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Mind The Gap – The Reason Behind the Power Shift

Mind The Gap – The Reason Behind the Power Shift

The ten point advantage Tottenham currently have over Arsenal in the Premier League would have been unthinkable just a couple of seasons ago. Although Arsenal fans were calling for Arsene Wenger’s head after a bad start to the season, things seemed to have settled down on that front with the good run of form they put together following the 2-1 defeat the Gunners suffered at White Hart Lane. Now reality has finally set in, Wenger’s management skills are once again being called into question by their supporters.

In stark contrast, Harry Redknapp’s reputation continues to thrive not only among Spurs fans, but also football enthusiasts around the globe. Bringing Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor to the club this season only added to what was already an excellent squad of players. Not only have Harry’s player purchases been very astute, he has also helped Gareth Bale become one of the best footballers in the world. He is able to instil a belief in players that Wenger cannot. Another great example of this is Benoit Assou-Ekotto. He was going nowhere fast at Tottenham but Redknapp spotted his potential and gave the former Lens man a chance. Ekotto is now one of the very best left backs the Premier League has to offer.

While the 5-1 cup victory in 2008 was a sign of things to come, the day when the power really shifted in North London was 20th November 2010. Spurs had not won at Arsenal for 17 years. Going 2-0 down before half time would have seen Tottenham sides of old throw the towel in, but this set of players were not prepared to lie down. Winning the game in such a manner gave Spurs a new found confidence and helped enforce the never say die attitude that has seen us become serious title contenders this season.

There are a couple of games during this campaign that really illustrate the difference between the two teams perfectly. Both were defeats, our 2-1 reverse away to Stoke, and Arsenal’s 3-2 loss at Swansea. Admittedly, the game at the Liberty Stadium was very entertaining and all credit to Swansea for playing some great football, but a number of the Arsenal players on that pitch looked like they did not want to be there. It ultimately ended with the man Arsenal fans were hailing as the King a few days earlier, a 34 year old Thierry Henry, turning on them for venting their frustrations.

At Stoke, Spurs were not at their best in the first half. Any team two goals behind at the Britannia Stadium would probably have resigned themselves to defeat. In the end, it was only one of the worst refereeing performances in Premier League history that cost us all three points. Every Spurs player gave their all in that second half to try and get something from the game and even though we lost the match, it is possibly my favourite Tottenham performance of the season. It goes a long way to showing why Tottenham are now the dominant team in North London and why you’d better mind that gap.

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp talks Beckham, winning the Premier League and plans to add to the squad in January

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp talks Beckham, winning the Premier League and plans to add to the squad in January

Absolute Radio have live commentary of West Brom v Spurs today. I’ll be on with Ian Wright sometime after 5pm to talk about the game. Here is an exclusive of an interesting interview they did with Harry Redknapp that will be going out later today.

Int: So, Harry, tough trip on Saturday, how’s the squad looking?

HR: Yeah, fine. Raffers, he’s the biggest doubt, he’s got a bit of a hamstring, he did it playing for Holland. Surprised us that he was fit to play the other day really, he did well to back fit enough to start, but after about 65 minutes he felt it, a couple of twinges. Felt he was okay, came back yesterday and felt it again yesterday, so he’s struggling a little bit. And Jermain has got a bit of a groin strain so we’ll have to see how he is.

Int: Tell us about the impact that Adebayor and Parker have had on this squad. Is this the best squad you’re had in your time here?

HR: Well it’s a good squad of players for sure, we’ve got some real… I think we’ve got some outstanding players, you know, it’s got a good balance to it. You know, the players we’ve signed in the last year or a couple of years, people like Walker’s come in now and really been looking a fantastic young right-back, you know. Kaboul is playing like the player that I felt he could be when I took him to -Portsmouth and then brought him back here, he’s in great form. Obviously Ledley’s been key at the back as well I think, you know, get Ledley back in. Lost Michael Dawson, who was fantastic for us, but lucky enough Ledley’s been fit. You’ve got people like Gallas waiting to play. It’s a good squad, you know, and it’s a good group of players. Sandro’s a fantastic player, can’t get in the team at the moment. So, you know, we’ve got Premier strength in depth.

Int: Do you have transfer plans for January, or is that too far away?

HR: Not really, I haven’t got anybody I could stand here and say ‘Yeah, we want to get him’. It’s so difficult, where do you play them? You’ve got people, like I say, like Sandro can’t get in the mid-field, he’s in the Brazilian team, so it’s not easy. There’s no one out there I could look at and say… I mean, there’s players but you’re not going to get them, the top players, but I don’t really see where I’m going to improve us too much with the players that might be available.

Int: Reports this morning of David Beckham possibly signing a deal with PSG, is that a player who you’d have like to bring to White Hart Lane?

HR: Well I enjoyed having David here, you know, when he came and trained, and he’s a fantastic professional, great buy, but again it would be difficult, I couldn’t bring David in and say ‘Well you’re going to play every week’ because it would be difficult, you know. I’ve got Aaron Lennon playing well, we’re not short there really, so it would be a problem. Listen, wherever David goes he’ll do well because he’s a top class bloke.

Int: Do you look at Chelsea and the way they’re struggling as a team that perhaps you could replace in the top four, or are they too strong to play this badly for this long?

HR: No, I think Chelsea will turn the corner, you know, they’ll get it right. They’ve got great characters there I think, you know, players that have been there and done it all, won it all, and it’s only a matter of time before they go on a run and pull themselves up the table. At the moment, for the first time in a good number of years, they’re struggling a bit, but I certainly wouldn’t write them off, and I think the young manager will sort it out there and get them going.

Int: Tottenham are priced at 100/1 to win the League, is that worth a few quid?

HR: No, I wouldn’t, no. No, I’d be quite happy for us just to win it, you know, but it would take it, that’s the odds, that’s a realistic figure, but we are probably, 66/1 or whatever the bookies make you, they’re not going to give you them odds if they really think that you’ve got a chance of taking their money. So it would be difficult, but, as I’ve said 10 times just now, it’s not impossible. It’s unlikely, but it’s not impossible.

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Can we make it eight?

Can we make it eight?

Tottenham look to stretch their unbeaten run to eight games with a trip to Russian side Rubin Kazan in the Europa League tonight. The team can secure their passage into the last 32 with victory tonight giving them two games to spare. This would be a welcome tonic for manager Harry Redknapp who is currently in hospital recovering from minor heart surgery. Kevin Bond takes charge in Redknapp’s absence and will relish the opportunity.

While the Europa League is a significant step down from last season’s exciting run in the Champions League, it is a good source of revenue for the club and becomes a lot more interesting the further you progress. It has also given us the chance to blood the younger members of our squad and give some of the fringe players a run out. The fact Spurs have a squad with great strength in depth means competitions such as this are very useful. The Champions League does not allow you that luxury because it is far more competitive and you need your best players competing in every game. Should things go to plan this season in the Premier League, our squad players will benefit from the Europa League experience and be better equipped for a Champions League campaign in 2012-13.

If you are looking for a bet on sports in this particular match you could do worse than back Spurs to get a 1-0 victory. Tottenham have been very impressive in recent matches and although a few of our star players haven’t travelled to Russia, the returning big names such as Gallas and Pienaar will ensure we put in a good performance. The lads are likely to want to win for the game for Harry and it would be superb to reach the latter stages of this competition without really having to come out of first gear.

If players were valued in inches

If players were valued in inches

£27m would be a decent offer for Luka Modric. The fact is they are not, and that sort of price still isn’t enough for our top commodity. It might seem foolish to call any player priceless, but that’s what Modric is to most Tottenham Hotspur fans. Harry Redknapp described the earlier £22m offer as a joke. I didn’t find it all that amusing and the improved one is still not making me laugh very much.

I understand why he’s tempted by the move to West London. Chelsea are very likely to be challenging in both the Premier League and the Champions League next season. Spurs definitely won’t be doing one of those and are unlikely to be doing the other either. The problem biggest problem I have with this situation is selling your best player to a team you are trying to close the gap on is a massive mistake. The fact the Premier League is now arguably the biggest league in the world means these sorts of transfers will happen more and more often. We have already seen how Arsenal are struggling to hold onto their stars even though they did qualify for the Champions League.

With the reports of Michael Essien being unavailable for up to six months due to a knee injury, Chelsea are even more likely to keep coming back until they get their man. Modric is probably going to official request a transfer soon enough and that will make the club’s position pretty impossible. I like that we are showing resolve and not just rolling over but when a player decides they want to move, it’s pretty pointless trying to force them to stay.

At what is likely to be the peak of his career, a player like Luka Modric should be competing at the highest level possible and winning major honours. It’s just unfortunate for us Spurs fans that he probably won’t be able to do that while playing at the Lane.

Could we fare better than Arsenal?

Could we fare better than Arsenal?

So, the dream has become a reality and Spurs have made it to the Quarter Finals of the Champions League. After being three nil down against those pesky Young Boys in the first qualifying round, Harry Redknapp and his European soldiers are now just four games away from the final of Europe’s biggest football competition.

While the away leg at the San Siro was an assured professional performance the likes I haven’t seen from a Tottenham side before, Wednesday’s home game was an uncomfortable ninety minutes where our players dug in, defended well and secured their passage into the last eight.

Jermain Defoe’s big talk at the start of the season about Tottenham progressing further than the Gunners in the Champions League no longer sounds so stupid. The question now is can they fare any better than Arsenal against the Catalan Giants? Should we draw them in the quarter finals, I won’t be too despondent. While I think it will be a near impossible task over two legs against Barca, anything is possible in football. We have the players to hit them on the break with better effect than Arsenal could manage. Lennon and Bale give us an outlet that Arsenal didn’t have.

While avoiding Barcelona in the next round would be preferable, no side left in the competition is going to be an easy touch. Admittedly Milan aren’t as good as they once were but they are no mugs. Spurs have proven they can mix it with the best sides in European football and appear to have the confidence to take on any team. Our league form may have suffered a little as the results against Blackpool and Wolves illustrate but I’m willing to swallow it if it means this European adventure can continue for a bit longer…

I’ll be on Ian Wright’s show on Absolute Radio sometime between five and six tomorrow if anyone wants to hear me talk more nonsense about Spurs!

Submit Your Questions for Harry Redknapp

Submit Your Questions for Harry Redknapp

Here is your chance to ask Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp the question you have always wanted him to answer.

Yahoo are conducting a web interview with Harry and have asked for questions from White Hart Pain readers. Simply submit your questions in the comments section and the best ones will be fired at the Spurs boss on Valentine’s Day.

The more original the question, the better the chance of it being selected, but try and keep the obscene stuff to a minimum please…I know it is probably a waste of time saying that but I’ve done my part. ‘Would you smash it?’ and the like definitely won’t make it through!

Full details can be found at the link below.

Harry Redknapp Interview

Where does Pienaar fit in?

Where does Pienaar fit in?

So it looks like Harry Redknapp has pulled off yet another coup in the transfer market by signing Everton’s star midfielder Steven Pienaar on the cheap. Admittedly, his contract was going to expire in the summer, but paying Everton a couple of million to secure his services now makes sense. The only issue is, where exactly do we accommodate him?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great singing and addition to the Tottenham squad. I just don’t see him getting much game time. Obviously, an injury or two and things could change dramatically, but is Piennar going to be happy spending more than 50% of his time warming the bench? I don’t think so. While he can play anywhere across the midfield, his preferred position is as an attacking left winger. Gareth Bale could probably do with a rest from time to time, but I can’t see that being enough game time to satisfy the South African.

An option in center midfield would be playing him instead of Palacios but I don’t really see that working when we are already a bit too attacking in that area as it is. We can generally get away with it at home but in away games especially, I think Palacios should be starting the majority of games despite what his uneducated detractors say. The fact Pienaar is capable of playing across the midfield means he does give us a great option but does this only serve to make him more of a bit part player?

The player’s record at Everton has been impeccable and even this season when there has been so much doubt over his future, Pienaar has continued to give his all. If he sows the same type of commitment and desire at White Hart Lane, I’m sure he will quickly become a favourite with the Spurs fans.

In summary, I consider Steven Pienaar to be a great acquisition for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. Only time will tell whether he can carve out a regular place in a midfield already over flowing with talent and options.

Bargain Borrowing

Bargain Borrowing

Tottenham Loan DealsSo, no players want to sign for us on a permanent basis then! The fact we can’t tie any of our top transfer targets down is a little disheartening but it’s probably also an indication that Harry Redknapp isn’t prepared to buy second rate players just to bring in bodies. He seems very much of the opinion that if the price isn’t right, we should just move on.

Redknapp has been quoted in the press today saying loan deals are probably the way forward for Tottenham in the current transfer market;

“I can see loans happening. I’ve got three players in mind that would not cost a lot of money.

“If we can pull off the deals you are talking about £8million or £9million for three players. Loans would certainly be a real possibility.

“People are going to loan players from all over the world, there will be loads because clubs are struggling to pay the wages. There will be high earners they have to loan out.”

I’m not really sure how I feel about loan deals. Part of me thinks it’s a good thing. You get the player in for the season just paying wages and if it doesn’t work out, you don’t have to retain their services. Often, these players are looking to put themselves in the shop window and put in decent performances throughout the season.

Usually where loans are concerned, it’s players from the top clubs going to smaller outfits. A side in the Champions League having to bolster their squad with loanees seems a little ridiculous. However, with the new rules regarding squad sizes, times may be changing. The wealthiest clubs are going to have a number of players surplus to requirements and loan deal may be the only viable financial option.

The only issue I can see is whether these big name stars are going to have enough hunger coming to Spurs on a temporary basis. Will they just rest on their laurels? If you take Jamie O’Hara’s spell at Portsmouth as an example; he worked his socks off week in week out. I can’t see many of those on the fringes of the Manchester City squad doing the same for Tottenham. Only time will tell I suppose. I’d imagine some business will be done one way or another this week.

Other news;

I’m going to be the Spurs contact for Ian Wright’s Saturday football show on Absolute Radio.

I’ve been asked to share this Arsenal story with you all;
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Have the bookies made an error?

Have the bookies made an error?

LedleyI was having a look at the betting for next season’s Premier League today and although the bookies normally aren’t far wrong, I feel the prices are a little off the mark. While I don’t for a second expect Tottenham to be winning the league, I am confused as to how they can be 40/1 shots with Man City as short as 9/2 and Liverpool as short as 11/1.

Man City’s spending power is phenomenal and they have added some serious talent to their squad this summer with the likes of Boateng, Toure and Silva joining an already excellent group of players. The problem for them is I don’t see Mancini as the man to get these players to gel or control their egos and settle the unrest when their start to the campaign isn’t as phenomenal as everyone is expecting. I think they could well end up in a similar position to last season.

Are Liverpool suddenly going to be a successful side under Roy Hodgson? They looked awful at times last season and it’s going to take them time to rebuild. Torres appears to be in a very bad way if the world cup is anything to go by. Carragher isn’t half the player he was a few years ago and Gerrard turns it on when he’s in the mood. This is assuming Torres and Gerrard are staying.

Now onto the 40/1 outsiders! Admittedly, one good season does not a great club make, but there is just as much reason to believe we can continue our progression under Harry Redknapp as there is we will resume the battle for 7th and 8th place. I don’t feel like last season was a fluke. Our home form has been solid for a number of years now and we have finally mastered the art of picking up points on the road. The possibility of a Champions League campaign will test the squad, but we have the strength in depth now to be able to change the personnel from game to game and still be a force in the Premiership.

The betting for the top 4 sees us 6th best behind Chelsea, Utd, City, Arsenal and Liverpool. I seem to remember us being given a similar chance at the start of last season. History has a habit of repeating itself…

The truth about Joe Cole

The truth about Joe Cole

For the best part of two weeks, every Arsenal fan I know has been very keen to tell me that Joe Cole has agreed a deal to join the Gunners. I did find it slightly hard to believe, I just couldn’t see him wanting to go there. Not solely for footballing reasons but I just can’t imagine him fitting in very well there. He strikes me as a guy who needs to have a laugh and a bit of banter and I don’t think Wenger and co are going to provide any of that. Maybe now he’s got a kid he’s his thinking is different but I can see no reason why he’d want to go there rather than come and work with familiar faces at Tottenham.

When Harry Redknapp said last week it looked like Cole had already agreed a deal with a club, I started to think that maybe the Arsenal rumours were true. The fact Redknapp has done a U-Turn in the last couple of days and declared his interest in signing the Chelsea and England star makes things very different. Something must have happened to make Redknapp change his position so dramatically. Last week he basically said there was no chance, he’d been told Cole was off the market but now he’s made his intentions very clear.

The only negative I can see from Cole’s point of view where a move to Spurs is concerned is the fact we still have to qualify for the Champions League proper. Also, the fact we aren’t Champions League regulars and it’s going to be no easy task to repeat the feat next season would mean his contract would likely contain a lot of conditions, but I don’t really see any problem with that. Being one of the most desirable free agents in recent years, his wage demands will be huge but there are ways around this with signing on fees, bonuses etc so we wouldn’t necessarily have to destroy our wage structure!

A good World Cup for Cole may create new interest from abroad for his signature but from a neutral point of view, I honestly believe Tottenham to be his most likely destination. Obviously I’m also hoping that is the case but the lure of working with Redknapp again coupled with the fact he would feel very much at home with a number of friends and England team mates at the club must make Tottenham a very attractive proposition.