Why Tottenham Are London’s Only Hope Of Challenging The Manchester Dominance
As the Premiership season moves into 2012, Tottenham have emerged as London’s frontrunners to challenge Manchester’s current hierarchy in the Premiership.
As the Premiership season screams headfirst into 2012, Tottenham have emerged as London’s frontrunners to challenge Manchester’s current hierarchy at the top of the world’s most exciting and entertaining football league.
For many, the transformation of Harry Redknapp’s side from Champions League qualification challengers to contenders for top spot has been coming. Since Peter Crouch’s goal at the City of Manchester stadium two seasons ago effectively sealed qualification for the best competition in European, potentially World football, the Lilywhites from North London have marched further still up the English ladder.
Despite missing out on a top four spot last season, Spurs enthralled football fans in their debut season with Europe’s elite, comprehensively beating both giants of Milan before bowing out without shame to Real Madrid. This season the team has progressed even further, and with January on the horizon, only an ardent Arsenal fan could deny that their bitter rivals have a genuine chance of title glory.
Why the change? How has it come about? Despite playing at times scintillating football Tottenham have never looked close to the dominant forces of Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal in very recent seasons until now. Like all transformations, there are many reasons to point to.
Much has been made about Tottenham’s acquisition of Scott Parker in the summer transfer window. The defensive midfielder showed at West Ham his true potential having arguably never reached his best form during spells at Chelsea and Newcastle earlier in his career. He galvanised the East London club as much as he could, and even claimed the coveted Writer’s Player of the Year award despite ending the season with relegation to the Championship. He has continued his terrific form not only for Spurs but also for England, and was recently named Player of the Month for November despite the excellence of the more attack minded players in the Premiership such as teammate Gareth Bale or Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie. Parker’s influence in the vital holding role is incredible, and he has done so much to lift the players around him. Breaking up play and giving the ball simply to the creative maestros that share his midfield berth is very often the reason behind the start of Tottenham’s attack play.
As well as Parker, another signing that Redknapp made in the summer was to bring in veteran goalkeeper Brad Friedel in order to replace the sometimes fantastic, often frustrating Brazilian Heurelho Gomes between the posts. Friedel has been phenomenal in his first season at Spurs. Seventeen games in, nineteen goals conceded. If the two heavy defeats against the Manchester clubs at the start of the season are discounted as a slow start then Tottenham have only conceded eleven goals in fifteen games. A statistic to be proud of. Friedel, Parker and the rejuvenation of centre back Younes Kaboul are the defining reasons why Tottenham have suddenly become miserly.
This solid and stingy approach from the defensive side of Spurs has allowed the attacking side some respite in knowing that they will now not have to score huge amounts of goals to win a game. That, however, is still quite often exactly what they continue to do. Tottenham average exactly two goals a game in the league, and have scored three or more in almost a third of their fixtures so far. Defences fear pace, power, skill, creativity, finishing ability; Tottenham’s first choice front five of Emmanuel Adebayor, Bale, Aaron Lennon, Luka Modric and Rafael Van der Vaart have it all. Add to that cameo’s from deadly finisher Jermain Defoe and it is clear to see why the club has progressed with speed to a clear and unchallenged third place in the league.
The line up that Redknapp has created is frightening at White Hart Lane but also, more importantly, tricky to set up against when Tottenham are the away side. With a central three in midfield marshalled by the phenomenal Parker, the lesser sides in the Premiership struggle to create periods of possession against them. If and when the ball is won back, the pace of the wingers Bale and Lennon coupled with the vision of Modric and Van der Vaart mean that they can create chances in seconds. Seasoned finisher Adebayor knows how to hit the back of the net. So does Defoe; the second goal against West Brom at the Hawthorns in a 3-1 victory earlier in the season was a classic example of excellent counter attacking football, rounded off precisely with an exquisite finish.
Of course, one of those attacking five looked primed and ready to swap North London for the Kings Road back in the summer. Chelsea, and Roman Abramovich in particular, were more than keen admirers of Modric. Tottenham’s chairman Daniel Levy had his resolve severely tested when a huge bid for Modric was put on the table by Chelsea with hours left of the transfer window. Many a chairman would have succumbed, but Levy stuck to his word and rejected the offer, ensuring that Modric would remain at Tottenham for at least the near future. This proved to be a bright decision from Levy, as Modric has turned in standout performances again and again during the first half of the season. Manchester City’s David Silva apart, it is difficult to name another player in the whole of the league who dictates the flow and tempo of a match better than the mercurial Croatian. Although many of the plaudits go to colleagues such as Parker and Bale, Modric remains the fulcrum of Spurs. Selling him would be a huge backwards step in Tottenham’s quest for success.
There are two other factors that are certainly noteworthy when talking about Tottenham’s chances for the title this season. Of the top five clubs, Tottenham are the only team out of European competition. Whilst Arsenal and Chelsea aim for progression in the Champions League and the two Manchester teams head into the Europa League, Spurs find themselves concentrating on the Premier League only, with a small nod to the always important F.A. Cup. Less games, less inconvenient fixture times, less travel abroad, Tottenham will surely retain an air of freshness and readiness over their immediate adversaries.
Furthermore, this reduced amount of playing time surely brings down the chances of injuries and fatigue, meaning that Redknapp can probably afford to play his best side more times that other clubs can. As has already been proven, it is a side which can be the match of almost everybody, and one that, with a little bit of luck and good fortune, could possibly go on to win their first title since 1961.
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