Monthly Archives: September 2009

What can we realistically achieve this season?

After seven games, things all look very rosy. I certainly would have taken 15pts and 4th place in the table at this stage if you had asked me at the start of the season. We can’t stop scoring and our only defeats have been to arguably the best two sides in the country. We are certainly improving and very much going the right way under Harry but for me there are still five teams in the league that are better than us and I don’t see what we can do about that.

It isn’t a term I like to use because it annoys me when pundits keeping banging on about it, but the fact is I don’t think we can break into the top four this season or any season in the foreseeable future for that matter. It’s probably too early to be making judgements like that especially when we are playing so well but if you look at the teams that are likely to fill the places this season, they just have too much about them.

Man City are nowhere near the finished article, but are already playing as well as anyone in the Premiership. They are only going to get better and I’ll be shocked if they don’t break into the top five this season, third or forth place would not surprise me either. Obviously, Man Utd and Chelsea aren’t going to finish outside the first three positions so our only chance is to displace two of Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City.

While Spurs don’t have the distraction of European football and can concentration on the Premier League, we will still fall just short. The defeats against Chelsea and Man Utd have shown our players don’t quite yet have the mental toughness I thought they did. To concede three goals in both games is a sign of a slight lack of belief rather than ability. I know we have been brushing lesser teams aside with ease but I worry we won’t pick up enough points against teams like Everton, Villa and even Sunderland.

Sixth spot and a cup semi final would be a good season as far as I’m concerned and that is more or less what I think we will end up with. Whether Harry can unearth enough in the transfer market to improve Tottenham past these achievements in future seasons is unlikely. Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea are untouchable and while I’d like to think Arsenal and Liverpool are on the downgrade, form so far this season suggests they aren’t.

Sol, Sick Chelsea Fans and Super Crouch

I know as soon as I dare to mention Sol Campbell’s name, hundreds of people get straight on the comments to jump to his defence, but the bloke is seriously unbalanced. He’s gone from one of the best defenders in the country to one of the biggest jokes in a relatively short space of time. I doubt he’d sign for Arsenal if he could have his time again; it all started going wrong from that point! Thankfully Harry has come out and said he would never sign him for Spurs although I doubt anyone with half a brain thought that was even a slight possibility.

I’m assuming most people know about the sick Jermain Defoe song a large proportion of the Chelsea fans were singing on Sunday. I won’t repeat the lyrics here but suffice to say it involves his brother. I know there are a lot of songs that are near the mark but this is too much as far as I’m concerned. If this had been a song directed at Sol, the majority of the Chelsea fans would be behind bars by now!

5-1 victories are a nice habit to be getting into, especially away from home. Hull, Doncaster and now Preston have all been on the end of Spurs’ new favourite score line. I thought it would be a tight nervy encounter last night, not only because of PNE’s solid record but also our makeshift defence, but it proved to be an easy passage into the 4th round of the Carling Cup for Tottenham.

Harry has a bit of a problem with who starts on Saturday with Crouch in such great form. I’d imagine he’ll go with the Keane out of position and Crouch and Defoe starting together option again. I’d prefer to see one of the three on the bench to give us a better balance in midfield but whatever the starting line up, I’m quietly confident Burnley will be the game that sees us get back to winning ways in the league.

Injury Crisis or Opportunity?

It seems like we are reverting back to the Spurs of a few years ago with awful luck where players getting injured is concerned. After losing Bassong and Ledley on Sunday, our defence is literally in pieces. Woodgate has no imminent return date and although Dawson isn’t too far away now, him leading the line is something I don’t want to think about.

There is no doubt about it, Tottenham are left without a commanding presence at the back with the current defensive injury list. There is no real centre half that is fit for that matter other than the vastly inexperienced Dorian Dervite. Corluka and or Hutton are able to play in the middle but it isn’t their preferred position. We do have options at full back but again there is nobody I would call dominant or a leader.

The only plus point is the fact this has happened prior to a run of somewhat easy games. I realise no games in the Premier League are easy, but if you have to blood some youngsters, I’d prefer to do it against Preston and Burnley rather than Man Utd and Chelsea. Hopefully Dawson, King and Bassong will all be back by the time we go to Bolton a week on Saturday. Kevin Davies will have a field day against a Spurs defence full of inexperience and players out of position.

I’m am holding out in the hope Alan Hutton will come into his own now he’s put some of his problems behind him. He settled with the agent that has been giving him grief since his move to Spurs this week and he has had a fair bit of time to get back to full fitness after his long term injury. Hutton has never really played to his full potential since he arrived at Tottenham. Admittedly, some of that has been down to injury but there has also been personal issues holding him back. Now is really his chance to show what he can do and win a regular first team place in Harry’s side.

Chelsea

Unlike the Utd game I’m not going into this one full of optimism. Nothing to do with last week’s result though, just the fact I think going to Stamford Bridge is a much tougher proposition. I’ll be delighted to come away with a point. A defeat won’t be the end of the world.

Chelsea are playing like a well oiled machine at the moment. They have looked comfortable in most of their games thus far and still have a couple of gears to go. It just seems like they are able to find a goal when required.

The positive thing for us Spurs fans is our recent record against the blues. We’ve not lost to Chelsea in our last four meetings with them and we are also the last team to have beaten them in the Premier League, although that was at the Lane.

Harry’s been quoted as saying he doesn’t plan on sitting back;

“We can’t go there and nullify them for 90 minutes – we haven’t got the players to do that. I have attacking players who like to play and express themselves.”

Chelsea’s record at Stamford Bridge is quite simply awesome. Even when they play badly at home, they still normally win. The fact we are going there with an attacking approach is a positive for me. Like Harry says, I don’t think we have the personnel to go there and try and lock down for a point. Our best opportunity of getting something out the game is to score a goal. More than one would be nice!

Like I said earlier, I’ll be pleased to get anything from this game but if we do lose I won’t lose any sleep over it. We have a nice looking run of games coming up against Burnley, Bolton, Pompey and Stoke before Arsenal away at the end of October. If we are still sitting in the top 6 come the Arsenal game, I’ll be more than happy.

Disappointed but not despondent

It’s a shame but it’s not the end of the world. We were beaten by a better side on the day. While I would have hoped we could cope with Utd at the Lane the fact is we couldn’t on Saturday. It doesn’t mean we can’t.

It’s easy for me to make comment after the game and I’m not criticising Harry’s tactics but I was a little puzzled by his decision to shuffle the side and start Keane out of position rather than bring Kranjcar in as a like for like swap for Modric. I just felt we weren’t as balanced as we might have been but I doubt it would have changed the result in any case.

Man Utd seemed to thrive with ten men. I know some people dislike Rooney but you cannot argue with his ability and determination. Having a player of that quality in your side is priceless. Not only is he world class, he doesn’t stop working for 90 minutes. Utd had four maybe five world class players on that pitch, Tottenham probably had one and he can’t train. Lennon and Palacios have the potential to be world class but aren’t yet. Keane, Crouch and even Defoe arguably fall just slightly short.

The positive thing about the game was that we weren’t totally played off the park. We had plenty of chances and on another day, the result might have been different. Utd played at their best and we weren’t that far behind. We are still moving in the right direction. If you’d have told me at the start of the season after five games Spurs would have won them all except for a loss to Utd, I would certainly have taken that. We still have more points than Liverpool and Arsenal and sit in the top four.

I try not to get too carried away any time Spurs put a decent run of results together but it’s hard not to get excited. Equally, it’s hard not to get a bit down after a home defeat even when it is to a side of Manchester United’s brilliance. It’s important to take a long term view. We have had a great start to the season and this is just a set back. There is no reason we can’t go to Chelsea and get something out the game. The likely scenario is we will hold them until the 93rd minute and they will get a late winner but there is always a chance we can do the same.

The Fear Factor

Tottenham are probably better equipped to beat Manchester United tomorrow than they have been at any point in the last ten years. I have no doubt Spurs are more than capable of beating Utd at White Hart Lane on Saturday and I think they just might.

Personnel aside, the difference between the current Tottenham squad and those of years gone by is belief. This current crop of players actually believe they can beat anyone. We may have had our ups and downs over the last few years, and some players have come and gone and come again, but the fear that used to mean we could never get anywhere against the top four clubs in the country has now gone.

On current form, Spurs should be the favourites going into this game. Based on history and reputation they are not, but if you look at the actual results and analyse the performances on the pitch so far this season, Spurs have outperformed Utd. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing Man U off and it’s asking a lot for Spurs to continue the 100% record against the current Premier League Champions, but as far as I’m concerned, there is a very good chance of us doing just that.

The two games this season that have really stood out for me have been the first and the last. Think back to when Liverpool were awarded their penalty. The Tottenham sides of years gone by would have fallen apart at that point and very likely lost the match. The current side didn’t panic, took the game by the scruff of the neck and got another goal to ensure the three points.

A similar story could have unfolded against Birmingham. A goal around the 75min mark for the visitors would often have seen past Spurs sides get nervy and concede a scrappy late goal to lose the game. Instead, we kept going and found a winner. While you can say it wasn’t a great performance, in my eyes it was. The difference between the top four Premier League sides and us in the past has been our inability to win games that we might not have dominated or even deserved to win on the balance of play. We now seem to have overcome this failure.

Under Harry, Tottenham play with a new confidence and the fear factor that has been holding us back for so long appears to have almost disappeared completely. Obviously the quality players he’s added to the squad have helped, but the mental aspect of the game is just as important. Win, lose or draw tomorrow, I’m just happy in the knowledge that the players on the pitch believe they can do it.

Pleasantly Surprised

As much as I wasn’t particularly looking forward to last night’s England game, the one hope I had was that Aaron Lennon would step forward and stake a serious claim for a World Cup spot. That’s exactly what he did and in some style!

Lennon’s first half performance was superb. He created two of the goals, secured himself the man of the match accolade and very likely a place in Capello’s squad for the 2010 World Cup.

As expected, Emile Heskey kept his place in front of Defoe and you can’t really knock Fabio Capello for his decision. Heskey gives the side better balance than a Rooney Defoe partnership would do. Although Defoe deserves to start a game for England on current form, it doesn’t look like it will happen while Rooney and Heskey are both fit. That being said, Capello may experiment a bit more now England have qualified.

While Lennon and Defoe may be a little fatigued going into Saturday’s game against Man Utd, we couldn’t have hoped for a much more positive and confidence boosting outcome to their England duty. The 5-1 drubbing might not have done Kranjcar the world of good though!

Although it’s hard to see Roman Pavlyuchenko starting at the weekend, he also put in a productive shift at the Millennium Stadium against Wales. He started the game on the bench but was introduced after 70 minutes and scored in injury time. I’ll be more than happy if our unlucky Russian can play a similar role on Saturday!

Can we prep for Utd in a day?

With a number of players not returning to training until Friday, it means we only have one day to prepare for Saturday’s crunch clash with Manchester United. Harry Redknapp isn’t happy about this situation;

“I have no idea in my head of what team I will be able to play against United because of these internationals and because many of them won’t be back at the club until next Friday. They are returning from all over the world.”

Obviously, Utd are in the same boat but their squad is arguably better equipped to deal with any injuries or fatigue that the players pick up during the International break. With Modric already out, we can’t afford to have any more players get injured or not be at their peak for that matter against a Utd side sure to be buoyed by victory over Arsenal.

Redknapp is suggesting teams shouldn’t play until the following Saturday when players return from International duty to give them a week to recover. I can understand his point but I very much doubt the powers that be would consider his proposal and I also can’t see any way it would be possible, especially in a World Cup year. They struggle to fit all the fixtures in now as things stand now.

As much as I miss the Premiership action during the summer break, I don’t think the players get enough time off. If there were two weeks between League games after each International get-together, it would have to impact negatively on the length of time off for both players and coaching staff in the summer.

With Keane and Defoe being in the thick of things both on and off the pitch for their respective countries this week, they are likely to be slightly drained both physically and mentally. On a positive note however, their confidence will be high after both scoring at the weekend. If they can carry this into Saturday’s game, hopefully adrenaline can do the rest.

Anyone else hate Internationals?

These International breaks drive me mad. Settling down in front of the racing and Soccer Saturday just isn’t the same without some Premiership action, specifically without Spurs.

I really have very little interest where International football is concerned. Don’t get me wrong, I support England in their matches but I just don’t have the same passion for them as I did when I was younger. The period under McLaren where most of the players looked like they couldn’t give a feck was the final nail in the coffin for me.

While it’s nice to see the Spurs players doing well for their countries, I just don’t have any enthusiasm for it unless there is a major tournament going on and I’m generally just worried about one of our players returning from duty with a nasty injury.

Probably the only thing I am interested to see is whether or not Aaron Lennon can take his improved form for Tottenham onto the International stage. He’s certainly good enough to be a permanent fixture in the England side and his distribution should only get better from here on in. I’d imagine Capello will give him at least a half so lets hope he takes his chance.

Defoe seems to be the player everyone is talking about in the build up to the game after his brace against the Dutch and his superb form for Tottenham at the start of the season. I’m not having a pop at him but I think he’s that type of player that thrives on the attention and I’ll be surprised if Jermain doesn’t get himself on the score sheet again.

From the worst to the best

As our currently absent Miss Spur alluded to some time ago, Niko Kranjcar finally completed his move to Spurs yesterday. It’s a Croatian to replace a Croatian by the looks of things after Luka Modric picked up a significant injury at the weekend.

After being linked with a number of targets on deadline day, some good and some worryingly bad, we ended up with just the one signing and probably the best of the bunch at that.

Apart from landing a very good player, the price which Spurs apparently paid makes the transfer one the best pieces of business in this window. Just under £3m for a player of Kranjcar’s quality is a snip, even he was coming to the end of his contract at Pompey.

Kranjcar should be able to do a great job of filling in for Modric while he’s out injured. With Modric, Corluka and now Kranjcar, I think Harry is gradually putting together a nice little Croatian Clique!

The final day of the transfer window may not have been filled with excitement as it often is for Spurs fans but for me that is a good thing. It’s a sign that we now have a level of stability at the club and are not getting sucked into our usual desperation stakes where the only answer is to pay over the odds for average players.

It seems like we have gone from being one of the worst clubs in the country where the transfer market is concerned, to one of the best. The fees we held out for on Berbatov, Keane and Bent were excellent and players like Palacios and Kranjcar looks like absolute bargains. Let’s hope this trend continues in January and that the days of paying £15m and upwards for players like David Bentley and Darren Bent are well and truly behind us.