A look back at Tottenham’s season in 2012/13.
After finishing fourth and cruelly missing out on a Champions League place due to Chelsea’s shock win over Bayern Munich in the final of the competition, Tottenham were very unfortunate to find themselves in the Europa League once again. This seemingly led to the harsh sacking of manager Harry Redknapp, who had worked wonders to make Spurs into genuine contenders for the top four since arriving at the club. His work also saw the team play what many thought was the best football in the league and Gareth Bale develop into one of the Premier League’s best players.
Recently-sacked Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas was brought in to replace Redknapp, who would take over at Queens Park Rangers later in the season. In this summer of change at the club, two key players were sold, with Luka Modric making a big-money move to Real Madrid, and Rafael van der Vaart making a somewhat surprising switch to former club Hamburg. Steven Pienaar was also sold to Everton after failing to establish himself at White Hart Lane.
The new manager spent big in the summer, with nearly £60million going on new players. Gylfi Sigurdsson joined from Hoffenheim after catching the eye in the Premier League on loan with Swansea, Jan Vertonghen joined from Ajax, Moussa Dembele arrived for £15million from Fulham, joined by the exciting Clint Dempsey for what looked like a bargain at £6million, Emmanuel Adebayor’s loan deal from Manchester City was made permanent, and Lyon goalkeeper Hugo Lloris joined for £12million. Despite the loss of Modric and van der Vaart, as well as the retirement of Ledley King, there was plenty to be optimistic about going into the new season.
Things didn’t get off to the best start for AVB, as Spurs were beaten 2-1 by Newcaslte in their opening game. They remained winless with disappointing home draws to West Brom and Norwich, but finally registered their first win in the middle of September with a 3-1 victory away to newly-promoted Reading.
Things were soon on the up, as they followed up a 2-1 win over Queens Park Rangers with a superb 3-2 victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford. In a thoroughly entertaining game, goals from Jan Vertonghen, Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey ended Tottenham’s 23-year wait for an away win against United. It was sensed that a new era was beginning under Villas-Boas.
A third league win in a row came as Aston Villa were beaten 2-0 at White Hart Lane, though the team’s fine run was ended with a disappointing 4-2 home defeat to Chelsea. Spurs had taken a 2-1 lead, but the Blues were in fine form at the start of the season and turned things around with Juan Mata in particularly great form, as the visitors looked like being early favourites for the title, while Spurs’ challenge perhaps looked over.
They responded with a win at Southampton, with Bale scoring a fine header against his old club, but then lost three league games in a row, starting with a poor display at home to Wigan in a game which finished 1-0 to the visitors. They then lost a close game to champions Manchester City, and then faced more humiliation in the North London derby as they were blitzed 5-2 by Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, the same scoreline as last season. At this point, many Spurs fans were losing patience with their new manager, who didn’t seem any improvement on Redknapp at all.
He quickly turned things around though, as the club won seven out of their next nine league games. Memorable results included a 2-1 home win against Liverpool and a 4-0 thrashing away to Aston Villa, with Gareth Bale in superb form hitting a second-half hat-trick. Further wins came against Reading and Sunderland, though they hit a rough patch as they drew away to QPR and at home to Manchester United. They were also dumped out of the FA Cup by Championship side Leeds, and then drew a third league game in a row with a 1-1 at Norwich.
Things picked up as a Bale wonder goal won a tight game away to West Brom, and the Welshman started to really hit his best form of the season and perhaps of his career. Further superb strikes came against Newcastle, and at home to Lyon in the Europa League in which they were making good progress. He also scored a sensational winner in a late comeback win away to West Ham, making Spurs look like favourites to claim fourth spot.
In the second North London derby of the season, Spurs were victorious with a deserved 2-1 win over Arsenal at White Hart Lane. This result put them seven points ahead of their rivals, and looked like putting them well on their way to Champions League football, as Chelsea were also struggling and Bale was looking simply unstoppable.
However, things proved difficult as the extra games in the Europa League led to tired legs in some league games. They threw away a 2-1 lead to lose 3-2 to Liverpool at Anfield, and lost at home to Fulham with former hero Dimitar Berbatov scoring the winner. They were then eliminated on penalties in the Europa League quarter-finals, meaning their extra games and good work in this competition were for nothing. Tiredness led to disappointing draws with Everton and Wigan, though they did stage an impressive comeback with three quick-fire goals to beat Manchester City from 1-0 down at White Hart Lane.
Bale continued to work his magic, netting another late wonder goal to beat Southampton, and a 2-2 draw with Chelsea left the race for fourth finely in the balance. Unfortunately for them, Arsenal’s form at this point really picked up, and despite another Bale-inspired win on the final day against Sunderland, Arsenal’s win at Newcastle meant they were consigned to another season below their North London rivals and another season of Europa League football, despite their record points tally in the Premier League with 72.
Best player: Gareth Bale
A very obvious choice and deserving winner of both the PFA and FWA Player of the Year award. Bale really stepped up his game to world class levels this season, scoring 26 times in all competitions in a new role under Villas-Boas, and the club will now face a big fight to keep the likes of Real Madrid away.
Worst player: Emmanuel Adebayor
A real disappointment after a successful loan spell the previous year. Spurs fought hard to sign him from Manchester City and he just didn’t deliver, scoring just five league goals all season and often missing easy chances and generally proving a liability upfront.
Final grade: C
A fairly average grade for a team that continues to just miss out on the goods. There were improvements this season, and Spurs’ football was once again great to watch, but this is a side that should be winning silverware and making the top four. Arsenal and Chelsea were nothing special, but their know-how and ability to grind out results saw them edge ahead of Spurs. Good, but not quite good enough.