There have been a fair few bumps in the road throughout the course of this remarkable season for Tottenham.
Domestically they challenged very briefly for the top two at the beginning of the season, but fell comfortably into third, before they, like the teams below them, got dragged into the near-farcical battle for the top four.
13 defeats in a season is far from ideal.
The home-based cup competitions didn’t go exactly as planned. A 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace in the embryonic stages of the FA Cup before a dramatic penalty shootout loss to Chelsea in the League Cup semi-final.
The narrative of Pochettino’s lack of trophies to back-up his clear progress was still being weaved by many fans and pundits alike.
This season’s Champions League run, though, can surely forgive whatever minor complaints can be had about Tottenham’s domestic campaign, given the manner in which it has occurred.
The old adage of “Spursy” – the consistent failure to live up to expectations – has essentially been dashed by Pochettino’s charges’ European run this season, with last night reminding the world that this Tottenham side have Diego Simeone’s definition of cojones.
It’s easy to forget that Tottenham only won a single point from their first three games in the Champions League as the group of death containing European stalwarts Barcelona, PSV and Inter Milan looked to be too much for the North Londoners.
Against the odds they prevailed, last night’s hero Lucas Moura scoring a late equaliser to rescue a point and send Tottenham into the last 16.
When the chips were down they delivered. The exact opposite of “Spursy.”
In the second round, they blew away a very promising Borussia Dortmund side who many felt they were the underdogs against, winning 3-0 at Wembley before going to their own patch and snatching an away victory.
The last eight against an in-form and highly motivated Manchester City side, they brilliantly negotiated the first leg at home before battling back from a light blue onslaught to reach the last four in the most dramatic of circumstances (and of course with the aid of VAR.)
The victory over City was the prototype of a game a Spurs team of old would have capitulated in. The weight of expectation and quality of opposition would have lead to all the hallmarks of a “Spursy” performance. Pochettino made sure it wasn’t to be.
And then there was last night.
1-0 down from the first leg and 3-0 down after the first half, Spurs looked finished as their vibrant young opponents sauntered around the Johann Cruyff Arena, fairly safe in the knowledge that, if they could see off the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus over two legs, then a 3-0 lead over Spurs was surely as comfortable as it gets.
As Sir Alex Ferguson once put it, “Lads, it’s Tottenham.”
Tottenham dug down deep though, the introduction of Fernando Llorente, a crucial change from Pochettino as his presence caused problems and allowed Lucas Moura the space he needed to punish Ajax in the most incredible of ways.
What’s even more impressive about the way in which Spurs have negotiated their tricky route to Madrid is the fact that they’ve done most of the heavy lifting in the absence of their talismanic captain and perennial top scorer Harry Kane.
The striker missed the quarter-final second leg against Manchester City and was absent for both legs of the semi-final.
In his absence, the likes of Fernando Llorente, Heung Min-Son and especially Lucas Moura have all stepped up and filled the void left by Kane; a credit to Pochettino’s ability to get the best out of his whole squad.
Don’t complain about problems, create solutions.
Against Manchester City, this team came up in the clutch. In the last 16, they blew Dortmund away. To even reach the second round they had to take rescue a late point at the Nou Camp. Those accomplishments nudged “Spursy” towards the edge.
Last night’s result pushed it straight off a cliff.