Tottenham will hope to challenge for the UEFA Champions League again, but the White Hart Lane side may be a couple of players away from that challenge.
Manager: Harry Redknapp
Last Season: 4th
Transfers In: Sandro Raniere (Internacional, 6m rising to £10m).
Transfers Out: John Bostock (Hull, loan), Lee Butcher (Leyton Orient), David Button (Plymouth, loan), Sam Cox (Barnet), Dorian Dervite (Villarreal), Oscar Jansson (Northampton, loan), Dean Parrett (Plymouth, loan), Adel Taarabt (Queens Park Rangers, £1m), Andros Townsend (Ipswich, loan), Jimmy Walker (released).
Tottenham Hotspur had a great season in 2009-2010. In qualifying for the UEFA Champions League ahead of Manchester City, Aston Villa, Liverpool and Everton, they were the one team to live up to their potential – though of course Everton could argue that they were severely handicapped by a huge injury list.
With their last six games including matches against Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City, City were expected to steal in and Spurs were expected to fall away. They didn’t.
Tottenham beat Arsenal and Chelsea 2-1 each, before succumbing to Manchester United 3-1. A 1-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers got them back on track, before Peter Crouch’s late goal beat Manchester City at Eastlands – sealing Champions League qualification in the process.
Spurs also have a squad depth worthy of any side in the Premier League. They have at least two excellent players for every position on the pitch. If their current first choice XI is:
Heurelho Gomes, Vedran Corluka, Michael Dawson, Ledley King, Gareth Bale; Aaron Lennon, Wilson Palacios, Tom Huddlestone, Luka Modric; Jermain Defoe, Roman Pavlyuchenko
…the XI in reserve are not too shabby either. When Sandro arrives in September, their second choice side could look like this:
Carlo Cudicini, Younes Kaboul, Jonathan Woodgate, Sebastien Bassong, Benoit Assou-Ekotto; Niko Kranjcar, Sandro, Jermaine Jenas, Giovani Dos Santos; Peter Crouch, Robbie Keane.
That team could give many in the Premier League a run for their money – and will be increasingly valuable in Europe. Teams do not tend to give the Champions League the same short shrift that the Europa League gets, and Redknapp will play a strong side in the competition, meaning managing squad rotation will be increasingly important.
Though it seems like Tottenham Hotspur buy infinity strikers every season, interestingly this is where the one weakness in their side lies.
Spurs had much of their success last season playing 4-4-2, but like Fabio Capello, Harry Redknapp has come to the conclusion that the formation is outdated at the very top level. With most of the top teams playing 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 – particularly in the UEFA Champions League – Tottenham are in the market for a striker.
The forwards currently on the books at White Hart Lane are all good Premier League players, but the aforementioned formations require someone confident and competent playing a solo role up front. Not one of Crouch, Defoe, Keane, or Pavlyuchenko is thought of as comfortable as a lone attacker.
The quick and young triumvirate of Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Aaron Lennon behind a top quality striker would be a terrifying threat to defences at any level, and Redknapp could revert to 4-4-2 with his other strikers against the lesser sides of England’s top flight. With reported interest in Ashley Young though, Bale may be employed at left back.
This is the one piece of the puzzle that is particularly missing. If Tottenham can sign a top class forward before the transfer window closes I can see them challenging for the Champions League again. Otherwise Manchester City and a rejuvenated Liverpool could well catch up. Avoiding injury problems at centre half would be a big step too, but Jonathan Woodgate and Ledley King continue to struggle. Better cover than Bassong may be required.