At a time of year known for over-indulgence, Spurs have gorged themselves on 10 points from 4 games and look like being back on course for a top 4 challenge.
In a season where points have been dropped more often than a pissed bloke in a pub brawl by most teams, last month’s defeat against Wolves was a reminder of the Spurs of old, leaking simple points and lacking a ruthless edge. The subsequent turnaround has shown that the current side are made of much more resilient stuff.
The bank holiday win against West Ham was typical of Spurs this season. We dominated the game with some attractive, controlled passing and generally looked a class act. With the constant threat of Aaron Lennon, the craft of Luka Modric and the newly energised Tom Huddlestone giving us a dynamism so lacking over the years, West Ham had no answer and the 2-0 score-line flattered them. Our newfound quality was highlighted by the fact that although Jermain Defoe was relatively quiet and Peter Crouch was unable to win many headers in threatening areas, we still won at a canter. Defoe’s goal at the end probably summed it up: even when our players aren’t quite at it, they’ve got the class to punish teams.
Despite the improvements, Harry Redknapp’s trick hasn’t been to impart Mensa-levels of tactical sophistication or to utilise computer-generated techno-methods involving heart monitors, green screens and holograms. He has simply used a bit of good old common sense:
Step 1: Buy good players in areas that they are needed i.e. Jermain Defoe, Wilson Palacios, Peter Crouch, Sebastien Bassong, Niko Kranjcar.
Step 2: Play them in the right positions.
Step 3: That’s it.
It’s amazing that so many bosses at White Hart Lane haven’t stumbled on this formula down the years, but what Redknapp has done is to give the side a balance unseen for quite a time. Pace, passing, movement, work-rate, power, mental toughness and defensive solidity all came together against our East End rivals and the performance followed accordingly.
There are still a couple of areas that pose difficulties for Tottenham in the coming months, namely consistency and the threat of injuries. If the first 11 can stay settled then you would expect the club to go places – Birmingham have started with the same line-up in their last 8 games, and look at their form. However, changes enforced by injury and absence could be a test as question marks still hang over many fringe members of the squad.
Gareth Bale will be the first one to audition for a starting place when Benoit Assou-Ekotto flies off for the African Cup of Nations, but the likes of David Bentley, Alan Hutton and even Roman Pavlyuchenko may be called upon before season’s end, and none have convinced that they can be relied upon lately. All appear to need 4 or 5 games to hit their stride, and at this time of year that’s a quarter of the remaining games. Spurs just can’t afford them that settling in period.
Fear of the injury-chimera is, of course, shared by every club in the league so it shouldn’t be dwelt on too much, but Redknapp may feel that a few canny deals in the January transfer window can minimise the damage of a bout of Swine Flu or plain bad luck. You certainly wouldn’t it past him to work some ‘Arry magic.