Ledley King stated after Monday’s 2-0 victory that the strength of Tottenham’s squad will be crucial in the run in as the London side seek a top four finish:
We have two teams at the moment and they can both play. We know the competition for places is fierce and we have to perform or we won’t be playing. That is working in our favour.
There is no doubt Tottenham have depth in their squad. Luka Modric made his first start since August on Monday and he replaced another Croatian Niko Kranjcar, who has been excelling on the left side of midfield in recent weeks. Despite not being back long from his broken leg, Modric slipped into the team with ease, scoring the first goal, and troubling West Ham’s defence by drifting into centre midfield.
Most of Tottenham’s productive play came from the right wing as Aaron Lennon and Vedran Corluka both enjoyed raiding into the opposition penalty box as Tom Huddlestone and Modric assisted in their efforts, linking up play in centre midfield. With Jenas and Krancjar on the bench, there is no lack of talent and depth in the midfield department, and the same could be said up front where Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe are continuing the partnership which they first enjoyed at Portsmouth. Robbie Keane and Roman Pavlyuchenko are ready in the wings if either gets injured, and if either is sold in January, Harry will no doubt bring in an apt replacement.
A large squad is going to be essential to achieving that top four spot as King is fully aware. Aston Villa crumbled last season as their squad barely contained over 20 first team players, and by February, the efforts of playing competitive football since July, playing in the UEFA Cup and keeping pace with the top four, took its toll and they began to fall away by the end of the season. No such fate should befall Spurs though. Injuries should not cost Tottenham too dearly, and this has been already demonstrated by the loss of Modric since August. The little Croat can be an important player, linking up play and drifting into holes from the left hand side, but players such as Kranjcar and Huddlestone filled the creative void during his absence and if another attacking option is taken away by a long term injury in the next few months, I have doubt Spurs will cope.
One word of caution about King’s words, they may be able to put out two teams but it would certainly be weaker in the backline. With Woodgate seemingly unable to get fully fit this season and King only able to play every other week, the centre back positions are reliant on Michael Dawson and Sebastien Bassong staying fit. Vedran Corluka can do a job in the centre, but the lack of cover in this area is worrying going into big games. Partnerships are crucial in the backline for solidity and clean sheets come from good understanding and experienced players. King can slot in at the back without any problems because he is a very good player, but his appearances will be limited. Dawson and Bassong will have to start the majority of games until the end of the season, and if they both stay fit, the top four spot should be in reach.
Out of the teams competing for the top four spot, Spurs along with Man City have the strongest depth in their squads. It will be a very important element if the London club are to achieve that much coveted feat of claiming a Champions League place. It is not too far away and although experience will count for much in this run in, in regards to Liverpool, the sheer amount of players in Spurs’s squad should see them through any injury crisis and through any busy weeks such as the Christmas period. If Liverpool lose Torres or Gerrard for the rest of the season, it might spell the end of them competing for a top four place, the same sort of loss would not effect Tottenham to the same degree.