Tottenham Hotspur hold off Arsenal for Champions League spot

Son Heung-Min celebrates after scoring his team’s fourth goal during the match between Norwich City and Tottenham Hotspur at Carrow Road on May 22. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

It didn’t always appear likely, but Tottenham is back in the UCL

Antonio Conte deserves a great deal of the credit for this outcome, and the transfer targets he pushed to sign — Rodrigo Betancur and Dejan Kulesevski, both via Juventus — had a great deal to do with it.

Arsenal choked to a certain degree, but a bit of luck goes along with putting yourself in the right position, and not only did Spurs do that, but they beat Arsenal as the season was coming to a close to give themselves a chance.

The race for fourth was messy, but it eventually became clear and settled. For the Gunners, this was a tough way to fall into the Europa League, but is not necessarily the worst thing for a team that has exceeded expectations this season and arrived back in Europe earlier than everyone expected.

Spurs, meanwhile, have been spending and changing coaches like they have UCL ambitions each year and the hiring of Antonio Conte after sacking Nuno Espirito Santo has paid off.

Daniel Levy and Spurs will have to back Conte and in ways Inter Milan were unwilling to. Tottenham has been famously stingy, failing to make any sufficient upgrades the summer after losing the Champions League final to Liverpool. Mauricio Pochettino would go on to be sacked early that next campaign, and the coaching carousel has gone on until Conte’s arrival.

There can now be no excuses for Spurs.

This team must spend money to get better, not only for Champions League, but also for the Premier League. While this team outlasted Arsenal to make it into the UCL, the Gunners are improving rapidly, and despite a much shorter roster than Spurs, they narrowly missed out on fourth place.

Without improvement this summer, Spurs might find themselves in a real dogfight to return to a top four position with a more experienced, deeper Gunners side, in addition to Erik ten Hag’s reworked Manchester United.

Spurs have something good; they better not ruin it

Spurs tend to have a “grass is greener mentality.” Why get rid of Mauricio Pochettino for “the Special One”? Why not simply invest in the team and coach that you had and that had so much success previously? Why not give into the demands of Conte during last summer, only to choose a poor coaching fit and have to then give in to the Italian boss anyway later?

It all seems rather counterproductive, but such is the way things often seem to be run in that part of north London. Now that Spurs have this great coach, as well as some great players, they will have to build upon that foundation instead of merely trying to coast by with what they already have. This club has not won anything for a long time and that is a joke in many quarters of English football that Tottenham wish to silence.

How can Spurs keep it going?

Being an active presence in the summer transfer window is a start, but getting commitments from both Conte and Kane is as important. Losing either of them would be catastrophic and cause for re-evaluation. Keeping both, on the other hand, would only create a greater urgency from players to come join a side with massive names, coaching and talent across the board.

Names like Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City and many others have been floating around the rumor mill for some time. Spurs will have to pay up to acquire the talent they need to compete moving forward. Some people will find other teams in England — even in London — more attractive than Spurs, but other players will absolutely find the the club as whole, appealing as well.

It will be interesting to see how the summer spending plays out and how Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester United will deal with the names coming and going. Spurs have a good chance to be great going forward but they might still mess that up if the hierarchy does not do the right thing vis-a-vis Antonio Conte, Harry Kane and the summer transfer window.