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Spurs have learnt from Arsenal that silverware is meaningless

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Silverware is often used as the barometer for success at the top of the sport. Clubs prioritising league placing over a potential cup run is considered a betrayal of what football should be about.

For years it was Arsenal who were met with an unfavourable gaze because their cabinet was gathering dust. A smattering of FA Cups has forced a change in Gunner criticism, and it has seen their fiercest rivals face the ‘need a trophy’ chorus.

Tottenham are enjoying a period of relative success. Mauricio Pochettino is yet to hold a shiny pot aloft, but the Lilywhites have consolidated themselves as contenders for prizes. They have as good as shed their underdog tag, even when facing teams financially superior.

Spurs do not have anywhere near the resources of the two Manchester clubs. Being four points behind the red half of the city is an achievement of sorts. Pochettino has made it an expectation that Tottenham punch above their weight domestically.

Who cares about the top four?

It is a commonly held perspective that all these top four finishes and impressive results are meaningless without the sweet, one-day glory of silverware. Tottenham have not won anything since the League Cup in 2008. A period similar to the one Arsenal ‘suffered’ prior to their FA Cup success. It’s worth bearing in mind that Liverpool have not won a single thing in six years either.

Since becoming a club that wins trophies again, Arsenal’s performances have tailed off in the league. The Wembley days out have probably saved Arsene Wenger, but the unrest from the fans has been more severe than ever during his reign. Sure, they loved winning the Cup, though it’s less clear if they would trade that to be more competitive in the league.

While Spurs may not necessarily suffer that same Premier League drop-off, the question is about how much those trophies matter. It boosts Wenger’s career tally and gets the players a medal, but whether it enhances any reputations is an entirely different issue.

Forget the Europa League

Look at this season as an example. Arsenal have reached the Carabao Cup final, are looking good in the Europa League, but are out of the top four race. Say Tottenham don’t win the FA Cup, they are unlikely to lift anything this season. They could, however, still make it into the latter stages of the Champions League, having outplayed Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus so far. Not to mention that the top four is still well within their reach.

Even if Arsenal were to win the League Cup and the Europa League, you could still make a convincing argument that Spurs had the better campaign.

A part of it also comes down to luck. Winning any knockout competition requires an element of good fortune, whereas league placing gives a far clearer indication of who are the stronger side. Chelsea and Liverpool’s Champions League wins are testament to this, as are Wigan’s FA Cup adventures. This is why winning a treble or quadruple is so rare.

If the trouble with a trophyless tenure is the impact on a manager’s legacy, it is vital to look at where the club were before their appointment. Before Pochettino, the top four was the Holy Grail for Spurs, now it is an expectation. Just like Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, the club and team are in a far improved position than when they arrived. Yeah, a trophy would be a nice exclamation point alongside that, but their respective Champions League performances are just as conclusive evidence of their forwards steps.

Pochettino is cemented as a Tottenham great

The Pochettino years will be remembered favourably at Tottenham whether he wins a domestic trophy or not. A run to the semi-finals or perhaps even the final of the Champions League would have at least as big an impact on his and the club’s reputation.

The premier European club competition is what matters to players. Recruitment is a significant part of the game. If you can prove yourselves in the Champions League against the best, that carries at least as much weight as a trophy. That’s why qualifying for the competition each year is prioritised above all else.

Should Tottenham make it into the last eight, that winter night in Turin will be remembered as fondly as Gareth Bale’s San Siro heroics, whether it ends in a parade or not.

Tottenham are, in the midst of a stadium build, holding their own with teams who can overpower them financially. Pochettino’s disregard for the FA Cup was always going to attract criticism, but a club of their stature has more to play for than trying their luck in the Cup. He was spot on about that.

Silverware is not the measure of Spurs’ progress. It would be a charming optional extra rather than a necessity.

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