The new season is about to begin and there is a growing sense of optimism in the Spurs camp. With the last season ending in heart-breaking 4th place and a missed opportunity of football at the highest level in Europe, Spurs are going into the season with even greater drive and enthusiasm to ensure that they finish in the top 4, if not challenge for the title.
With the departure of Harry Redknapp, Daniel Levy had taken the right step of appointing Andre Villas-Boas. While many may point to the dismal failure of his tenure at Chelsea, it has to be noted that Tottenham do not have the kind of players who would openly show dissent towards the manager and question his team selection and strategies. The chances that AVB can be a success at White Hart Lane are higher than what many pundits and fans have given him.
Last season had promised so much for Spurs but in the end, it turned out to be too little. For almost half the season, Tottenham were within catching distance of the Manchester clubs and had a genuine chance of overtaking them to even clinch the title. But after the resignation of Fabio Cappello as England manager, Spurs began to spiral downward. With rumours in the media going strong that Harry Redknapp was a shoo in for the post vacated by Cappello, the attention shifted from events on-field to the off-field circus.
This was also aided by Harry’s court trial which saw the team squander a 13-point lead over hated neighbours Arsenal and fall behind them to go back to 4th place. They never really recovered from that, but they pulled themselves together to give themselves a chance to clinch third. Arsenal however, never gave them a chance. Even when the Gunners did slip, Spurs, as well as Newcastle, were unable to take advantage. With Chelsea’s unexpected Champions League victory, even 4th place was not enough to earn them a place in Europe’s elite club competition and for now, they will have to once again be satisfied with the Europa League.
Louis Saha and Ryan Nelsen have been released whereas Niko Kranjcar has been sold to Dynamo Kiev. Luka Modric is also looking to make a move away from White Hart Lane and this leaves a lot to be desired in the attacking department. Jermaine Defoe apart, there seems to be no forward in the team and this needs to be addressed before the start of the new season. Steven Pienaar has also returned to Everton, after enduring a nightmare one-and-a-half years at the Lane, spending the second half of last season on loan at his former Club.
The only additions that Spurs have made so far are that of Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson. Both are solid signings that would really add to the squad and solve a few problems. Jan’s signing was especially helpful as Ledley King will no longer be part of the team after his announcement of retirement. He would be able to provide quality in defence, which was missing everytime King ended up on the treatment table, which was rather often. Sigurdsson would also be a value addition as he can add bodies to midfield in case Modric does leave the team for supposedly greener pastures. Unless the Spurs sign some more quality players and sort out Modric’s situation, it will once again be a difficult start to the season.
While every club’s fans would like to believe that they would be champions at the end of every season, the fact remains that only one team can win the title. While Spurs may have felt that they were in on a chance for the title last season, it would be difficult to maintain that kind of charge this time round. With Chelsea and Arsenal significantly improving their squads and the Manchester Clubs looking stronger than ever, it will be a hard battle for Spurs to even stay in the top 4. But if AVB’s tactics are applied on the field by the Spurs players, then there will be a good chance for them to pip one or two of the big clubs and finish higher than expected.
While it was Luka Modric who carried the team last season, it seems he’s destined to leave the club in search of greener pastures. With Ledley King hanging up his boots, the onus is now on Gareth Bale and Van der Vaart to take the team forward. Fans would be looking to Bale to get the team going on the offensive and keep a fluid attacking motion. He would be the go to man for creating chances and his team mates would be looking up to him as he’s the most technically gifted of them all. If they can add Emmanuel Adebayor to their ranks, it would make it easier for Bale as there would be a player in the team that he knows who can head the ball if the cross is right. With only Defoe in the forward line so far, Bale would have a huge responsibility on his shoulders.
Andres Villas Boas used a 4-3-3 formation at Porto and is likely to do the same at Spurs as well, in spite of his failure at Chelsea. But during pre-season, Spurs were predominantly using the 4-2-3-1 formation, which they were used to. Andres Villas Boas needs to decide whether he wants to continue with the same formation or switch to his preferred 4-3-3. While his 4-3-3 would be more fluid and would be based on the weaknesses of the opposition, it is something that needs to be drilled in early into the team to avoid mistakes when the season starts. Harry Redknapp tried to change the team’s formation in the middle of last season and that proved to be disastrous to say the least. Spurs went on a downward spiral and only recovered once they reverted to their usual formation. If the 4-2-3-1 formation is used, it is likely that it would be Sigurdsson who would play in the more advanced role, with Bale and Van der Vaart on either wings and Defoe (or Adebayor, if signed) as the lone striker.
A finish in the top 4 is a must as the fans want to see the elite European clubs once again after the scintillating quarterfinal run in the club’s lone Champions League campaign. But it will harder than before as there would be as many as 7 clubs vying for those 4 places, with each club making significant signings in the transfer market. Along with a place in the champions league, a good run in the FA cup and the League cup would be good for morale since it has been 4 years since the League cup was won.