Can Tottenham improve on this seasons heroics?
By David Moore-Crouch.
At the start of last season, very few football pundits would have predicted That Tottenham would finish in the top four. In the end they did just that and they are now facing the difficult challenge of battling it out in the toughest league in world football whilst mounting a foray into Europe’s Premier competition: The Champions League.
Tottenham’s rise into the elite of European Football has come quickly. It was only a year and a half ago that they were rooted to the bottom of the Premier League with only two points from their first eight games. The north London club needed a change and it came in the form of Harry Redknapp. Since taking charge, Redknapp has taken the club to a carling cup final, an FA Cup semi-final and of course the top four. This season saw them finish in their best league position for twenty years and with their highest points tally since the inception of the premier league.
Spurs biggest improvement has been their consistency, which as past seasons have shown, has been severely lacking. The lilywhites managed to stay in the top six for the entirety of the season, rarely dropping below 4th. This coupled with their improved performances against the top four; they beat Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool once; puts Spurs in good stead as they strive to hold onto that elusive top four. The big question is whether or not Spurs have the quality to push higher up the premier league table whilst trying to successfully compete in two cups and the Champions League.
Redknapp has certainly built a side that has depth and talent and it shouldn’t take much tinkering for them to sustain a successful campaign. Michael Dawson has relished his new role as Captain. Most people would consider him unlucky if he doesn’t make Capello’s World Cup squad. Despite being injured for part of the season, Luka Modric stood out. His form has seen the likes of Chelsea contemplating moves for the Croatian. It is vital for Spurs to hold onto him if they are to continue their success. Gomes, after an abysmal first season, has really shown that he is one of the best shot stoppers in the Premier League. He managed thirteen clean sheets in thirty eight games and his form has been rewarded with selection in Brazil’s provisional world cup squad.
The two players that have really stood out, however, were Gareth Bale and Tom Huddlestone. Bale use to be known as the unlucky charm for Spurs having never won a match whilst he was playing for them. After breaking this hoodoo, the young Welshmen has developed into one of the strongest and most exciting left backs in the premier league. He is quick, drives the ball well, crosses the ball superbly and possesses the ability to score. Spurs fans should be breathing a sigh of relief that Bale has committed his future to the club by signing a new four year contract earlier in the month.
Tom Huddlestone is another one of those Spurs players that has promised so much but has rarely delivered. This season was different as the midfielder’s potential finally began to flourish. Huddlestone was the cornerstone of Spurs rebalanced midfield. He offers presence and strength in an otherwise mosquito midfield. This coupled with his superb passing ability saw Huddlestone rewarded with a place in Capello’s provisional England squad for South Africa. Although it is unlikely that he will be able to push his way into the 23 man squad, his ability will certainly see him represent his country in the future.
Spurs defence and midfield are solid and with a few additions, should be able to handle the pressure of next season. Their forward line, however, is worryingly weak. Redknapp himself has stated that this is the area that needs strengthening if they are to improve on last season. In some matches sublime would be the only word to describe Defoe, Pavlyuchenko had a magical two months and Crouch showed some glimpses of brilliance. Unfortunately none of them showed that they could consistently break defences open or score on a regular basis. Bale, Lennon and Modric are some of the best deliverers in the game and Redknapp needs to bring in some real quality to feed on it.
Redknapp will also look into bringing in players that have champions league experience, the most notable being Joe Cole. The Chelsea midfielder will be available on a free transfer after negotiations with his club broke down. Although, there are a few other clubs vying for his signature, Liverpool and Manchester City, Tottenham are in a unique position as firstly, Redknapp use to manage Cole at West Ham and they can offer Champions League football. It is essential for Spurs to sign players with this sort of experience and calibre if they are to solidify and build on this season’s success.
Breaking into the top four is one thing, but staying there is completely different. In 2004/2005 Everton broke into the top four only to have their Champions League campaign came to an abrupt end against Villarreal in the qualifying rounds. They finished the season in eleventh. The task won’t be made any easier with Manchester City has already signalled their intentions to once again spend big in their pursuit of Champions League football. Liverpool, on the other hand is desperate to put their disastrous season behind them by reclaiming their spot in the four. Spurs, however, appear poised to see off these challenges and show that this season wasn’t just a drop in the ocean and that they really do belong in the elite of European Football.
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