Spurs: Gaining a Modern Identity

OldProgram

There is something oddly different about the start of this Premier League season, it’s not Fergie’s absence or watching Carragher archaically struggle with a touch screen but is the way in which Spurs are being identified. For as long as i can remember the club has been wrapped in a stigma, a close but not quite close enough air about the club that permeated through to the media, fans and players alike, this seems to be no longer the case.

The expectations of most not involved with the club is at least a top 4 finish if not a serious title challenge, and having spent £100m+ in the summer you can see why. These expectations are there for a reason however and without a push many would still see Spurs as the fragile outfit that has been replaced, for this we have the media to thank, their depiction of this current team is overwhelmingly positive and even when hitting a hurdle (like on Sunday) there is no capitulation of this neo-Tottenahm they have framed, it seems as though they are sticking by for now.

In the grander scheme this is very important for the club, it is gaining an identity of its own as one of Europe’s top clubs and a world class team. In order to break into the top 4 / take away some of that Champions League money it is of course important to have a strong side, what is more important is having a club that has existing influence and favour in the wider world surrounding the game. Many teams make it to the big time whether that is the Premier League or the Champions League and a decade later is is all but forgotten, to stay there, stay current and stay profitable existing relations must be in place, and luckily for Spurs it seems as though after the best part of 5 years people in power are beginning to see that the club are going to kick the door down if not invited in and have started to take the chain off.

It can be called convenient but look at the major press and their reporting on the club since Sunday, it is not lamenting AVB and his team for loosing a London derby 3-0 at home but seems more interested in the trickle of quotes the Mail have released from ‘Arry’s’ new book. Three years ago this would not be the case, an ex managers autobiography overshadowing a derby defeat but in this new world where the club are one of the ‘elite’ they go a bit easier.

Some of this may sound negative on my part but truly is is not meant to, i see this as a very important part of the puzzle if we are to one day challenge for major honours, we need to be given the same respect United or Chelsea are given by the mainstream press as we all know their power and influence.

The reasons behind this are complex and numerous but to just scratch the surface a series of explanations are apparent, firstly is is purely good business, Levy knows this world and being something of a veteran now to pull some strings and cash in some favours would not be unheard of. The transfer of Bale has allowed the club to invest in several young, exciting players that have undoubtably strengthened the entire squad, you need to be able to do the business on the field and this gives the manager a much better chance of succeeding than with a single mercurial talent. Elsewhere clever partnerships and forward thinking has increased the clubs international influence, links with the US are strong after a number of clever signings and partnerships (Under Armour) and in todays homogenised world having sway throughout it helps new and existing power models come to fruition even in the world of Premier League football.

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Hugo Lloris – The Premiership’s Best Keeper

Hugo Lloris

In both Tottenham and Arsenal’s opening games of the season there were awkward moments for Hugo Lloris and Wojciech Szczesny. The incidents in question were very similar, both keepers rushed from their lines to confront the danger only to be caught out of position and in potential danger. Szczesny mis-kicked El Ahamadi’s forward ball strait into the skies and headed it on the return strait into the oncoming Benteke’s path, the Polish international did manage to get a foot on the ball in the resulting showdown however he had little cover and it ended in a 35-yard strike being forced wide. He did not cover himself in glory shall we say and after giving away a penalty it only contributed to Arsenal’s shaky opener, these actions are sure to eliminate any faith his defenders had in him for the remaining minutes at least.

Lloris by contrast had to be alert when Philips beat the offside trap and was left on his own to bear down on goal, he dashed from his goal-line as we so often saw last campaign and rather than standing the experienced Philips up he dived strait in dispossessing the striker and giving the covering defenders time to recover their positions, the danger was cleared swiftly and as we all know Spurs went on to win the match only after two fine saves from Lloris.

While some may say it is indicative of Arsenal’s young, brash goalkeeper I would rather look at the comparison with Lloris in a brighter light, many will tell you that he is a top quality player, that much is obvious to see but the truth is in Hugo Lloris Tottenham have one of the best players in England and one of the best keepers in the world. He backed this up with several top quality saves midweek in the Europa League and is sure to prove me right over the next 9 months.
At only 26 he is the French captain and had his first taste in 2010, clearly he is influential within that setup and is likely to impose that on the Spurs camp as he further settles in to life in London. In terms of how he fits in to AVB’s system he is the perfect player, what is required is a keeper that is quick, agile and with good decision making, simply put Lloris has all of these in abundance as was clear numerous times last season.

His interceptions when someone was played in behind the defence were a thing of simple beauty, his concentration never weaned over 90 minutes and he saved us numerous points as Bale was gaining them. Hugo is the type of player that all top teams want, he has no negatives, he is a consummate professional and has another decade of playing in front of him. Levy and co pulled off a real coup last summer when they signed him for £15m and hopefully he is happy in North London for the foreseeable future.

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A Very Brief 2013/2014 Season Preview…

Sandro+Paulinho

This seasons expectations sadly hinge on one thing, the Bale debacle. Tottenham and the players sudden shyness is all the indication needed that negotiations have begun and Bale clearly sees this as his opportunity to become a Galactico. There is still an optimism around the club however, money has been well spent and Baldini’s impact on our transfer dealings has meant we have recruited early and spent lavishly.

If the club can hold on to their prized asset then it cannot be out of the picture to contemplate a title challenge, Soldado, Chadli and Paulinho are all impeccable signings that not only strengthen the first team but help the club when attempting to acquire new, sought after talent. Chadli has impressed in pre season and looks set to inject something different on the left side, Paulinho is clearly quality and alongside Sandro and Dembele could form one of the best central midfield’s in the country, while Soldado will score goals for whomever he plays.

The outgoings are beginning to happen with Huddlestone and Livermore having moved to Hull, both will see more game time in an international tournament year while Dempsey has moved back across the Atlantic in a smart move for the club. Strangely Caulker was let go, on the surface this is a poor move with no cover and with the club not necessarily needing the money, however there are flaws in his game that could hinder him in becoming a truly top quality centre back the likes of which we need to compete in the Premier League. He was fourth choice (possibly 5th with reinforcements) and £8m is an awful lot for a player that was nearly released for free a few years back. I suspect we may even have a buy back clause in the deal that hasn’t been spoken of, it would make more sense.

Back to Bale and on a positive note the speculation regarding his future has not effected incomings as it may have in years gone by, this does however have another edge to it if you were to consider how difficult it would be to get good value for money if every club in the world knew you had £100m+ in the transfer budget. It could be that the club know Bale will leave at some point before September and are trying to offset that with business relatively early in the market. This would look more likely if we were to sign another player for £20m+ and go over the £50m net transfer budget that was reported a few months back.

The season starts on Sunday against newly promoted Crystal Palace, having lost their star player to United Palace have brought well over the summer and will be sure to provide a tough test one way or another. Expect a number of our new signings to play and with the umbrella issue of Bale that still lurks their debuts will not be as comprehensively scrutinised as any record signing/s would usually, the fans may well think differently but the post match press conference will unfortunately be a Bale focused one. Soldado will surely see it as the perfect match in which to kick off his premier league campaign against an opposition that are inferior on paper.

In truth our season starts the minute the transfer window closes, while this is usually the case it is for different reasons this year, the next fortnight will be a case of crossed fingers and plenty more of Madrid’s media/mind games. Levy and company will not give in to anyone as has been the case with all major outgoings in recent years and if he does leave it will be for an incredible fee, the likes of which could revamp just about any Premier League side.

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2012/2013 Season Review

Thank You

While Bale holidays in Florida and Walker relaxes in Barbados, we’ve had our time off and are back to business at WhiteHartBrain. Over the next few weeks there will be some analysis of the past season, from player performances to transfers to tactics. Starting today with the players there is a breakdown of each individual and their role within the club over the past 12 months.

GK – Hugo Lloris

A deadline day signing Lloris did not have the easiest of transitions, as captain of France many thought he would immediately replace Friedel between the sticks, AVB stuck by his guns though and slowly introduced Hugo into the first team. Once he broke into the first 11 there was no replacing him however as he proved invaluable when playing with such a high line. The evidence was glaringly obvious during European games with Brad back in goal. Lloris is excellent at organizing the defense and this will only improve when fellow Frenchman Kabul returns to full fitness. He was shortlisted for player of the month in December and has proved an absolute coup at €10m – €15m. While there may be some European powerhouses with him on their wish list the GK position seems pretty safe for a few seasons yet.

RB – Kyle Walker

Having finished the 2011/2012 season poorly Walker did not improve in the early outings this past year. He was at fault a number of times and became something of a scapegoat for fans, credit to the England international however as he improved vastly as the season went on and actually ended it as one of our strongest performers. I spoke often about the lack of a break the 23 year old had and how it could benefit him, not being part of the U21 tournament this summer means he can now fully recover from several years of constant competition and focus on the upcoming season, his old Sheffield comrade had a strong year and will be competition next season.

RB – Kyle Naughton

Back up for both wing back positions all season he didn’t do much wrong. His role at the club is quite clear and his target for next season even clearer, displace his old mate Walker at right back. Still young and with clear potential he should get at least one more year at the club.

CB – Jan Vertonghen

No one could have asked for much more of the Belgian in his first season in England, he scored 7 goals in all competitions, proved to be very versatile playing well at both left back and centre back, he won the March player of the month and to top a fantastic year off he was selected for the PFA team of the year. ‘SuperJan’ has settled strait into the team and looks entirely at home in lilywhite, it is clear to see that he will be Spurs captain given time and at only 26 he still has plenty of it, a fans favorite already Vertonghen is up there with Bale for me as one of the first names on the team-sheet… Oh and he openly turned down Arsenal expressing his desire to join Tottenham last summer. Just Saying.

CB – Michael Dawson

This season has arguably been the most impressive of Dawsons career. Deemed surplus to requirements upon AVB’s arrival the club captain refused a move away and forced the manager to change his opinion. (A refreshing trait of AVB’s) He actually finished the season as arguably our number one centre back with Vertonghen filling in at left back so frequently. At 29 Dawson is in the peek years of his career, he is a positive figure to have around the club regardless of weather or not he starts every game and is clearly willing to work on aspects of his game. A fans favorite he is now the longest serving player still at Spurs, lets not have any silly talk of him leaving us this summer.

CB – Younes Kaboul

An injury struck season saw him out for the majority, it allowed Dawson to regain his place and for Caulker to get a little experience but he will have no intentions of being so kind next season. He is back in the gym and looking to make up for lost time

Kabul Gym

CB – Steven Caulker

18 appearances and an England cap isn’t a bad season for a 21 year old but I can’t help but feel that another year on loan at a Premiership side would have been more beneficial. At such a formative age he spent a portion of the year as 4th choice, much has been said recently about English clubs fielding homegrown players between the ages of 18 and 21 or the lack of it. A player with the clear talent of Caulker has been rightly groomed at Spurs but wouldn’t the game time ultimately prove more advantageous for him, lets hope he’s involved more one way or another.

LB – Benoit Assou-Ekotto

At the point of writing this Benny is being linked heavily with a move away from the club and its understandable why. It was a knee injury keeping him out for a portion of the season but even after recovering his fitness the left back position he had made his own over the years was not a certainty. There has been talk of disagreements between BAE and AVB, something I could very well imagine, at the club already there is Rose, Naughton and Vertonghen who can fill in in Assou-Ekotto’s absence and if he were to be sold a high price could be commanded for one of the Premierships most constant performers. As a potential replacement there is only one player I would like to see, Luke Shaw from Southampton, he will be the British left back of his generation and now has a full season of playing in the Premiership under his belt at only 17. If BAE does not leave the club then I expect him and Danny Rose to compete for the position after Rose’s impressive season for Sunderland.

CM – Scott Parker

Another player that has been at the centre of several transfer rumors this summer is Scott Parker. Having been linked often with a move to Serie A it seems like this could be the right impasse for Scotty Parker to move on and finish his playing career at another club. He will not get as many chances in the first team next season with Sandro back especially if we are to invest in another central midfielder, as is rumored. As far as him heading to Serie A I do not believe that is a move that would benefit the midfielder, while he has the tough tackling determination that us British love it is hard to see how far that will get him in Italy with the majority of players being more technically gifted. His brand of resolve and professionalism may well prove me wrong however, if he stays with the club then he will most likely see out his career (at the top level at least) here with his contract running until 2015 at which point he will be 34.

CDM – Sandro

Unfortunately an injury hit season saw Sandro taken away from us just as he was beginning to cement himself as a regular on the team sheet. Taking over from Parker whilst he was injured Sandro began to show some of that potential turning into talent, the team missed his tenaciousness and work rate after January and our form began to slip after. He should be fit again for the new season and will be a welcome sight for fans as he was becoming a favorite of the White Hart Lane faithful.

CM – Tom Huddlestone

Another disappointing season for Huddlestone may well spell the end of his Spurs career, while I have always been a big advocate of his it is becoming clear that the flaws in his game are too vast to forge a genuine career at the very top level as was once predicted, years of injuries have not helped. While he did show flashes of brilliance this season it was too few and far between, I would like to see him stay but I have a bad feeling he along with Parker will be shown the door with a new arrival or two in the centre of midfield. 21 games he played in this season and that is his biggest total since 09/10 so it may be presumptuous to think he is on the way out.

CM – Mousa Dembele

A very impressive first season has seen Dembele’s stock rise even further, he was a fantastic signing and at only £15m it could be said that he has already nearly doubled his value. Only 25 and improving every season he is now an integral part of this Spurs squad, he and Sandro built up quite the rapport on the pitch and hopefully we will see that continue come August. While his role since joining from Fulham has been more reserved playing the pivot role in the centre of the park his impact on each game has increased, he sees more of the ball from deeper and then has the space to move up the field with the ball at his feet like we have seen often this past year. More signings like this in the summer is certainly what the club needs, not too expensive at £15m but is instantly worth more playing for Spurs.

CM – Jake Livermore

After a strong start to the season that saw him pick up an England cap Livermore saw his place in the side become more and more peripheral as players were brought into the club and other regained fitness, he only made 18 appearances all year, 20 less than the season previous and most fans will agree now that he is probably looking towards the door. At only 23 still he can have a bright future but needs first team football in order to reach his potential, we cannot offer him that so a move in the form of either a loan or transfer looks likely. He will always be fondly thought of by Spurs fans for his comments in a post match interview against Barcelona in 2009, that is how to endear yourself to grown men.

AM – Lewis Holtby

He captained the German U21 side in this summer and was their stand out player however Holtby didn’t quite have that same impact in his first 6 months in Engalnd after joining from Schalke for €1.75m. While many, including myself, thought that his brand of quick passing link up play would work wonders in this Spurs team he has found himself the victim of Bale’s rise and subsequent change of position. Holtby is an attacking midfielder by trade, he is most effective there and clearly he prefers to play there, as Bale moved into the middle Holtby saw less game time. He is an immense talent however and I fully expect him to have a big impact on the team this coming year.

AM – Gylfi Sigurdsson

AVB’s first signing at £9m Sigurdsson has had a relatively quiet year at White Hart Lane, despite interest from Liverpool he chose to come to Spurs after a successful year at Swansea. He scored 7 goals in all competitions and at only 23 has plenty of time to solidify that first team place, he was as much a victim of the Bale scenario as Holtby was and saw his appearances often limited to the left wing after Christmas. The club clearly rate him however and have plans as he was the subject of a rejected bid from Reading in January, the fee was reported to have been more than we paid for him so Levy could have been tempted. I for one am pleased he is still at the club and is one of a number of young players that could well have a defining season coming up.

RW – Aaron Lennon

Having been at the club 8 years now Lennon is a permanent fixture at the Lane, and his performances this past year have been among some of his finest. He played more games than any season previous and even represented the club as captain, while many bemoan his final ball and decision making sometimes it is easy to forget he has only recently turned 26 and as hasn’t even reached the peak of his career yet. Lennon is a vital part of this Spurs squad and when he is absent his presence is missed sorely, he gives the team a shape and an outlet that is reliable especially when playing in front of Walker. With Bale transitioning into the middle he is the only pure winger the first team has (with the exception of Townsend) and his position in the side is rarely threatened. He should enter the top 25 players with the most appearances for the club next season with a good chunk of his career ahead and a contract with Spurs until 2016.

AM/FW – Clint Dempsey

It felt as though Levy only splashed out £6m on the American to rub it in Liverpool’s faces and damage their hopes for the season, he succeeded there but what has Dempsey done for Spurs? The answer is a surprisingly large amount. He is a player popular with our stateside fans but not so much over here, while admittedly he has scored a number of important goals at important times his contribution is just not comprehensive enough. No one knows his best position or how best to utilize him which is a problem before he steps foot on the pitch, he played the tail end of the season from the left in the absence of Bale which any Fulham fan will tell you is where he is deadliest. Problem is that his set up play is not of a high enough quality, in the box Dempsey is as clinical as they come but can’t lead the line himself. Perhaps we will see more of him next season, perhaps not, 12 goals in his first season is impressive enough and along with the added interest from American fans there is enough reason to keep him around the first team.

AM/LW – Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale’s season needs it’s own post entirely and cannot be done justice in a short paragraph. The Welshman has evolved from a very good player into one of the worlds best. He is settled, has a young family, a manager he clearly enjoys playing under, fans that adore him and is the proverbial big fish in a small pond. There is no need to move at this point in his career and I believe he knows this, we will have the privilege of watching him represent Spurs again I’m sure of it. 26 goals in a season from midfield is a spectacular haul and one not even seen by the club in nearly 20 years since Jurgen Klinsmann, his 21 in the league is a record that stretches even further back to the 91 season when Lineker scored 28. While he scores goals for fun that is not what sets Bale apart, he has the same ability that Ronaldo and Messi have and it is the most deadly weapon in the modern game, he can just run past an entire team. We have seen him do it time and time again this season, no one wants to bring him down either as his free kick technique is among the best in the world, his final product is breathtaking at times and it really is an honor to watch him play in the colors of Tottenham Hotspur. The fact that our club can develop talent like this will not be overlooked by the worlds brightest young stars and Bale’s impact on world football will be felt by our club for seasons to go regardless of where he ply’s his trade.

GB Florida

ST – Emmanuel Adebayor

After signing for the club for £5m Adebayor seemingly gave up, except I think we all knew this was going to happen. He is a player that will only perform when he needs to prove himself, which is why he was so strong for us in the previous season as his career at the top level (and a potential 100k+ a week contract) was on the line. Towards the end of the last campaign fans began to voice their feelings towards his poor performances, he was left out of the team and what do you know Adebayor begins actually trying for a few games. While I have never been his biggest advocate for me he is not earning the money Levy is paying him at Spurs and the best outcome for everyone is to find him a new club with plenty of money, there are a few popping up in France? 5 goals in the league from a striker that once scored 24 in a single premier league campaign is not good enough, if there was a hatful of assists I could overlook it but he has 2… Time to move on.

ST – Jermain Defoe

There has been a lot of talk about Defoe leaving this summer, the player is the 7th leading goal scorer the club has ever had with 133 goals, the fans are unanimous in their appreciation of him and at the minute he is our best striker and our most prolific. While he is now entering the latter stage of his career there is no reason why he wouldn’t still be utilized at the club he has now spent a combined decade, he is the most natural English goalscorer of his generation and has an impressive return for the national side. I expect one of the strikers to be sold this summer and replaced, the right decision is to keep Defoe, he is a more effective substitute that Adebayor for one as I believe whichever stays will be playing a role from the bench.

Special Mention

Danny Rose

With just about everyone associated with the club saying he was their outfield player of the season Danny Rose has given himself a real chance of first team football next year at Spurs. With AVB reportedly telling BAE that he can leave this summer it would leave only one left back in the first team, Naughton and Vertonghen are more than capable of covering but if the manager was happy with Rose replacing BAE then he has at least 5 months to prove what he can do. The fans will back him as everyone remembers his debut strike but not for long if the performances aren’t up to scratch. I still believe he will be 2nd choice after someone else (yet to be brought) but it would be refreshing to see the young Englishman be backed and given a real chance.

Adam Smith

A decent season with the majority spent on loan at Millwall the young right back faces tough competition in the first team so another loan spell, perhaps to a lower Premiership club could be the best way to go next season. He has bags of potentiall and has played a respectable number of games in the past 3 years, he could still yet ‘come good’ much like Rose has done this year.

Heurelho Gomes 

Time to move on… Permanently

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Headline = Bale… Again

Bale

There is something strangely satisfying about watching your team play poorly yet escape with all three points. It’s the same euphoric feeling that you got as a kid stealing sweets, or as an adult stealing someones wife. You shouldn’t get away with it but by god it’s good when you do. After playing Southampton it felt precisely like this because we ‘robbed em’ plain and simple, they had the better game-plan, executed it better, were more of a threat offensively and looked more robust defensively. Sir Alex said that Pochettino’s Southampton side were the best team to play at Old Trafford this season and they weren’t far off it at White Hart Lane. Fact is though that we won the game thanks to yet another individual effort from Mr 3rd best in the world as everyone seems intent on catagorising him as. The team were not good enough on Saturday, even Bale (apart from the goal) was quiet. This poor performance however has allowed us as a collective fan base to experience something, this is what it feels like as an Arsenal fan… It’s an empty old existance.

The reason behind the performance may have something to do with the nerves that have permiated the club and the fans in recent weeks, Chelsea haven’t fallen away like many had hoped and Arsenal are somehow keeping their run going. This means our future is in our own hands and we can’t allow for one slip up, naturally in this situation the nerves set in pre match as this was in every sense of the word a must-win game what with Chelsea coming up in the week. The team did not cope well with the added expectaion and could not settle into a rhythm, granted this was in part due to Southampton’s far superior movement around the pitch but for the entire first half they were in control of the game and looked comfortable.

Changes were made to the team both forced and unforced with Dembele, Dempsey and Lennon being replaced, this did little to effect the game until the 80th minuite. It was as though everyone in White Hart Lane simultaniously looked up at the clock and said to themselves time to stop fucking about. The team pushed forward and the winning goal began to look more likely, going to Chelsea on Wednesday would always be hard but to do so on the back of anything less than a win would be the end of our season. Bale certainly knew this and there was an aire of inevitablility about it when he picked the ball up on the right up against his so called protege Shaw, (Levy should be dusting the cheque book off for him this summer) cut in and fired home his 20th in the league this season.

After picking up all the awards this season if he drags us into the Champions League he will write himself into Spurs folklore, the first player to score 20 in the league for nearly 20 years and if/when he does depart us it will be for the kind of money that could really help build a new stadium…

Up next is Chelsea on Wednesday, we are not expected to win which is only a good thing at this point and may allow for some of the players to relax and play their game more. If we loose then it is out of our hands and we then rely on other teams, our run in includes two teams that play on Monday night so hopefully after that game at least one of the two is safe from relegation. Arsenal’s run in includes two teams that look as though they will be battling for survival in Wigan and Newcastle so their final games are anything but guaranteed points. Chelsea meanwhile have a Europa League final to contend with as well as the in-form Villa and Everton on the final day of the season, again these are difficult games to call so regardless of the result midweek this battle for Champions League football will go down to the wire.

Games like Chelsea on Wednesday are the ones that you can judge characters by, you can judge the managers decisions and the players actions. You can judge the season by it, this game is Tottenham’s most important in a long time, the stakes are so high for both clubs. These are the kind of games you love football for, when the fixture list throws you one that has real importance for both teams, one in which you can leave all rational, reason and sense at the turnstiles and be immersed for two hours.

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It’s all in the Subs

Defoe vs City

And with three substitutions AVB effectively saved the season.

Of course credit has to go to those three substitutes for changing the game in the manner in which they did. Huddlestone brought a calmness to the team, a composure that was lacking in the opening hour, while Parker is very good at what he does the more creative choice, Huddlstone shone in the middle of a midfield three that looked more mobile, clinical and compact than City’s in the final half hour.

Holtby came on and did what he does best, move the ball around. He plays with the enthusiasm of a 12 year old, always wanting the ball, making space and finding time to link play. Like Huddlestone he managed to rack up an assist after entering the fray and will have done his chances of starting the next game no harm at all.

The third and final season-saving substitution was Jermain Defoe. Having not scored in the league this year and with Adebayor beginning to cement his place this was a huge chance for Defoe who was returning from injury. He took his chance with what was the epitome of a Jermain Defoe goal, an early strike that beat the keeper at his far post. Defoe has forged a career doing just that and is not done yet. The shot was excellent, which is more than can be said for Kompany’s defending, shepherding him inside is suicide… He had been dealing with Adebayor for an hour though so perhaps he got confused, shepherding Ade inside is essentially as good as putting the ball out for a throw in.

These three substitutions, the formation change that happened to accommodate the subs and Bale gaining some confidence from his assist all contributed to the turn-around and ultimate victory. There was something quite satisfying about beating City, not because of their millions but because last season we lost away to them after a great fun of form. That effectively ended our push to challenge for the title (as if there was one) and set the course for the remainder of the season. This time around it was a bit different, while a loss would have ended our European aspirations a win only helped our claim for the right to play in the Champions League, to be the best you have to beat the best and that is exactly what we have done against both City and United this year. Another highlight for AVB’s CV should Madrid cast their eyes over him in the Summer.

I said a while back that it would likely be Chelsea we would again be fighting with for a top four finish, this hasn’t changed as Woolwich still seem to be scraping 1-0’s at bottom of the league clubs, keeping them in contention. Our next game is away at Wigan, an attractive team that, if they do get relegated, will be my pick to win the Championship next year, as it is they shouldn’t be where they are for the football they play and this will be no walk-over, to make things worse they really are struggling for survival.

Meanwhile Chelsea now embark on a very busy patch for them that will see their squad tested, the fact that we are not in the Europa League any more might not be such a big issue now i think about it…

 

 

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There’s always next year…

I was looking forward to a trip to Amsterdam as well…

It’s hard to argue though, that over the two legs Basel weren’t the best team. They were organised, compact, quick and clinical throughout both ties. While many felt that we were gifted the easiest route to the semi-finals, any fans of the Swiss Super league would have to have disagreed. The Swiss youth system is making waves around European football and many are predicting they will become a real force in International football in the next decade. (think Belgium five years ago). Despite loosing their two star players last summer, Shaqiri and Xhaka to the Bundesliga Basel managed to again strengthen with signings such as Sauro and Mohamed Salah, the latter of which introduced himself to the European stage at Tottenham’s expense.

AVB spoke post-match about how he was proud of his players, how they had showed England you can compete on both Thursdays and Sundays. He did not bemoan them for faltering against Swiss opposition, nor did he look to excuses in injuries, because to be quite honest Spurs were lucky to even make it to penalties.

It wasn’t a case of playing poorly over two legs, it was a case of being outplayed by a team with a plan and who executed it professionally, after the first leg Villas-Boas said that they had played the best team to visit White Hart Lane this season. When you consider who has played at the ground in the past 7 months that is incredibly high praise. The movement, variety and effectiveness of Basel’s front three was what won them the tie, a perfect mix between pace, power and technique will see the Swiss champions go far both domestically and in Europe.

For Tottenham the loss has a very slim silver lining, the focus is now on the league.

Six games to go and it is very tight for Champions League places, the run in could be worse with four of the final games all against mid-lower (predicting) league teams, there is a very interesting fixture in the middle of the run-in though against Chelsea that could decide both clubs fate next season.

I have a suspicion that Chelsea’s league form will begin to slip in the coming months, they have difficult fixtures against some good teams as well as a derby with Fulham. The F.A cup and Europa League should prove distractions and they too will have to travel to Switzerland in two weeks time. Thinking of Chelsea not getting in the top four two years running is extremely decadent and i’m sure AVB would like to indulge in this come the end of the season.

The other contender for those two spots has, bar a visit from United, a relatively easy run-in. They have been extremely lucky this season to still be where they are, we have seen that team scrape more victories this season than ever before yet they still sit with a chance and can jump to third by winning their game in hand. As much as i hate to say it i think they will be playing in Europe’s elite competition come next season.

Nine days now before the visit of Manchester City. A few months ago we were talking about overtaking them in second place, now a victory will most likely only be enough to regain that fourth spot for a little. The rest (thank you Chelsea) should help the squad and allow some players time to heal up, Kabul for one has earmarked the City game as his return.

Finally the guy that threw the Banana at Bale in the derby game has been fined. His solicitor said he had attended “dozens” of matches before… Typical Arsenal.

 

 

 

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Keep The Faith

AVB Sword

Faith in football is fleeting, it works in transient stages. Pre-Liverpool the majority of the Spurs faithful were confident, excited to see what the rest of the season had in store. They were assured by AVB’s comments regarding the teams fitness levels competing in the Europe League. Three defeats in a week and the belief is dwindling, excuses have been presented and rebuffed by the manager, unwilling to bemoan the European competition this is one AVB clearly feels would cement his reputation if he were to lift it with two different clubs.

And so the debate begins, a single slip up against Fulham (Liverpool was not a game we were expected to win) and AVB is ‘in a state of denial’ as one article put it. Reminds me of Villas-Boas early days in charge and the then pro-Arry brigade, only this time the debate is if we should even compete seriously in Europe like every major club or sack it off like the infinitely wise Redknapp did.

It would seem that for the next two weeks this is the narrative, top four or Europa League. Of course this is the narrative constructed for us fans and by no means will it permeate through to the club. If we are led to believe it is one or the other and that we cannot compete for both then we are more likely to alter our expectations of the team. When AVB does not rest players for the seemingly lesser Europa League, fans reaction will be that of outrage, themselves choosing top four over cup glory as if it will have any bearing under this AVB reign.

The manager has a clear vision, one that does not account for quaint stories or records but one that is focused on trophies, progression and attractive football. He is aware of the demands that can be placed upon a professional footballer and is not afraid to work the players. This should be welcomed by fans, for 70k a week they should be able to play for 180 mins shouldn’t they? Simply put AVB will not alter his methods for the few that will demand it, he believes professional footballers can be asked to play twice a week to their highest capabilities and I for one have faith in that.

There is a fortnight now to prepare for the final part of the season, in December when we were shipping late goals AVB countered it in training and the results are history, he now has a similar opportunity to put the time in with what players are left at the club and will no doubt use some of the down-time to prepare tactically for upcoming teams, there is one other factor that has been largely forgotten that could play a part in the closing stage of the season.

I am of course talking about Younes Kaboul, who should have regained a good deal of his fitness in two weeks and will no doubt be looking at making an impact in the remaining eight games, arguably our best defender, Kaboul’s presence has been missed this season. If you were to say last year we would be fourth in March with no King, Kaboul, Modric or VDV I’m sure most would have taken it.

At this stage, as I said earlier, there are some loosing faith. They have been psychologically battered for years though so who can blame them. As a club we are close to achieving our goals, but at the same time there is still a long way to go and normally in this situation we start to falter. In steps AVB and his no-nonsense, non-superstitious approach to the game, he will not pay credence to the ‘close but not quite’ history this club has in modern football, instead he will ensure level heads and confidence prevails.

We will compete in the Champions League next year, our squad will be stronger, Bale will stay, Sandro will be fit again, and we may even have some (new) fond memories of Amsterdam. Keep the faith.

 

 

 

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That’s Just The Tottenham Way

San Siro

That wasn’t fun.

To put it plainly AVB got his tactics wrong on the night. Everyone could see what he attempted to do by playing two strikers in a fixture like that, but it clearly didn’t work. Instead of the comfortable tie that should come naturally with a 3-0 advantage we were subjected to 120+ minutes of classic make it hard for ourselves Tottenham, at least it brought back some memories.

I don’t want to linger on this result for long, certain players are more culpable than others but by a large that was a poor team performance when assessing the task at hand. The manager will have learned a lot from last night and hopefully we’ll be reminiscing fondly on the trip to the San Siro from Amsterdam in May.

We are through and that’s what matters, the game was again marred by racist chanting. Something that has quite shockingly become very familiar for Spurs players this season. I’ll go ahead and presumptuously write that Eufa are going to do sod all about it as per usual, if they continue to not seriously deal with the issue then expect this kind of thing to keep happening. All we can hope for is that we don’t draw any more Italian clubs… Or Russian… Or Turkish for that matter.

The draw for the next round has been made and it looks like Basel, regular readers will be aware of my time spent reporting on the Swiss Super League this season as it’s been my only excuse for some late articles. I have watched Basel several times this season at St. Jakob-Park and while they are far from the team that beat Manchester United last season (Shaqiri leaving for Bayern being the main difference) they are still very useful and do pose more of a threat than the Spurs community will give them credit for. More on Basel closer to the time though.

We welcome Martin Jol and his Fulham side to the lane Sunday, while a few players have just been through 120 minutes of match time there are still plenty that will line up Sunday fresh as a daisy, Bale, Lloris and Dawson to name a few. Fulham are a strange side, under Jol they are the epitome of mid table, a gamblers dream they tend to win when they should and loose when they should, when its tough to call they tend to draw. That being said Fulham are 11/2 so hopes are high.

This is the part I’m supposed to talk about Berbatov, say things about his grace and technique. It’s not happening today, I’m still feeling the effects of the 4-1 so the last thing any of us need is to speculate over old Dimitar coming back to dent our Champions League aspirations. Instead I will just remind everyone that we won the corresponding fixture 3-0 in December.

Bale is back, as is Lloris, both strikers are fit and Dempsey could return to the squad. While Fulham have few injuries they have the worst record in London derby’s this season while Spurs have the best, on top of this we have won the past 6 fixtures in the league.

Bale inspired win written all over it.

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Liverpool vs Spurs – Nothing Lasts Forever

Untitled

Watching Spurs on Sunday made me all kinds of nostalgic, and not in a good way. In a, this is the Spurs i remember, self sabotaging, mistake laden, could be but not quite’s.  Now that may seem harsh, 3rd in the league, quarter-final in Europe probably on the cards etc, and it is, but the fact is i grew up watching Spurs never quite get ‘there’ when they were so close. While I do believe we will compete in the Champions League next season and am a huge proponent of the modern possession/pressing game at Spurs, there was something familiar about watching a run of games like that come to such an end. Four individual mistakes cost us two goals and with that our unbeaten record.

AVB has no time for superstition or narrative, and nor should he, Sunday for him was simply a case of several individual errors compounded by playing against a good Premiership side. Kyle Walker was bemoaned at the start of the season for making decisions such as the one to play the ball back to Lloris, since our good run of form he has improved and looked to have cut out these lapses in concentration, hopefully this was a reminder to him that he needs to stay focused for 90 full minutes and not play balls so carelessly. If it was a contest between the two England right backs he certainly came out the weaker.

Lloris can not be blamed for the goal to the extent Walker can, he was quick off his line to even get a touch, as it turned out the touch was straight into Downing’s path. That made the game 2-2, a result i’m sure 99% of supporters from both teams would have taken, until Defoe, who really is in a poor bit of form, decided to put Suarez through on goal at which point BAE thought a lunge in the box on one of the most elusive players to have ever played in this country would be wise. The result was a Gerrard goal and a 3-2 loss.

I guess the players were due one poor result, what makes it all the worse though is that Spurs were the better team, Bale with two assists and Vertonghen with two good goals should have been enough to see Liverpool’s top four dreams crushed, instead they have eyes for Arsenal…

Come the end of the season, if we are in the top four, Liverpool are 5th, and Arsenal behind them with not even Europe League football on the horizon then i will look back on this game and smile for we have in that defeat made Arsenal’s task quite a bit harder, now they have a real in form team coming off the back of their biggest win of the season hunting them down in 5th. The other two Europa League spots will go to Swansea and either Millwall, Blackburn or Wigan leaving only one available for a league finish, this will be fifth, so not only is there a ‘race’ for the top four but a lesser race for 5th taking place now.

I don’t want to linger on this defeat for long, Inter on Thursday with no Bale but a 3 goal lead, there should be a few changes to the team but not wholesale.

Don’t be too down, you didn’t think it would last forever did you?

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