Tottenham's success under Mauricio Pochettino has been remarkable
The 6-1 thrashing of Leicester on Wednesday night might just have been the most important result of the season for Tottenham. Not because there was anything much at stake, but precisely because there wasn't.
Previous Tottenham sides have often tended to crumble when there is little to play for. Last season was a case in point. After a 2-2 draw against Chelsea had confirmed Leicester as Premier League champions, Spurs fell away in the last two games, losing to both Southampton and relegated Newcastle.
This time there was no relaxation of intensity. Rather than playing as if they were already on holiday, Spurs played as if they had a point to prove -- both to themselves and the manager. Though all the hard work of protecting their unbeaten season at White Hart Lane and securing a second-place Premier League finish had been done on Sunday in the 2-1 win over Manchester United, Tottenham were still able to retain their intensity.
It spoke volumes of the team's desire and progress that Harry Kane had the hunger to score two more goals in the dying minutes against Leicester when the game was long since won and many of the home fans had already left. Spurs have learned from the disappointments of last season and have developed a ruthless streak.
On current form, no one would bet against them taking apart a Hull team that are already relegated in Sunday's final game of the season. To finish on a club record of 86 points and have Kane win the Golden Boot for a second year in succession would be a fitting end to what has been Tottenham's best season since 1960-61.
Spurs' progress under Mauricio Pochettino has been nothing short of remarkable. The coach took over when the club was in disarray. Tottenham appeared to have wasted the £90 million windfall generated by the sale of Gareth Bale on a series of expensive, underperforming players such as Paulinho, Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela, and the tenures of Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood had not proved a success.
It looked for all the world as if, no matter how good Pochettino might prove to be, Tottenham were in for a number of rebuilding years, with the prospect of Europa League football the best on offer.
Instead, the transformation has been remarkable. Some shrewd acquisitions, such as Toby Alderweireld, Dele Alli and Victor Wanyama, along with the development of players such as Kane and Danny Rose have helped create one of the most attractive and skillful squads in the Premier League. Their goal difference of plus-54 this season is greater than they achieved in a whole decade in the early years of this century.
With successive finishes of fifth, third and second in his first three seasons, Pochettino's Spurs are unquestionably making tangible progress year on year. Even more encouraging, it is clear there is still room for improvement. This is not an old side playing from memory like Manchester United in the past two seasons under Sir Alex Ferguson. It is a young side that is still learning both how each other plays and what the manager expects.
But now comes the hard part. Not just the move to Wembley that most seasoned observers expect to have a negative impact next season, but in keeping the team together. Spurs' success has been achieved on a financial shoestring compared to other clubs in the top six of the Premier League, and Tottenham cannot rely on the goodwill of their star players to remain loyal.
Though they undoubtedly have a close affinity with Pochettino -- not least because the manager has reaffirmed his commitment to stay at Tottenham for the foreseeable future -- and recognise that he has helped lift their games to levels few knew they were capable of, there will still be some who recognise that they could double their weekly earnings with a move elsewhere. And there will be plenty of eager buyers lining up the disaffected.
So now is not the time for Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy to be too tight with the purse strings. To lose several key players because the club is not prepared to meet their wage demands would be counterproductive. To make a success of the move to Wembley and the new White Hart Lane, Spurs need a team that is performing on the pitch.
Tottenham want to be a big club, and one of the marks of a big club is that they only sell the players they are happy to let go -- not the ones they can't afford to keep.
John Crace is one of ESPN FC's Tottenham bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @JohnJCrace.