When Tottenham found themselves on the end of the two heavy defeats against Manchester United and Manchester City right back at the start of the Premier League season, few would have foreseen the monumental turnaround that has seen them shoot up the league and into third place. But now as Spurs look to gather themselves and prepare for the second half of their unlikely title challenge, they would do well to take a look over the European leagues and find inspiration from two of last years domestic champions: Lille and Borussia Dortmund.
Now even at this stage where the Premier League has taken shape and clubs can begin to get a better idea of where they’re likely finish come May, there will still be many fans at White Hart Lane who are just waiting for that slight knock that could derail their ambitions for first place. Taking into consideration their extremely healthy position in comparison to other top four rivals Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool—and perhaps even Newcastle—it is almost a certainty that Harry Redknapp has guided them into the Champions League for a second time.
But against the financial muscle of Manchester City, the wealth of experience of Manchester United, and the highly unlikely, yet, still possible resurgence of Chelsea, Tottenham could still pull off a miracle and win the Premier League and emulate the fantastic job Rudi Garcia and Jurgen Klopp did at Lille and Dortmund last season.
There are a number of similarities that can be made for Spurs’ current squad—quietly assembled in the background as Man City, Man United and Chelsea have taken the headlines—and those of the current French and German champions. All three sides firstly have taken to heart the tremendous belief their coaches have given them and relayed that through a great work ethic on the pitch. The star players
are given license to produce in the final third, with all the confidence that someone like Scott Parker is behind them acting as a safety net; much like Sven Bender at Dortmund and Rio Mavuba at Lille.
What is also interesting is the manner in which each of the three teams line-up: each using a variation of the 4-3-3, but with Spurs’ Rafael van der Vaart pushing further up the field to support the solitary striker, as Shinji Kagawa did at Dortmund prior to his injury. It allows the teams to see much of the ball and counter attack at pace with the especially quick wide players.
However, were both the French and German champions faced with such ruthless aggression and the financial power of Man City? It’s well noted that Bayern Munich only spend heavily every other summer in recent years; luckily for Dortmund, the summer prior to their title success was one of relative quiet for Bayern. They eventually finished third behind runners-up Bayer Leverkusen. While in France, PSG were not the superpower they are now, finishing in 4th place; and Lyon had a particularly disappointing season as Yoann Gourcuff struggled to find that form that saw him with the title with Bordeaux.
Therefore it could be a fair assessment that Tottenham face a far bigger hurdle to overcome. And yet, despite the disappointing result on the weekend to Wolves, the wind is still very much in the sails of Harry Redknapp’s side. Manchester City, like Tottenham, aren’t equipped with the experience of going through an entire Premier League campaign with a clear head. There could be promising signs for Spurs’ fans that Roberto Mancini is beginning to feel the pressure, and through the loss of a certain key players, there is every reason to believe a slip-up could be on the cards.
What the French and German champions—and Especially Klopp’s Borussia Dortmond—did so spectacularly last season was get results against the big teams. Dortmund beat Bayern Munich in both league games and at one stage managed to open up a 12pt lead over nearest rivals Bayer Leverkusen. While Lille managed to clinch the title with a 2-2- draw against PSG and a 1-0 win against the Paris side in the cup final.
There will certainly be an element of luck in Spurs’ challenge for an almost unthinkable league title, but there is enough evidence to suggest that it can be done with an inexperienced, yet totally committed squad.
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