Without a shadow of a doubt the famous Champions League music will be ringing out at White Hart Lane next season. The bright lights of Europe’s premier club competition grow ever closer for Tottenham Hotspur as their domestic season draws nearer to its conclusion. Sitting comfortably in the Premier League’s top three with only the FA Cup to concern themselves with their time should be utilized effectively to ensure they can compete in a competition that has changed drastically during their year long absence.
Spurs’ enthralling debut campaign in the Champions League was cruelly terminated at the quarter-final stage by Real Madrid last year. A humbling defeat at the hands of the La Liga giants left supporters realising the squad would need to be strengthened if they were to compete with the best Europe has to offer. Whilst reaching the last eight was an achievement beyond the North Londoners’ wildest dreams its worth noting that emulating their feats of 2010/11 will be incredibly difficult. Big spending Manchester City and neighbours United were both knocked out of this seasons competition at the group stage whilst Arsenal and Chelsea are close to being nudged off the edge without so much as a whimper. With four of English footballs superpowers struggling to survive on the continent what hope to Tottenham have of surviving?
Arguably Spurs are a stronger side than they did 12 months ago. The addition of Emmanuel Adebayor, Brad Friedel and Scott Parker has transformed them into Premier League title contenders this season. The latter pair have been the unsung heroes at White Hart Lane this season with Friedel offering an experienced head behind a sometimes erratic back four. Younes Kaboul has been a shining light at centre half with Kyle Walker and Benoit Assou Ekotto also made of sturdier stuff. Parker has also received plaudits for his commanding displays in the engine room providing a license for Luka Modric to scheme and construct in the final third. Adebayor, should he stay, has provided the muscle they’ve lacked for so long and seems to have found a team capable of playing to his strengths. Along with the new additions a majority of the squad played together in their first Champions League adventure that took them on a wild ride to the quarter-finals.
Back then they were an unknown quantity with teams unable to fathom how to quell the threats posed by Gareth Bale and Modric. The Croatian is Spurs’ deadliest weapon when in possession and if given time to create he can split a defence in the blink of an eye. Bale is of a similar ilk. Inter Milan didn’t have the first clue how to address his speed and direct running on the night of his unforgettable San Siro hat trick. This time around they won’t have the element of surprise on their side making their task of progressing from the group stages a lot harder. Whilst they still play with the same fluid attacking style teams will have done their homework and will set out their stalls to try and neutralise their attacking threats taking out Tottenham’s principal route to goal and leaving them in need of fresh ideas. Getting the ball out to Bale or Aaron Lennon and asking them to run at the full backs just won’t cut it anymore. Modric will be man marked and choked of space and the lone striker will be nullified.
This is where manager Harry Redknapp is required to impart some tactical wisdom upon his side along with a lashing of his famed man management. Looking at it the 64-year-old will be the Lillywhites’ most potent weapon as they prepare for another assault on Europe. The job he has done at White Hart Lane in just over three years is nothing short of remarkable taking the club from the relegation zone to the brink of a title challenge in such a short space of time.
Redknapp has crafted arguably the best Tottenham squad in 60-years and it’s little wonder he is the front runner to take over the vacant England job. And therein lies the biggest problem that could dash the clubs dream of competing at the highest stage in Europe. Should he be tempted to take the national reigns where would that leave Spurs? Who else could possibly fill his shoes? Quite frankly it’s not even worth thinking about. When he took over the dressing room was filled with individuals. There was no cohesion, no togetherness and a lack of unity. Redknapp soon sought to that and the turnaround during his time in the dugout has transformed the club in a manner no one thought possible. His fabled ability to get the very best out of his players has ignited Bale’s career turning from an expensive flop into one of the best left sided players in the world. It’s not just the Welshman that has benefitted from the 64-year-0ld’s approach. Assou-Ekotto, Kaboul, Lennon, Modric and Kyle Walker to name a few have all undergone a metamorphoses under Redknapp’s leadership.
To say Tottenham are well equipped to compete in the Champions League next season would be jumping the gun. Yes, they have a squad capable of standing toe-to-toe with the very best but Redknapp is the cement that holds the structure together. His future at the club will determine how well they do when battle commences with Europe’s finest.
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