Before inevitably taking the post as England manager after Fabio Capello slumps more than he has ever slumped before this summer, Harry Redknapp has realistic title hopes to contend with; unless of course Jack Wilshere ’s positiveness acts as a catalyst for Wenger’s warriors to push on to a second half of the season surge. When the returning injured midfielder was asked if Arsenal could win the Premier League he replied with, “Why not?” To add to the credentials of his statement he also said of Wayne Rooney ’s match ban reduction, “his brain is miles ahead of most English players,” in a ringing endorsement to the average IQ of the England football team. In what just seems like a subtle, rivalry-induced, agenda against Tottenham Hotspur, he’s also plumped Wenger as direct competition for Redknapp, not only in the Premier League but for the England job, “[Wenger] and Sir Alex Ferguson are the best managers in the league and, if the boss at Arsenal wanted the job with England, I’d be delighted with that.”
However, if a North London club are to compete with Manchester City , and maybe Manchester United , I’d hedge my bets against Wilshere’s boyhood club and sit on the white side of the divide. Their run of late is admirable: before the weekend they sat in 3rd place with the potential to leapfrog Manchester United with their game in hand and were on a six game winning streak that was unmatched; their only defeaters sat above them. Tottenham fans will be hoping Stoke was a blip, in an otherwise brilliant run of results.
Looking at their January fixtures, you’d forgive Tottenham for thinking they could pick up near-maximum points: they play 4 of their 5 games that month at White Hart Lane and 3 of the teams currently occupy positions in the wrong half of the table. West Brom, Everton and Wolves are their first three games at the Lane and after an easy away day at The Etihad, they return to their home ground to knock five shades of blue and white into bottom-of-the-table Wigan Athletic. If on paper, their fixtures don’t look manageable enough for you, they have won 10 of their last 12 games and have already beaten 3 of the 4 teams they’ve already faced from their January calendar.
If getting knocked out of the European tournament that Harry Redknapp wasn’t fussed about in the first place, aided Tottenham in their quest for the English title they are fussed with, then they’ll be happy to see two of their title rivals drop into the said European tournament having been knocked out of the one Harry Redknapp is aiming for, too.
That would have satisfied old Harry Redknapp enough, seeing two of the Premier League big boys battle the likes of FC Metalist Kharkiv and PAOK Salonika in the quest for the Europa League accolade, but he’s been the beneficiary of a cruel twist of fate for his current closest competition, United, as well.
Losing 2-1 to FC Basel was hard enough for Manchester United fans to take and even harder for the, again, apologetic Sir Alex Ferguson, but losing Nemanja Vidic, who single-handedly makes United’s defence better (when the Serbian doesn’t play opposition’s shots on target increase by 70%) was a blow on an even larger scale. With Rio Ferdinand having a fluctuating season, again plagued by niggles, and United’s defence being a shadow of seasons gone, there’s a real threat that without a stop-gap signing in January, Spurs could be the sunny side of United before too long.
The problem won’t be solved quickly either, Vidic looks set to see the rest of the season from the sidelines; if not a year.
A saving grace for United, that is more of a curse for Arsenal , Chelsea and Manchester City , is that they won’t be losing any pivotal players to the African Cup of Nations in January. As aforementioned, all of Spurs’ close rivals will do though; Chelsea lose Drogba and Kalou, Manchester City may lose their Toures and Arsenal will lose one of their brightest stars this season, Gervinho, as well as Morocco’s Chamakh. Tottenham don’t lose any of their African trio, with Adebayor retired and his country banned and Cameroon failing to qualify, leaving Assou-Ekotto and Bassong to play their football in the Premier League.
This is where Tottenham must capitalise; January is crucial, January is their’s to lose and January will be their making. Simply, Spurs must make the most of their peer’s shortcomings, misfortune and losses. Luck may have shone on them so far and therefore Redknapp will want to be in a comfortable position when it stops shining; January provides that. Along with United losing Vidic for the season, Liverpool have lost Lucas for the same duration, have no player of the same elk to plug the gap and will lose their top-scorer, Suarez for the majority of January. Newcastle have lost Steven Taylor for the remainder of the campaign and three other first-teamers are currently out with various injuries. That’s the teams immediately below and the teams immediately above, all being inhibited in some way and some more than others.
Chelsea may well be the least affected in January; they look set to strengthen during January with AVB undergoing his first transition, despite stating, “this is not a period of transition,” and Drogba and Kalou haven’t exactly been the flagship for Chelsea’s football this season – the latter has perked up though. Luckily for Tottenham, Chelsea are three points behind Spurs having played one more game and face Manchester City on Monday night. Manchester City may also brush off Tottenham’s threat during January; Yaya Toure will be missed as a vital part of City’s engine room, but, as City have shown, for Aguero there is Balotelli, for Milner there is Johnson and for Yaya there will be many many choices that can aptly fill the void.
One team that may not be able to win with the hand they’ve been dealt with, is Manchester United ; Vidic is out, their Champions League exit is costing a rumoured £20m and Sir Alex Ferguson has now had to apologise for two cup exits already this season. In January they play their rivals City in the F.A Cup and an exit from that would leave Manchester United with two hopes; the Europa League and catching City. Without Vidic, fans would be right to fear. Unfortunately for United fans, a signing in January isn’t looking hopeful; since selling Ronaldo to Madrid, their net spend is lower than that of the Championship’s Hull, Blackpool and Burnley.
Ultimately, this is where Tottenham must capitalise; January is crucial, January is their’s to lose and January will be their making.
Article courtesy of Jordan Florit from This is Futbol