“Don’t panic!” cried Ledley King as he hobbled across the pitch, desperately trying to rally his stuttering team-mates as the unfamiliar sound of boos echoed around White Hart Lane. The club had suffered yet another setback, this time with defeat at the hands of Norwich, leading many to announce that the wheels are rapidly falling off the Tottenham bandwagon. If only Harry was a wheeler-dealer.
If we cast our minds back to February 11, Spurs had just run riot against a seemingly formidable Newcastle side and sat just five points off the top of the Premier League. New signing Louis Saha had bagged a brace on his home debut as things continued to look rosy for Harry Redknapp. The Lilywhites were riding the crest of a very impressive wave but now with the wind firmly out of their sails, the club is in real danger of drifting past those desirable European shores.
The January transfer window was to an extent a missed opportunity, as hoards of journalists eagerly awaited the next inspired acquisition from Harry Redknapp. Instead they were greeted by Louis Saha and Ryan Nelsen, two players who had long since celebrated their 30th birthdays and who shared a history of troublesome injuries that would arguably see them spend more time on the treatment table than on the pitch. However, morale was high and with Harry somewhat distracted elsewhere, the decision to purchase experience over youthful exuberance was hailed as a wise move.
Saha, through no fault of his own, has unfortunately created more problems than he has solved. Redknapp appeared desperate to justify his latest purchase and set about altering the successful formula of 4-5-1 to the untested and largely old-fashioned 4-4-2. Despite his double against the Toon Army, the Frenchman has only found the net once in his following eight appearances. Nelsen on the other hand was brought in to provide cover for the team’s ailing backline. However, with Dawson out for the season and King’s knee constantly surrounded by scaffolding, the New Zealander has found himself thrust into the first-team and he too has struggled with the intensity of life at the top.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but many would argue that Tottenham could have signalled their intent with a high profile signing. Lille sensation Eden Hazard has previously confirmed his interest in joining the North London club, perhaps his arrival in January would have been the perfect source of motivation to enable the club to progress. Other potential targets included Villarreal’s Giuseppe Rossi and Marseille’s Loic Remy who could have revitalised a strike force that was shrouded in mystery regarding the future of both Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe.
The current ‘crisis’ at Spurs is not simply down to the lack of transfer activity but rather Redknapp’s reliance or perhaps defiance over his ‘winning eleven’. His conversion to the new formation only further exposed a lack of squad depth, epitomised by the lack of competition and indeed cover for both his marauding full-backs. It’s no great mystery that Spurs rely on Van Der Vaart to implement their preferred 4-5-1 system effectively and seriously struggle for width in Lennon’s absence and when Bale inexplicably decides to go walkabout. The fact that eight players have started 27 league games or more highlights Redknapp’s much-publicised favouritism towards certain players, with the likes of Sandro and Livermore exhibiting a deficiency in match practice whenever they’ve been called upon.
Aside from the growing physical demands of their league and cup campaigns, Spurs have certainly struggled to overcome psychological barriers in recent weeks. The club were deemed heavy favourites for third place when their run-in revealed teams decorating the bottom half of the league. But complacency has borrowed its way into the mindset and suddenly their upcoming games against QPR, Blackburn and Bolton, three teams that are fighting relegation, look anything but a certainty.
Forgive me for dipping into the world of football clichés but it’s evident that this weekend’s FA Cup semi-final provides a much-needed ‘distraction’. In my personal view the momentum has swung back in Chelsea’s favour given their revitalisation under Roberto Di Matteo. Is that a sign of just how far Spurs have come, given that they could ever be described as favourites against a team like Chelsea, or does it show just how much far they’ve fallen from grace?
Find me on Twitter @theunusedsub where I’ll probably be having my roast dinner in front of the television given Sunday’s inconvenient kick-off time.
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