A blip, a bad patch, a baron streak and now freefall, Tottenham Hotspur are sinking without a trace from the summit of the Premier League. You could be forgiven for believing the dark clouds hovering over London at present were destined for White Hart Lane. Their solitary victory in nine league games makes for grim viewing as the Lilywhites continue to look a shadow of their former selves.
Just 12 months ago Scott Parker was basking in the glow of being recognised as the Football Writers player of year and yet just last week his inclusion as a nominee for the PFA award evoked a barrage of criticism. The demise of the England captain’s performances in recent weeks has undoubtedly mirrored his clubs ailing fortunes. At beginning of the season Parker was the same enigmatic driving force evident during his time at West Ham but it seems the 31-year-old is running on empty, as the intensity of the season takes it toll.
Without Parker at his tenacious best, Spurs look significantly weaker as a defensive unit. His central midfield partners Modric and Van Der Vaart are influential when they have the ball but anonymous without it. Aaron Lennon has the legs to consistently track back but his fragile frame means he’s is unlikely to dispossess many players surging forward. Bale on the other hand, despite being reared as a left-back, continues to drift inside into midfield obscurity where he makes little impact.
Harry Redknapp’s reliance on his favoured starting eleven may suit the few and far between games at International level but the rigours of club football demand the need for rotation. His other options for the anchorman role include Sandro and Jake Livermore, both players harbour a great deal of potential but have been allowed to rust away on the sidelines, hence limiting their effect when they do emerge from the bench.
As a result of Parker’s diminishing influence, Redknapp has found his defensive centre-back pairing, in his words, under the cosh of late. In my opinion the intermittent appearances of Ledley King serve only to disrupt a potential relationship growing between the likes of Gallas, Kaboul and Dawson. Of course they all share similar woeful injury records but it remains of vital importance that the centre-backs develop a trust and bond with one another, especially when there are two marauding full-backs in the side.
Perhaps we can bring United’s recent struggles into the equation, as they too lack the bite and steel of a player who will be dependable in front of the back four. This is the time in the season where these players prove their worth and are often the difference when it boils down to remaining resilient in the dying moments of the game. The return to form of Alex Song has aided Arsenal’s recovery whilst Newcastle look even more intimidating with Cheick Tiote back in the side.
Harry Redknapp was perhaps prematurely praised for his dealings in the January transfer window, especially considering the limited impact Saha has had since his brace against Newcastle. The dogged grit and determination of Steven Pienaar could surely be utilised in this faltering Spurs midfield and questions will surely be asked of Redknapp’s key decisions should they fail to obtain Champions League qualification.
This week Parker issued a rallying cry to his fellow team-mates insisting, “we need to stay positive and grind out the rest of the season and get fourth.” It’s certainly easier said than done as the previously conceived ‘easy run-in’ features three sides in the heart of a relegation battle, each of whom will be equally determined to grind out a result.
As a team who were once deemed title contenders, Parker sums up it best as he declares,
“If we don’t end up fourth we will have failed as a squad,”
Join me on Twitter @theunusedsub where I don’t think Spurs are quite desperate to hail the return of Peter Crouch