Spurs have grown this season but they must continue that next year and mount a title challenge again

Mauricio Pochettino isn’t a man who likes to share his feelings with the press all that often, but towards the end of last season, he wasn’t able to stop himself from divulging just how angry and disappointed he found himself at the manner in which Tottenham rounded out their campaign. Not only did he say his summer had been ruined, but later admitted that he’d had murderous feelings towards his squad for tailing off in the dramatic manner they did, with effort levels directly influencing some of their most abject performances and results in the entire Pochettino reign.

It was, to an extent, understandable. What remains an extremely young Spurs squad was then a year less experienced, and were very much attending their first title race rodeo. From the manner they allowed themselves to be knocked by defeat, it was evident just how inexperienced, young and impressionable the vast majority of the squad still were, and it was a harsh lesson to have to learn so soon in to their respective careers. Having come through a League Cup final defeat at the hands of Chelsea the season previously, they’d been on a crash course of dealing with loss and how to move on from it, and we’d only find out how much of that they’d taken on board when the time came for them to react again.

Given what we watched against Leicester, then, it’s safe to assume that this is a Tottenham side who’ve crammed an awful lot of growth and time to mature in to the past couple of campaigns. Going to a Leicester side who were the source of their frustrations last season, Spurs didn’t play at their highest pace, intensity or aggressiveness, but had the mentality of a side who knew they were superior, and had a job to do nonetheless. Swatting the home side to one side with an almost nonchalant flick of the wrist, Tottenham ran in six goals at half pace, having finally learned how to take out their frustration on others, rather than themselves.

In times gone by, this is a team who’ve been victim of feeling sorry for themselves - even under Pochettino - but it was clear from the first kick that complacency wasn’t on the menu. With even less to play for than in previous seasons, the way the players behaved and performed was one of their most resounding endorsements of their manager they have ever given, clearly displaying their wish to perform for him regardless of the wider context, which is something he’d obviously been asking of them. Football is a sport full of intangibles, but no team has ever scored six goals away from home by accident, especially with so little remaining on the line.

That said, however, Spurs don’t want to make reacting from defeat a habit. While it’s a positive now, when it’s so easy to juxtapose their behaviour from one season to the next at such tender ages, it might not be such a smooth pill to swallow years down the line. Harnessing their ability to perform no matter the occasion, this Tottenham team would do well to apply that same logic to the rest of their season, and allow their attitude - rather than their emotions - dictate the outcome of the matches they’re participating in. The best sides in football have an air of arrogance about them, and while that can lead to opposition fans despising them, it’s a much needed shield from the innate fragility of the mind, and something Spurs are yet to fully embrace.

Going forward, with a campaign in the Champions League to manage and yet another tilt at the title surely at the forefront of their minds, it’s important that Tottenham continue to grow and mature at the same rate they have been doing, or they’ll risk stunting their potential. Pochettino deserves immense credit for creating a side so defiantly in his own image, but there’s only so far the desire of one man can fuel an entire playing staff - there has to come a time when this Spurs team are able to light a fire up under themselves without needing a match to be struck for them first.

At the very highest level of football, talent can become negligible. Every team has it in abundance, so they have to find other areas in which to better one-another. Sport is about marginal gain, and while that may take some of the romantic shine away from what Spurs have been building towards, it’s a reality they simply cannot outrun. Tottenham will never be the richest club in the world, pay the highest wages or offer the sexiest locale, but they can be the most mentality rigid, well prepared and motivated. Football is yet to fully comprehend the power of sports psychology, but by accident or otherwise, Spurs have become of its most fascinating case studies.

Compare and contrast how Tottenham ended last season to this, and it’s night and day. Having shown that they’re now able to take one on the chin, the next trick is learning how to throw a knockout blow of their own. With the best first choice team in the Premier League when fit, talent isn’t the issue. Yes, it’s true that their depth in reserve needs a look, but that will surely come with time. Right now, Spurs can afford themselves a brief moment to pat themselves on the back and take stock of just how far they’ve come - again - in such a small amount of time.

Once that’s over, they need to prepare themselves to be able to go in to next season with the same willingness to grow and improve that they entered this, because - as good as they are - there’s still work to be done. Luckily enough for them, they’ve got exactly the right man in charge to push them just as hard as they need to be, and ultimately guide them towards shifting in to an even higher gear.