Pre-Season Preview: Can We Do It?

“We need to know how to improve our mental state. This was key in the last few games of last season.

“It is not tactical, it is not philosophical because, after two years, we know very well how we need to play. It is in our heads that we need to improve.”

Last season is officially over. Mauricio Pochettino declared it so, after he’d had his say about the team’s collapse in the title race. It’s still hard to believe we finished third behind Arsenal; talk about rubbing salt into the wound.

Not that it was any surprise, we’ve got form in mental collapses during the Premier League era. It’s the biggest task facing Pochettino this season and the real concern is that it has become ingrained in the club’s culture.

I can’t put the situation any better than Poch did. That he’s aware of it and confronting it publicly head on, is a good sign. The easiest thing to do – perhaps the most footballing thing to do – is to ignore it; chalk it down to experience and then repeat the same mistakes again.

Hopefully we’re not going to but it’s going to be tough this season. United, City and Chelsea are stronger with new players and managers making the fight for a top four finish tougher. Our hest hope is that they take time to gel; we have a good start to the season, fixtures wise, and can capitalise if they struggle.

Leicester, I don’t think, will figure in the title race and will be mid-table at best. Arsenal, Liverpool and possibly West Ham, will look at the Champions League places so with ourselves, that’s eight teams vying for the top four. The Lilywhites are currently 10/1 to win the EPL this year, but those looking to bet should check out for more info on how to bet responsibly.

Individually, it’s a big season for Harry Kane. He endured a nightmare summer for England and was the focal point of much of the wrath. His set pieces were awful, there’s no point in denying that and I would be happy if Poch took him to one side and told him to concentrate on scoring goals.

Kane needs to use the inevitable abuse he will receive from the stands as an inspiration. Rooney and Beckham did it after their England disasters; he needs to do the same. If he does, he could become the dominant figure in English football which can only be a good thing for us.

Vincent Janssen’s arrival may relieve that pressure in the long run but immediately, Kane is still the primary source of goals. Kane scored more than in the Premier League alone than Dele Alli and Lamela did in all competitions. That gives you context for the issue.

Defensively, it’s more of the same, I think. There were really good signs last season, strong performances leave us in a good position.

In Europe, it’s a case of enjoying the Champions League whilst we can. Remember the fun of the last campaign? We’ll be in Pot Three so a tough group awaits. It’s unlikely we’ll get CSKA, PSV and APOEL (if they make it through); we’re not that lucky. We’ve got the opportunity to progress but last season’s Europa League hammering in Dortmund was the lesson to heed. If it’s learned we may make the last sixteen.

I’ve talked myself into some optimism about the new season ahead. We’ll find out in twenty-four hours or so if it’s false…