Tottenham fall victim to not playing the squad game

That famed scorched earth policy of Harry Redknapp did appear to start taking it’s toll on Tottenham even before the manager had permanently left the dugout. Around the turn of the year, and well after the Premier League began to take realistic shape, Tottenham were steamrolling ahead of the chasing pack. Not so much doing a double-take, but rather saying, “hang out, what’s going on here;” Redknapp had given his side a meaningful and exciting purpose in the league. That was until everyone realised that it is Harry Redknapp, and for all his efforts to do well with Spurs, there are a great deal of shortcomings to the darling of Fleet Street.

You might find some reason to excuse Redknapp for sticking to his guns and keeping faith with his starting XI—his successful starting XI. This was a side who had found themselves 2-0 down away to Manchester City and drawn level in impressive fashion. And even then, there was hope and chances for a winner. It was also a side who weren’t having any of that “anyone can beat anyone in the Premier League” nonsense. The football was fast, exciting and bringing results on a regular basis. Like Jose Mourinho’s thinking at Real Madrid, Redknapp didn’t want to tinker too much with a winning formula; even if the result would be a once powerful juggernaut running on empty.

But the issue of not playing the squad game has had a greater effect on the team than just failing to qualify for the Champions League. Those who were very good squad players, helping to make up a starting XI and a bench capable of maintaining a good run till the finish, are now packing their bags. It wasn’t enough that the team were about to break into Europe’s elite company once again; those players wanted a meaningful role in the combined effort.

Under Redknapp’s watch, the team lost a very capable back-up striker in Roman Pavlyuchenko, a midfielder who often starred for Everton in Steven Pienaar, and the reliable Vedran Corluka and Niko Kranjcar. Ok, none were as good as those ahead of them in the pecking order, but at some stage Redknapp had to take advantage of a good handful of players able to come in and do a job. The Tottenham squad is very light in terms of depth now, and who in European football will be able to fill those roles off similarly small transfer fees?

He’s not the best tactically (probably a huge understatement) but his greatest strength of rallying and uniting a squad really didn’t work out for Redknapp this time around.

The team’s drop-off was in spectacular fashion. His decision to sacrifice the peripheral cup competitions was understandable; the team had a genuine chance of breaking into the top two, maybe even going a little further. But while Redknapp was clearly struggling with the pressures of outside incidents and interest, he failed to pick up the hints from inside his own camp that the team were tiring. Daniel Levy is actively going about his business to create a younger and more successful team over the long term, but how long will it be before Spurs really get into the position that Redknapp had them in midway through the season?

While many of Harry’s favourites in the media were outraged at his dismissal, you could understand the dropping of the axe by Levy and the backing he received from Spurs fans. Redknapp never had it in him to take a team past the boundary of fourth and fifth place and to remain consistently where they want to be. Mourinho, Ferguson and others who have succeeded in the Premier League didn’t get there by accident. But Redknapp was determined to ride that one trick as far as he could.

Rightly, however, there would have been questions to answer by the manager had he rotated Luka Modric or Gareth Bale in and out of the side earlier on in the season. But Redknapp’s inability to acknowledge the need to keep the team fresh toward the business end of the season proved to be the undoing of a very promising campaign.