10 BIG Things That We Learned From Tottenham’s Season

Where did all the goals go? – Last season Spurs waltzed into the Champions League by securing 4th spot in the league. They scored 69 league goals in the process, with Jermaine ‘bunches’ Defoe top scoring with 18 goals. This season though the strikers appear to have completely forgotten where the back of the net is. Spurs scored just 55 league goals, fewer than West Brom, Newcastle and Blackpool. In total, last season Peter Crouch, Jermaine Defoe and Roman Pavlyuchenko, the club’s three recognised first-team strikers managed to bag 31 goals in 88 league appearances between them. This term though, they’ve scored a pitiful 18 league goals in 80 league appearances between them and the shortfall has proved crucial. No striker has stepped up their game. Defoe remains a frustrating figure incapable of performing against big teams and for large portions of a campaign. Peter Crouch is limited and Roman Pavlyuchenko continually fails to win the full trust of his manager. Rafael Van Der Vaart has often been preferred in a role just off the front man, and he has been an undoubted success story of their season, but has his inclusion unsettled the clubs other striking talent? Possibly, and the issue of a lack of guaranteed goals up top seriously needs to be properly addressed this summer – they can no longer skirt around the issue, Spurs require a top class striker otherwise all of their initial promise will begin to fade and they’ll return to joining the also-rans when there are so close to cracking the elite.

New Signings Bare Fruit – Well, not literally, but Redknapp has enjoyed a fair amount of success in the transfer market this season – just don’t call him a whealer dealer to his face, he doesn’t like that, bless him, the sensitive soul. Rafael Van Der Vaart has proven to be one of the success stories of the season. Arriving for an unfathomably cheap £8m from Real Madrid on deadline day, he found his way into the Spurs supporter’s hearts with a string of classy displays and a penchant for scoring important and spectacular goals and he‘ll go down as one of the bargains of the season. Sandro arrived from Internacional in Brazil for the hefty sum of £14m. While he has taken time to settle in and adjust to the pace of the league, where he once looked cumbersome and slow, his powerful approach has since paid dividends when given an extended run in the side, most notably in Europe. Sandro‘s growing importance also helps to cover-up the fact that Wilson Palacios is now a complete shadow of his former self, quite understandably since the death of his kidnapped brother. William Gallas came in on a free transfer and has excelled at the back, playing more than anyone had envisaged due to the expected defensive injury crisis that seems to be a yearly occurrence down at White Hart Lane now. Steven Pienaar was purchased from Everton for £3m in January – quite what Redknapp thought he was doing with that one is anyone’s guess. When you have someone like Niko Kranjcar just sitting on the bench every week itching to get on and show his worth, where is the logic in purchasing a similar styled player but with less end product in Pienaar? It was like Redknapp had grown so frustrated with his attempts to sign a striker that he just needed to sign someone to satisfy his insatiable appetite for doing a deal. A truly pointless and baffling signing that has rather unsurprisingly has failed to sparkle.

Failure to launch in cups – Spurs failed miserably in both domestic cups this season. They crashed out at the third-round stage of the Carling Cup to bitter rivals and neighbours Arsenal 4-1 in extra-time. With both sides fielding largely second-string line-ups, two Samir Nasri penalties in extra-time and a further goal added by Andrei Arshavin saw them dumped out. The FA Cup saw an even more embarrassing defeat rule them out of contention. After dispatching with Charlton 3-0 at White Hart Lane in the third-round, they were torn apart as a litany of defensive errors and lapses in concentration saw Fulham go 4-0 up at the break at Craven Cottage – luckily the score wasn’t extended even further, but it was a truly hapless display by Redknapp’s charges and saw a trip to Wembley all but ruled out for another season.

Continued on Page TWO

No Home Comforts – Spurs Champions League charge in 2009/10 was built upon their fantastic home record which saw them win 14 of their 19 allotted fixtures at White Hart Lane, with the feeling persisting that it could have been even better. This season though, Spurs have seriously let themselves down in front of their own fans. They won 9 and more importantly, drew 9 of their 19 home games this term. They were defeated by lowly Wigan earlier on in the season and dropped points to the likes of Sunderland, West Ham, West Brom and Blackpool which you simply cannot afford to do if you want to be challenging up the higher end of the table. They simply must do better at home next season. Inconsistency and a failure to put away their chances on home turf has ultimately cost the club Champions League football again next season. Man City won four more home games this season and Arsenal two more – they finished 9 and 6 points respectively behind Arsenal and Man City. If they had won the games they were expected to at White Hart Lane, they could quite feasibly had finished as high as third this term. Disappointing, frustrating and a missed opportunity.

League Lesser Lights Halt Title Charge – While we’re on the topic of dropped points against sides they should be beating. Spurs had a somewhat unremarkable away record this season, but then again, who didn’t? It was still the fourth best in the entire league, but yet again, it could have been so much better. To go along with the aforementioned dropped points at home, Spurs also contrived to lose away at West Ham, Blackpool and crucially Man City, add into the mix dropped points against Wigan, Wolves and Birmingham and you get the picture of a deeply inconsistent league campaign. This becomes particularly true when you factor in that they recorded superb wins on their travels against both Arsenal and Liverpool. The Jekyll and Hyde nature of this Spurs side and with it, their questionable temperament to put away the perceived lesser lights of the league meant you never truly knew which Spurs side would turn up on any given match day. The fact that out of a possible 18 points on offer against the eventual relegated trio, Spurs picked up just 3, you begin to grasp the story of their season.

Well that was exciting wasn’t it? – Spurs well and truly lit up the Champions League this season. Their gung-ho approach acted like a breath of fresh air to combat the usually dull as dishwater group stages. They qualified with a sumptuous attacking display at home to Young Boys Bern to help eradicate the memory of that horrific first half, away to the very same Swiss side in the first leg. In the group stages they qualified top of a difficult group containing FC Twente, Werder Bremen and holders Inter Milan averaging a magnificent three goals a game in the process. A Gareth Bale-inspired side fought back from 4-0 down to lose 4-3 at the San Siro, with Bale annihilating the best right back in the world Maicon along the way. The return leg two weeks later saw Spurs crowning achievement of their run, as they destroyed the Italian Champions and Champions League holders 3-1 with as professional and lively display as you were as likely to see all last season. In the first knockout phase they beat an under-par AC Milan side on aggregate to add to their boasting rights over the city. They came seriously unstuck against Real Madrid though at the quarter-final stage, where a mixture of ill-discipline, poor refereeing and goalkeeping howlers saw them lose 5-0 on aggregate to a rampant Real Madrid side. But there can no shame in bowing out of the competition at the stage and manner in which they did. Spurs were often patronised during their run; often seen as the plucky underdogs, but they’re better than that and to assign them that tag is to do a disservice to their exceptional play throughout their run. The Champions League was richer for their presence and they’ll be sorely missed in the competition next term – there aren’t many sides that you could say that about.

Continued on Page THREE

Transfer Window Shambles – The January transfer window was a complete and utter nightmare for Spurs this season as they were continually hampered by the lack of a coherent transfer policy. Their scattergun approach saw them bid for every half decent striker operating in Europe, often for preposterous sums, right before the deadline closed. I still find it troubling the lack of logic applied to the transfer window by some – when you have all month to sign someone, why leave it so late that the other club doesn’t have time to find a replacement? Desperation took hold and Redknapp was rumoured to have missed out on the likes of Rossi, Llorente, Aguero, Negredo, Benzema, Forlan and Edinson Cavani. To be fair, they are at least the calibre of target and striker that the side are just crying out for, but it should have been done sooner and been made a priority right from the start of the season. They also had an eleventh hour bid for a disgruntled Charlie Adam turned down – another truly bizarre move. A player in great form, certainly, but a player that Spurs had a need for, not in the slightest. While everyone around them strengthened, Spurs came up short and the finger cannot be pointed at anyone but their frustrated manager.

Post-January Blues – Spurs were right in the mix for the title after the festive period. There was a maturity and consistency to their play and there was genuine talk of them challenging the likes of Man Utd and Chelsea. But a spell of ten games from the away trip to Blackpool on February 22nd and the away trip to Man City on 10th May saw them pick up just 9 points from a run of fixtures that should have seen them walk away with over double that amount of points. This horrific run saw them go from title outsiders to outsiders for a Champions League qualification place. Was the squad simply too small to cope with the rigours of both the Champions League and the Premier League? Almost certainly and the club’s Champions League forays have ultimately cost them a place in the competition next year. With Redknapp rounding on fans in a quite frankly silly radio rant arguing: “They’re idiots who don’t even watch football. They say, ‘We were rubbish today’. The guys on the radio ask them if they were at the game, and they say, ‘No, I heard it on the radio’. When I start worrying about what they think, I’ll be in trouble. 99.9 per cent of people who go to Tottenham have loved everything they’ve seen. That’s all that matters” before adding that “Maybe expectations have been raised, but they don’t have any brains, they don’t understand.” Well, sorry to contradict you Harry old chum, but it may have been your good self that raised the fans expectations in the first place arguing after your 3-2 win over Arsenal back in November “You’ve got to aim for the top. We’re not writing ourselves off. We can beat anybody. This has put us right back in the race again. It’s wide open. If my players believe in themselves as much as I do, we can achieve anything.” Still, it won’t be the first time, nor the last that rent-a-quote Redknapp contradicts himself, for he is a man that changes his mood like the wind and has a penchant for rewriting history. His status as a media darling has granted an easy ride in the past and he’s routinely escaped criticism and closer inspection as a result. If he continues to raise then dash both expectations and the club’s ambition in the future, his overly communicative ways with the media may eventually come back to haunt him.

Caught In A Flap – Gomes is a tragic hero. There is no other way to put it. No other goalkeeper in the top flight flits between absurdly poor to magnificent with such consummate ease on such a regular basis. He’s a keeper’ that relies on his instinct and his reflexes, when tasked with making a decision, he can be woefully inept and he’s as error-prone as they come. A microcosm of Gomes’ Spurs career came last December in the away fixture against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. After letting a rasping drive from Didier Drogba under his body all too easily for Chelsea’s equaliser, Gomes then contrived to give away a penalty in the dying embers of the game – in a move that sums up his erratic and eccentric goalkeeping style, he went onto save the penalty and with help rescue a point for Spurs that he almost single-handedly gave away himself. Gomes is capable of the winning a game single-handedly, but the sheer regularity of his errors is now a cause for concern. It will be interesting to see whether he’s still the club’s number one goalkeeper next term after the recent arrival of the ever-dependable Brad Friedel at White Hart Lane on a free transfer from Aston Villa. However, you do get the feeling that with Gomes in the side and with his questionable big-game mentality, Spurs are always destined to fall just short of what’s required. Sadly, the madcap Brazilian, while occasionally a world-beater, may just be a little too inconsistent for a side with Spurs’ ambitions.

The Dependable Duo – One pleasing aspect of Spurs frustrating season has been the exceptional form of PFA Player of the Year Gareth Bale and the quietly effective Luka Modric. Bale may have garnered all the rave reviews and won the awards (given more for his great form in Europe and in the league last season as opposed to this year), but Modric’s efficiency, creativity and ability to dictate the game from deep have been a welcome boost, particularly when Tom Huddlestone has been absent. Many questioned whether the diminutive Croat was capable of playing in a four-man midfield in a league as bustling as ours, but his dynamic play has delighted the pundits and neutrals alike. Bale is now unquestionably one of the most feared wingers in the world. He needs to add more goals and end product to his game, but when he’s on form, he can be quite simply unstoppable. If Spurs can hold onto both of these for the foreseeable future, the future will remain bright at White Hart Lane.

Arbitrary marks out of Ten – 6.5/10 – Brilliant in Europe, patchy at best at home, Spurs have endured an uneven campaign. It promised so much but delivered so little. Improvements need to be made to the playing staff, most notably in goal and up top, but Spurs still possess a strong side and with two or three top quality additions, they could actually challenge for honours next season – just ask Harry, I’m sure he’ll think so too.