When looking through a Tottenham Hotspur team sheet you will never be short on flair and attacking creativity. Rafael van der Vaart, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale are just a few of the names that possess the skill to win Spurs’ matches in the attacking third. But the one glaring admission that haunted Tottenham last season was a lack of a genuine leader. Much was said about Tottenham’s failure to reach the Champions League last season but was the lack of this big character the reason Spurs’ missed out on the top four?
Every successful team needs that a natural leader on the pitch as well as on the sidelines. The Premier League is rife with big characters who can drive their team forward (for example John Terry at Chelsea, Steven Gerrard at Liverpool and Rio Ferdinand at Manchester United). The Spurs’ team is never short on quality but across the squad there is a lack of leaders to inspire and organise the team. Many Spurs’ fans would argue that the natural leader of the team is Ledley King but unfortunately for Harry Redknapp, King continues to spend more time on the treatment table than he does on the pitch.
King only made nine appearances for Spurs last season in what was another frustrating campaign for the former England international. Injuries once again took their toll and whilst King has had successful knee surgery this week, doubts still remain over what role he can play for Tottenham next season. The absence of King and the effect that had of Spurs’ push for the top four last season can be seen in the stats for the 2009/10 campaign. That season King made 19 starts for Spurs in the Premier League and captained the side to a fourth placed finish, securing their Champions League entry.
Obviously the absence of King was not the only reason Spurs failed to make the top four. In such a competitive league with six teams pushing for four places, it was always going to be hard for Spurs to replicate a top four finish year on year. Spurs also dropped crucial points in the second half of the season, only struggling to draws against smaller clubs like Wolves, West Ham, Wigan and West Brom. But would a fully fit King have made a difference in those sort of games?
Well many of the dropped points and frustrating 0-0 draws may have been down to a lack of goals (with only 17 league goals scored by Jermain Defoe, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Peter Crouch combined). But King’s towering presence at the back may have helped in games like the 3-3 draw with Wolves, a fantastic spectacle for the neutral but one to make most Spurs’ fans tear their hair out! Spurs also have experienced pros in their ranks, with both Michael Dawson and William Gallas having experience in captaining teams.
King’s absence, combined with a lack of solid spine down the heart of Tottenham’s team, cost the London club last season. Whilst settling for the Europa League is not a disaster for Harry, he needs to invest in leaders across the pitch who can drive the team forward and compliment the raft of attacking threats that would make most Premier League managers jealous.
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