2011/12 Spurs Season Preview & Predictions
THFC1882’s Stuart Watts takes a look at the season ahead, Rob Handworker offers his thoughts throughout. The Odds (All odds are those offered by majority of bookies using www.oddschecker.com on 8th August) Premier League winners: 50-1 Top 4 Finish: 3-1 Premier League Top Scorers: Defoe & Van der Vaart 33-1; Pavlyuchenko 50-1; Crouch 66-1 Europa […]
THFC1882’s Stuart Watts takes a look at the season ahead, Rob Handworker offers his thoughts throughout.
(All odds are those offered by majority of bookies using www.oddschecker.com on 8th August)
Premier League winners: 50-1
Top 4 Finish: 3-1
Premier League Top Scorers: Defoe & Van der Vaart 33-1; Pavlyuchenko 50-1; Crouch 66-1
Europa League Winners: 14-1 (joint second favourites with Roma, behind Atletico Madrid, Sevilla & PSG)
FA Cup winners: 12-1
Carling Cup winners: 12-1
As it stands there are barely any personnel changes so the playing staff remains reassuringly familiar. Or is that worryingly familiar? It’s a bit of both really, there are still players who are surplus to requirements and we STILL HAVEN’T BOUGHT A STRIKER!!
Our one senior signing – please insert your own joke – is of course Brad Friedel and despite legitimate concerns that he is on the decline he will provide competition for the starting spot. It must be hoped that we don’t end up with a merry go round in goal with Gomes and Cudicini also involved. Successful sides need a settled number one that the defence can have confidence in. I’m not convinced that any of the three have staked a preseason claim to be that man, Friedel may well get the nod ahead of Gomes at the start to motivate the Brazilian to get his head straight and push for his place back.
Rob’s view: “I think Gomes will be first choice with Friedel as back up, at the start of the season anyway”
At right back, Corluka will face very stiff competition from the ever improving Kyle Walker. With the amount of games we will hopefully be involved in, Walker has to get a good amount of games, he is confident going forward and better defensively than he is given credit for.
On the other side, Benoit Assou-Ekotto will continue as our first choice. His vast improvement and growth into one of the most consistent and crucial members of this Spurs team has been one of the highlights of Harry Redknapp’s reign. The one thing he has lacked is competition, last season saw the emergence of Danny Rose and he will surely push BAE for his place if he continues to develop.
In the centre as much as I would love to see Ledley there every week, being realistic it’s highly unlikely we’ll see more than the odd calm,assured and classy performance from the King. Therefore it’s important that we develop a partnership, like a settled goalkeeper, a solid centreback partnership is crucial for a successful side. It looks increasingly as though that will be Dawson and Kaboul, with Gallas perhaps also suffering from fitness issues as the years catch up. Kaboul showed last season that he is developing into a centre back who can take on the role that Ledley has for so long been the master of; reading the game, dropping back to cover when needed, stepping up to intercept and distribute at other times. He still makes the odd mistake but has cut them drastically and is maturing and increasing in confidence. His debut for France at the end of last season shows that Laurent Blanc thinks he’s got something too. If he’s given the chance Younes can become a fixture at the heart of the Spurs defence for years to come. Dawson will continue to do what he does, play the role of the heroic defender throwing himself at everything and is an effective foil for Kaboul. Bassong is heavily tipped to leave, if not he provides adequate if unspectacular cover.
Rob view: “Defensively we look solid….a combination of Dawson, Kaboul, Gallas and when fit King providing competition for the centre back positions… outstanding and ever improving Benoit Assou-Ekottu at left back…… Kyle Walker back at the club after his successful loan spell at Aston Villa last year, where he showed his quality and got priceless Premiership experience and I expect him to make a massive challenge for the right back spot with Corluka”
Luka Modric remains the key component and he will need to be up for it from the off. His pre-season appearances suggest he is capable of performing to his own excellent standards. There is no exact replacement in the squad so when Modric is rested the team dynamic will shift slightly. Huddlestone obviously provides a superb range of passing but with significantly less mobility. Niko Kranjcar really isn’t suited to the deep lying playmaker role and is much more effective higher up the pitch or cutting in from the left. Tom Carroll from our academy does look like a player who can perform the ‘Modric role’ but it remains to be seen whether he’s loaned out or retained for cup & European duties. Dean Parrett may be another younger player given an opportunity.
Before he was injured in training at the Copa America with Brazil, Sandro would have looked certain to start in the other central slot. Until his return, Huddlestone may be asked to take on a more destructive role or Jenas could be given yet another opportunity to claim a first team place. Assuming no one buys him, but they haven’t for the last few years so it seems we’re stuck with him. It’s being heavily tipped that Lassana Diarra is soon to complete a move. If that’s true then he would be a great signing and would slot into a holding role perfectly. It could be said his arrival may hold Sandro back, though again if we are competing on multiple fronts there should be enough games to go round and keep both fresh and sharp.
Rob’s view: “The biggest plus has to be that Luka is still in the ranks and can pull the strings for us and drive us forward…. one of the stars of the second half of the season, Sandro, when he returns from his injury surely has to be the first choice defensive midfielder”
Saluting the Sargeant
A quick word on Wilson Palacios, it looks increasingly like he will leave. If so he will go with all my best wishes and thanks for his time at the club. His reaction to his brother’s death has often been cited as the reason he’s gone off the boil. Undoubtedly such a traumatic event would affect anyone and one thing that stays with me from that period is his reaction when he found out. I’m sure you know the story.
“Upon hearing the news in the middle of the night, Palacios didn’t want to wake Harry Redknapp so waited in the hotel lobby for morning before telling the manager and asking if he could go home.”
Such consideration for others at a time of ultimate grief is the mark of a stronger man than most. THFC1882 wishes the best of luck to a man who always represented our shirt with honour and heart.
Wide and Attacking Midfield
Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale are still the obvious first choices on the flanks. Bale has looked incredible in pre-season and seems pumped and in good health for what it’s hoped is an even better and even more influential year for the Welsh wonder. Cover on the left will more than likely be provided by Pienaar and Kranjcar and they obviously provide a completely different threat to Bale’s pace, skill and dynamism. Pienaar remains unconvincing and has much to prove in a Spurs shirt. Kranjcar is a more skilful option than Pienaar who along with good passing and vision also offers a goal threat. Niko deserves more of a chance this season than he got last year and can be a vital squad member in a busy season.
Kranjcar can of course also offer back up to Rafael van der Vaart in the role just off the strikers and this is a position he has performed well for Croatia. Rafa will still be the first choice in this position assuming he’s fit and that the right striker for that formation has been purchased. Rightly so too, van der Vaart at the start of last season was an absolute revelation and with a good pre-season behind him, looks motivated for another crack with Spurs. He seems to really enjoy it at Spurs and is happy in London, not many clubs have ever seen a truly settled van der Vaart, this could be his chance to show what he can do over the course of a whole season. If he can stay fit and perform at the height of his abilities from August through to May, Spurs will have a real chance of pushing back up the table.
On the right, if as expected David Bentley is sold, loaned or ignored, Aaron Lennon is left without much competition. Aaron performs best when his place is under threat, Bentley’s arrival motivated him to some of his best form. If it was up to me, we’d be looking to buy one of Junior Hoillett from Blackburn or HSV’s Dutch International Eljero Elia, both of whom can provide a pacey skilful threat on either wing. I remain unconvinced that we are even looking to improve in this area or have the money to do so anyway. Andros Townsend may conceivably provide cover, but it seems unfair to ask him to play on the right when the majority of his young career has been spent on the left. Whatever happens, Lennon really needs a big season to take him to the next level.
Rob says: “Our two wingers, Lennon and Bale, will be crucial again this season and both created a lot of chances last season which hopefully our strikers will put away this year.”
All summer I’ve dreamt of writing a season preview and doing a big bit on our new squad improving striker. Oh well. Maybe next year. For now, it’s all about what we’ve got. Pavlyuchenko’s goals per minute record says categorically that he should be given more opportunities to start, but like the other strikers playing as a lone front man with Rafa behind doesn’t suit him. If we play 4-4-2 however the Russian absolutely deserves a chance to show what he can do if given the managers confidence. Jermain Defoe has not looked too sharp in pre-season but got a goal on Saturday and that may be what he needs to kick on and get back to his goal poaching best. Again he’s completely unsuited to playing on his own up front, but it’s not that long ago that he and Pavlyuchenko showed they may have the basis of a good understanding. Crouch’s link up with van der Vaart kept the big man in the team longer than it should have last year and if a new striker comes in I can see him being the one to go. Crouch is only ever at best, plan B, especially for a club with Spurs traditions, the diagonal to the big man at the back stick is anathema to all we stand for. In other news we still own Robbie Keane. Wow.
One player who’s impressed in preseason is Harry Kane. The teenage forward has scored goals at every level he’s played at and may well get a chance in the cups and Europe. His quick feet, quick footballing brain and physical presence make him a threat whether dropping deep or playing higher up the pitch. It’s important not to expect the world from him but he is an exciting prospect. Soulemayne Coulibaly must at 16 be considered too young to really look at breaking through this season, despite his prodigious performances in the U-17s World Cup.
Rob’s view: “If we don’t sign anyone I fully expect Pavlychenko to be first choice striker and Defoe has worked hard on strengthening during pre-season and is looking fitter. I would say like many, the strikers as a whole can’t perform as badly as last year”
We are unlikely to see much innovation here. 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2 will be the order of the day. The former is dependent on a new forward coming in to be truly successful. The big question when 4-4-2 is employed is what do you do with Rafael van der Vaart? Last season saw Redknapp claim the right wing was ‘his’ position in that shape. Redknapp is of course overlooking Rafa’s lack of tactical discipline which saw him leave massive spaces and full back exposed, leading to goals conceded against West Brom and worse, the Arsenal among others. So the wings aren’t the answer. Nor is central midfield, Rafa thrives in a free role between the lines and would again leave the rest of the team exposed at times. So as much as I don’t like to say it, when 4-4-2 is the order of the day, Rafa should be the man sitting it out. Redknapp displayed a reluctance to rotate anyone, Rafa in particular last year, it will be interesting what he does this year considering he’s already the stressed the burdens we face this year.
Harry Redknapp takes a lot of flak when he ‘inverts’ our wingers, but for once I’ll stand up for him. As all the top teams prove week in week out, it is a potent threat that can scramble defensive plans. It doesn’t have to happen all the time but there are certain game situations where it could and should be used. The major issue is, that it appears Bale and Lennon are slightly allergic to the ‘wrong’ wing, although Bale did look more comfortable there in pre-season and it should be remembered that a few of Lennon’s famous last minute goals have come cutting in from wide left.
Rob’s view: “Another alternative is to play 2 defensive midfielders, Modric just in front of them pulling the strings, with Bale and Van Der Vaart either side of a central striker in a three pronged attack. Bale and VDV would thrive in these roles and we would still have the cover defensively….though I fully expect the 4-4-1-1 system to be the main formation used this season, switching to others when Van Der Vaart is rested or when we play in different competitions”
Our first six games have been hyped as a nightmare start and it is indeed a tough one. It seems to have been overlooked that our seventh Premier League fixture is the North London Derby at The Lane. Christmas and New Year is also critical, between 26th December and 14th January Spurs play Norwich, Swansea, West Brom and Wolves and if any lesson is learned from last year, it should be that we have to find ways to win those games. February 25th sees us visit Arsenal and around this time we also play Liverpool and United while we’ll hope to be back into Europa League action. This will show whether we have the squad depth to cope and remain competitive. Final day of the season will also be a bit sentimental as Big Martin Jol will bring his Fulham team to White Hart Lane for the first time (assuming we don’t meet them in a cup first). Jol will undoubtedly get an incredible reception and rightly so for a man who has shown the club and fans his love and respect always, even after he was so disgracefully discarded.
Rob’s view: “Our opening fixtures are daunting to say the least and we also have a Europa Cup playoff 2 legged tie during this period as well. It could make or break the season, if we start badly it could set the tone and we might struggle, whilst if we fly out of the traps and take victories and points off our rivals the confidence will be high and anything possible”
Having always believed that football is about glory and silverware – as a Spurs fan that has obviously more often than not remained an untested belief – I personally hope that we make serious efforts on all fronts this season. Redknapp has already said that Europe and the Cups are an opportunity to give youth a chance, to some extent of course this is true, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the chance of bringing a trophy back to White Hart Lane.
I’m predicting a Europa League win (more out of hope than actual belief we’ll try). I think we’ll make the quarter finals of both domestic competitions, our youth falling heroically against a more experienced side no doubt.
I would love to think Spurs are going to push back into the top four and challenge the two Manchester clubs who I believe will fight it out for the title this year. However, unless we make two big signings, one striker (did I mention we STILL NEED A STRIKER!!) and one other player who improves the squad, not just takes a place, we will finish 6th I believe. Higher is achievable but without increased competition in certain positions will be an extremely tough ask.
Rob’s view: “With the current squad I am going to say 5th again but no nearer the champions league places then last season. If we get one, maybe 2 proven strikers in then the top 4 is a definite possibility for me. I also believe we will have good cup runs this season and get to one final. Positive thinking I know, but we are Tottenham, super Tottenham from the Lane and to dare is to do!”
Whatever happens and however the season turns out, we’ll be here at THFC1882 to give you our thoughts, match previews and reports, some guest writers offering their opinion on Spurs along with what we hope are going to be some other interesting features. Here’s a to Glory, Glory season……….
Submitted by www.THFC1882.com
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