half time team talk

01.01.2009

To say we have had a disappointing first half of the season would be a bit of an understatement.  Complete mismanagement in the transfer window led into a record breaking run of matches without victory, bottom of the premier league and staring into the abyss.

Since saying ‘Adios’ to Ramos and ‘Alright geezer’ to sports writers’ favourite ‘Arry ‘Houdini’ Redknapp ‘Hotspur’ there has been a complete transformation throughout the club.  Without Harry’s arrival I am convinced that we would still be rock bottom of the Prem, probably 10 points adrift of the next team and a dead cert for relegation.  However you can only win so many games with the chirpy feel-good factor a new manager like Redknapp brings, a fact that has been reflected in our recent form and results.

It’s been unbelievably frustrating to watch Spurs slip up in the last three fixtures, missing the opportunity to move clear from the relegation zone into mid table and focus on those above us rather than those below.  Five points from the last three matches would have put us tenth, just seven points from the top six. Instead we picked up just one point in the disappointing home draw to Fulham.  These results have highlighted as much as any the inadequacies in our squad and the complete mess of our transfer policy under Damien Comolli.  It is clear that there are two or three key positions that Harry needs to focus on.

The problem is that Spurs have gone down in the Premier League pecking order quicker than a one legged man going down doing the hokey cokey.  Either in terms of financial clout and league position we are well behind the likes of Arsenal, Villa, Everton and Abu Dhabi United.  A far cry from being ‘best of the rest’, knocking on the door of the Champions League in 2006 and 2007.  We have our work cut out if we are to lure the best players for the right positions.

I don’t feel that a new goalkeeper is a priority at all.  Gomes seems to be over his bout of chronic Paulrobinsonjitteritis after taking Doctor Park’s hero medicine and is proving that he is a keeper of quality.  In defence we are better covered than we have been for years, however the King dilemma will probably need to be addressed in the summer.

Midfield is still a problem.  I think that Harry likes to play a four man midfield of ‘job’ players i.e. ones who fulfil a specific role in a particular area of midfield.  We have too many midfielders who are not quite up to full spec in their respective positions, like Zokora who gives and gives for us but unfortunately is neither one nor the other.  With the current players available I would pick a starting midfield of Lennon, Jenas, Huddlestone and O’Hara.  I like O’ Hara, he gets stuck in, is aggressive and can score, although he is not naturally suited to playing on the left, but like Malbranque and Davids before him, he provides some much needed bite in midfield.

Lennon has been excellent all season long on both wings, but Bentley has been awful.  Apart from the Arsenal game I don’t think I’ve seen him put in a good performance for Spurs and he looks increasingly disinterested.  Yet another criminal waste of money, especially when we’ve been crying out for a left winger for ages.

If Harry is serious about targeting a proper left winger this transfer window, he should look at someone like Pedersen at Blackburn, who would be good value (ticking the Levy box).  For me Downing is a non starter.  Over priced and over rated, we don’t need another David Bentley.

In Luka Modric we have a dilemma.  To play Modric, who is worth building a team around, we need a prolific forward willing to work for the ball and create chances for themselves and team mates.  The other option is to play him in front of a three man midfield with an out and out holding midfield player behind him and two strikers in front.  The problem is I don’t think that there is a holding player of the quality we require available, especially with our lack of funds.  Redknapp is historically a traditionalist when it comes to formation, so I’m not sure if there is time at the moment to accommodate the Croatian, which is a crying shame as he has been one of our shining lights all season.
Main priority is to get a top quality striker.  Bent has done well in patches, but his recent performances, particularly that against Fulham, have been scarily bad - a poor first touch and always in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Pavlyuchenko is not the flavour of this or any other month, and I see us bidding adieu to him sooner rather than later. And Frazer Campbell … well let’s not go there.  We are going to have our work cut out luring forwards who are available with our limited funds and in a lowly league position.  If we fail in our bids for Defoe and Bellamy (who at six million would be a good deal, any more is a rip off), we could look to Kevin Doyle, currently one of the leading scorers in the Championship.  I’d be weary of spending big on an unproven foreigner.

Harry has done well so far.  We have managed to drag ourselves out of the bottom three, but if we fail to make improvements to the current squad, in particular up front, then I predict that we’ll have about 45 points on the board come the end of the season.  I don’t think that I’m being dramatic, after all who thought that we’d be just two points off the bottom at this stage of the season ?

In the long term it seems that are going to have to re-build all over again.  It will be two years before we even get into the top six again if all goes to plan.  Sort out our striker problems or get a proper holding midfielder and left winger then we could get a top half finish.  But forget Europe or winning a cup whatever happens. 

Harry has a big job on his hands to even come close to where we were just a couple of seasons.

marc keown

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