spurs players certainly doesn't help in their quest to go the full distance.

Kane, Alli, Dier, Walker and Rose were part of the England squad which flopped against Iceland in the Round of 16.

Belgians Alderweireld and Vertonghen didn't quite enjoy their time in France either, as their highly vaunted outfit lost to Wales and crashed out in the last eight of the competition.

Luckily for Pochettino, his work at the club has bought him plenty of goodwill. And likely, considerable time as well.

It will be considered a great achievement if they can keep their top-four spot.

But, even if they miss out, as long as they can sustain a challenge for it, the manager won't be under any real pressure.

That should work in Spurs' favour in the long run.

I feel the improvement since my arrival (in 2012). I believe in the club, I believe in the manager, I believe in my teammates. We like the philosophy.

— Spurs skipper Hugo Lloris 

Rose hits hole- in-one

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