Tottenham’s dream of a second consecutive season in the Champions League came crashing down on Tuesday night when they lost 1-0 to Manchester City at Eastlands. At the start of the season Harry Redknapp harboured optimistic thoughts that his side could challenge for the title this term, whereas now the prospect of European football appears bleak. Tottenham travel to Anfield at the weekend and a defeat would extinguish their hopes of playing in the Europa League, which would round off a poor end to the season. Tottenham’s league form deteriorated after they conquered AC Milan in the knock out phase of the Champions League. Can Spurs blame their collapse towards the end of the season on the demands of the Champions League?
Rather than the demands of the Champions League taking its toll on the players, I’d be more inclined to suggest that Spurs put more emphasis into the Champions League than the Premiership. They would often rest players in league games ahead of big Champions League encounters, almost making the Champions league a priority over the Premier League. Spurs have not been the same side since they beat AC Milan and this was again evident last Saturday. After Everton beat Man City Tottenham went into their home game against relegation threatened Blackpool, knowing a win would give them a fantastic chance of grabbing fourth place. As we know, Spurs failed to beat the Tangerines and it took their poor run of form to one win in thirteen games. Tottenham’s failure to qualify for the Champions League has ultimately stemmed from underperforming at the business end of the season.
Would it be fair to say that even though Tottenham made it to the quarter finals of the Champions League, this season has been a failure? According to William Gallas that is exactly what this season has been, he is quoted in the Daily Mail as saying “Even if people say “you had a great season”, I don’t think so”. Gallas is well aware that it’s the players who have to take responsibility for the team’s shortcomings. The most obvious inadequacy that has lead to Spurs omission from the top four is their inability to see off the so called smaller sides in the Premier League. Spurs have only taken maximum points on one occasion against the bottom four this season and Gallas believes Tottenham may have taken their lower league opposition for granted, “When we play against the small teams, maybe – I say maybe – we thought we had won before we played, so perhaps that’s the mistake we made”. Manager Harry Redknapp must take his share of the blame for his team’s performances against the lesser sides. It may be a case of him getting the tactics wrong or not motivating his players in the same way as he does for the big games.
I think most Spurs fans would be quick to blame this season’s failure on their front men, as the goals have not flowed from their three strikers. Four goals for Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe and eight for Roman Pavlyuchenko is not a good enough return from the forwards of a club challenging for a Champions league spot. It’s hard to pinpoint why they haven’t fired on all cylinders this season! One could argue as to whether Harry should have let Robbie Keane go out on loan in the January transfer window without signing a replacement? However, surely the three strikers he had at his disposal, along with Rafael Van Der Vaart should have been sufficient.
Then we come to the much maligned Heurelho Gomes. The Brazilian stopper has produced the good, the bad and the ugly this season. Gomes is capable of the sublime at times, however his tendency to also make horrendous errors often overshadows the great saves he makes. I think Harry should have been more ruthless with Gomes after his continual mistakes and replaced him with Carlo Cudicini. A top four side needs a dependable goalkeeper and if Spurs are to challenge again next season maybe Gomes’ time is up.
With no Champions League football next season Spurs are likely to lose the pulling power they had last summer which enabled them to attract Van Der Vaart. Furthermore, their top performers such as Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Van Der Vaart will want to be playing in Europe’s elite club competition, so Spurs must get it right next season to satisfy the needs of their stars.
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