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Tottenham Hotspur: what a difference a year makes…

September 30, 2009

What a difference a year makes.
When Gareth Bale came on as an 86th minute substitute in Tottenham’s 5-0 victory over Burnley at the weekend he broke an incredibly inauspicious record that had seen him go 24 Premier League games without tasting victory in a Tottenham shirt. He must have been pretty relieved to break that particular streak, but it’s the turnaround in Tottenham’s fortunes over the past year that has been the most remarkable.

After eight games of the Premier League season last year, Spurs were rooted to the foot of the table with just two points gleaned from their first eight fixtures. Then though, they parted company with Juande Ramos and quickly secured the services of Harry Redknapp and since then, well, they really haven’t looked back. After producing title-winning form in the latter half of last season to secure an 8th place finish and after a stunning start to this season it seems like their luck has changed.

Though they looked pretty hapless under Ramos at the beginning of last season, I have to say I didn’t think that they needed to sack Ramos. While obviously things weren’t going well for him, of the six games they lost under him in the League only one was by more than one goal, and given that Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov were sold from above him in the close season, it’s hardly surprising that they were struggling for goals.

In many ways then, it seems to me that Spurs had a bit of tough luck at the start of last season. They had a lot of quality in their side but things simply weren’t going their way much of the time and that certainly showed in their results. But wat a difference a year makes eh?

After getting off to a flying start this season they maintained a 100% league record until the fixture list threw up matches against Champions Manchester United and Chelsea, who at that point were perhaps the league’s form team. They lost both matches quite convincingly and rarely troubled either of their more illustrious opponents. That could have had a huge impact on their confidence – losing twice in a row on the back of such a winning street is bound to damage morale, no matter how good the opposition.

However, as fortune would have it their next fixture was a Carling Cup match against Preston North End. PNE are a very good Championship side and have a very good manager in Alan Irvine and I fully expect them to be in contention for promotion come the end of the season, but they provided little challenge for Spurs, who hammered them 5-1, with Peter Crouch scoring a hat-trick to complement that already scored by Jermaine Defoe earlier in the season.

That fixture and that result was, in my opinion, crucial for Harry Redknapp’s men. It gave them a perfect opportunity to get some much needed confidence back, it gave them the chance to express themselves against lesser opposition and so wiped away the memories of the comfortable defeats to United and Chelsea. Fortunate for Tottenham then, but one has to feel for Burnley a little bit, who were on the receiving end of a rejuvenated Spurs at the weekend.

The 5-0 scoreline saw Robbie Keane score four goals and become Tottenham’s third hat-trick scorer so far this season – an incredible statistic considering that many, perhaps even most clubs, won’t see a single hat-trick scored by one of their players this season. The key thing that has changed in a year then, is clearly Tottenham’s ability to score goals. As I wrote in my article when Ramos was sacked, their main problem last year was a lack of goals.

In the first eight games of last season they scored just six goals. In their seven League fixtures so far this season, they’ve scored seventeen. This isn’t much of a surprise really either – we knew last season that Tottenham possessed a wealth of creative midfielders, especially after the signing of Luka Modric, but when a side sells Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov, two proven Premier League scorers, they’re bound to suffer in the goals department.

So Redknapp’s Tottenham revolution is not that much of a surprise, it’s no real mystery, all he’s done is bring back Tottenham’s killer instinct. With Jermaine Defoe, Robbie Keane and Peter Crouch all signed by Redknapp Spurs have acquired three strikers who are exceedingly clinical and will put away those chances created by the likes of Modric, Aaron Lennon and Wilson Palacios. There now just seems one piece of the jigsaw left to fill…

While on paper Spurs have a formidable set of central defenders in Jonathan Woodgate, Ledley King, Michael Dawson and Sebastien Bassong, they do have the slight problem of having just one of them currently fit. And that’s not too surprising either, given the previous injury records of Woodgate and King in particular who have been plagued by troubles throughout their careers. And while they do possess a wealth of right backs in particular, there simply isn’t enough solid defensive cover at Spurs to make them a real top four contender.

So while things have changed for Spurs over the past year, Redknapp hasn’t yet, in my opinion at least, completed the transformation of the club from perennial under achievers to top four challengers yet. He has added an admirable amount of quality to their attacking lineup and Spurs, who I always say seem to collect midfielders, now look like scoring goals for fun, as indeed they have been doing so far this season.

If they can maintain this form though, and continue to have a touch of luck every now and then until Christmas I think that Redknapp, if he manages to strengthen their defensive ranks in January, could possibly engineer a decent charge at upsetting the top four. Manchester City will also likely make a good go of it, while Aston Villa and Everton are looking strong now too – it’s shaping up to be an extremely interesting battle and it’s great to see so many teams with such strength in depth competing at the top end of the Premier League – something that couldn’t be said this time last season either.

Like this? There’s plenty more where that came from at They Think It’s All Over…

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. George permalink
    September 30, 2009 9:40 am

    Spurs have always had a lot of problems at the back, ever since selling Sol Campbell to Arsenal really. The likes of Ricardo Rocha and Younes Kaboul were far too unreliable under Jol and Ramos, and as you say, with King and Woodgate unable to string together more than a couple of appearances at a time, Redknapp has his work cut out to improve that backline.

    Nevertheless, he’s done a marvellous job at the Lane. An inspirational character, master tactician, and a true footballing legend. Just what Spurs needed, and he came along at exactly the right time. Good luck to them.

    • September 30, 2009 12:10 pm

      Judas left us at the end of his contract, after claiming to want to sign for Barcelona or some big club in Europe. He left with MY well wishes. What an ass. I’d never imagine Spurs selling him to Arsenal for any amount of money if that was an option.

    • September 30, 2009 2:36 pm

      Initially, Alan Hutton seemed a good buy off Rangers last year as well. He and Woodgate looked like they would make all the difference around the time Spurs won the league cup in 08.
      What happened to Hutton? Wouldn’t rate him at all now.

      • September 30, 2009 7:48 pm

        he lost his head.
        harry will get him back to form but not for a while as corluka is playing well.

  2. September 30, 2009 9:48 am

    I agree with you. Spurs have transformed like anything in a year but they are still just short of top 4.

  3. September 30, 2009 9:50 am

    This is all very Tottenham Hotspurish

    They will have a great season. Their fans will think they are on to win every trophy in the world. They will sell Defoe. Peter Crouch will end up in a prison for being a freak. Robbie Keane will runaway to “his boyhood club” Celtic (or was that Liverpool) and Spurs will end up 11th. Harry will get an offer to manage Bournemouth that he wont be able to turn down, and Levy will hire a French geezer who claims to be a blood relative of Arsene Wenger

    They maybe from North London, but they are very Eastenders

    • September 30, 2009 12:11 pm

      Hahaha that pretty much describes Spurs every season! lol… I remember the day we signed Serghiy Rebrov and thinking, “THIS IS IT!”. A complete squad. Bollocks!

      • September 30, 2009 1:22 pm

        I have to admit i thought Rebrov was a brilliant signing, but Spurs never utilised him properly.. He could have been your Paul Scholes

      • September 30, 2009 2:37 pm

        I think I was more disappointed in Stefen Iversen. I really rated him as a player! But he could never keep up with more than 3 games in a row before heading for the treatment room for months!

  4. Sean permalink
    September 30, 2009 10:56 am

    Good article.
    It is interesting that you say that Ramos didn’t have to be sacked. I was quite outspoken at the time in calling for continuity. But the truth is that defeat can take on a life all of its own. In a recent interview, Gus Poyet was asked if the regime change was a good think. He thought for a moment and then simply and unaffectedly said it was right ‘cos rthe results improved dramatically.
    It is also true that ‘Arry inherited a very talented group of players, and I was very outspoken in highlighting this in regards to the invective that Comolli seemed to invite just by his very being. ‘Arry hasn’t ‘built’ this squad – something the Comolli/DOF system haters seem intent on insisting upon. What he has done is given it some proper balance. First thing he did was bring in recognised goalscorers immediately – even if that meant rebuying a player or two. He has set about the central defensive problem – most imediately with the purchase of Bassong, who is young, but with genuine promise, and so is not just a stop-gap. He pushed Jamie O’Hara forward (which makes his decision to loan him all the more strange). And his has (I believe temporarily) pushed Luca out left, ‘cos at least he is confortable playing there, and brought in Kranks – in great contrast to Comolli’s complete inability to see that maybe Spurs fans knew what they were talking about when they said we needed a quality left-winger. He brought in Cudicini to provide genuine competition for Gomes – given that most Spurs fans have moaned about his form since coming into the first team. And, most importantly, he has found one (and possibly/hopefully more, re: Sandro), genuie midfield enforcer, something the club has needed since the 1980s (I never felt like David Howell’s was up to the job, and said so at the time).
    But, as we all kow, it is in the backroom, and that the genesis of the transformation really lays. He has brought in ex players, with a feeling for the club, in coaching roles, and the hiring of Parkes with his knowledge of the English game, and how it galvanised Gomes, has to be seen as an act of genius.
    He has made ‘a dressing room’ and that is immeasurably more important than the hiring or firing of one player or coach. This is something that Ramos couldn’t do. There is no doubt that when given full support, and his own people around him he is a top coach, and maybe Juande could have got us up there by the end of his five years. But the club’s status in the top flight was in serious (yes, serious) peril. This was evidenced most forcefully when Woodgate contradicted Ramos publicly (televised) in saying that this club ‘most definitely IS in a relegation fight’. Once that starts hapeening the dressing room is gone. In retrospect, I realised that Spurs had not sighned one single player from Spain – and players from his home country is something almost all managers do in a foreign country. And not one single player from Sevilla – and likewise, almost all managers try to sign at least one or two players from their form club, when joining a new one. This has made me question the DOF system – which, again, I was outspoken in trying to understand and see the benefits off.
    I also said, immediately, that I wasn’t sure if ‘Arry could take us to the enxt level (whereas, even with that awful start, Ramos still had the potential to do). We know now that he will at least have a damned good try at it – and we, at least can’t see him being sacked within nine months from now. So the appointment of ‘Arry (and the integration of ex-players into the backroom staff), should, AT LAST, give us that consistency all sensible Spurs fans know we desperately need.
    Ultimately, and I said this when he was first appointed too, the question with ‘Arry is: “Is he the typical English manager who has never been given a chance at the highest level of managment because of the vogue for all things foreign in management; or is there a vogue in all things foreign in management because English managers like ‘Arry don’t have the ability to operate at the highest levels of management?”
    One thing is for sure – it will be fun finding out.

  5. September 30, 2009 12:20 pm

    At this time last year, all I wanted was to avoid relegation. A top 10 place was a bonus. And I was one of the Ramos supporters as I really thought he would eventually fit in. I was never in favour of the DOF system even when it was first brought in to other clubs, and I certainly was disappointed when Spurs went down that route.

    Fortunately, to me at least, the changes since then have shown me that getting rid of Ramos was the right decision. I may not have been supportive of Ramos’ sacking, but I am grateful Redknapp came in and introduced some solidity to the team.

    All we need now is some consistency at the back and we’re set. A COMPLETE team! *fingers crossed*

  6. maserati4200 permalink
    September 30, 2009 12:50 pm

    If Palacios plays every week and Spurs can field a keeper and back 4 that can do the job (for a change) then they have a shout of a top 6 finish – top 4 might be a struggle.

  7. maserati4200 permalink
    September 30, 2009 12:52 pm

    P.S. If Harry doesn’t get the England job, post-Fabio, he will retire as a manager and buy Bournemouth!

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  1. WDKF Wednesday: What a difference a year makes… « They Think It's All Over…

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