A season that saw Tottenham embark on their first Champions League campaign was one in which the team did well, but finally petered out as the games caught up with them in the latter part of the season. There was just enough in the team to win the last two matches to gain fifth place and qualification for the Europa League, which will be a drop from the heights reached in Tottenham's first ever season in the Champions League.
A campaign that will be memorable for the European nights when they beat Internazionale 3-1 at home and AC Milan 1-0 away, progressing to the quarter-finals at the first attempt, but the exertions took their toll on the Premier League performances, with some precious points dropped following the travels to Europe against team Spurs should have been picking points up against. In the final analysis, these points cost Tottenham a place in the next season's Champions League and left them facing the perhaps even more arduous task of competing in the Europa League involving even more matches abroad.
It is perhaps a little ironic that the season started with a home match against Manchester City - the side Tottenham beat away at the end of last season to grab fourth place. Stronger, having paid out handsomely to bring in more top players, City came to the Lane with a defensive mind-set to defend for their lives. it was both a tactic that Mancini deployed throughout the season to get points where he thought there might not be much chance of getting any and also one that Spurs fans were to become all too familiar with throughout the season, as teams came to White Hart Lane to hold onto what they started with. A 0-0 draw was earned with Joe Hart outstanding in the City goal.
So, the first of a number of home draws, which cost Spurs by the time mid May came around, but before we knew it, a trip to Switzerland came along to face Young Boys of Bern in the qualifying round of the Champions League. Media types were sure this would be straightforward for Spurs, but things rarely are with Spurs and with 30 minutes gone on a plastic pitch, Spurs found themselves 0-3 behind. However, a goal before half-time and a tactical change by Harry saw Huddlestone replace Assou-Ekotto saw Spurs escape with a 2-3 defeat and went through comfortably, with Crouch scoring a hat-trick at home in a 4-0 win.
In between, there had been a convincing 2-1 away win at Stoke - never the best place to visit - with Bale's two goals being as different as you could get. One in off his face and the second, a sublime chest high volley from the left corner of the box that ripped into the opposite top corner of the net. Unfortunately, after beating Young Boys to put us through to the group stages, Wigan Athletic beat us 1-0 at home. It was a game where Spurs had a large amount of possession and territorial advantage, but failed to turn it into goals or a winning position.
While the team were becoming adept at salvaging situations by coming from behind, they were having problems in scoring goals, with the forwards not contributing as many as in previous years and opposition managers not allowing the freedom to them that they had enjoyed last season.
The next two games were drawn - 1-1 at WBA and 2-2 at Werder Bremen, after being 2-0 ahead in just 18 minutes, followed by a 3-1 home win over Wolves that saw them take the lead right on half-time and then Spurs getting three goals in the last 13 minutes to win their first home game in the League. A shocking loss at West Ham preceded three straight wins. A 4-1 win over Twente Enschede (more convincing when we went down to 10 men when Rafael van der Vaart was sent off), then 2-1 against Aston Villa at home and the same margin of victory away at Fulham. The six points moved Spurs up to fifth ahead of their visit to reigning Champions League holders Internazionale.
It was another nightmare start for Spurs. A goal down when Gomes was sent off in the 10th minute, leaving Cudicini to pick the ball out of the net from the resulting penalty. It got worse, as Inter passed the ball about and picked open the Spurs defence, putting them 4-0 ahead in 35 minutes. It was just a question of how many at that stage. But a goal by Gareth Bale, racing away from Maicon and Zanetti from 20 yards inside his own half, kick started a revival. He repeated the dose with an identical goal and then hit a third in added time, when the whistle blew to deny Spurs the draw they looked like getting as Inter were shell-shocked.
Although it was a defeat, it had shown the world that Gareth Bale was a huge talent and that Tottenham were a force to be reckoned with. And it gave the team a boost, although not immediately, as a tired 1-1 home draw with Everton and a 0-2 defeat at Manchester United knocked Spurs down to seventh. The United game was another bitter pill to swallow. Having looked the more dominant force in the first half, a goal from a set-piece set Spurs back before half-time, but then when pushing for something from the game, a bizarre decision by Clattenburg put the game beyond Tottenham's reach. A dive by Nani followed by him grabbing the ball with his hand saw Gomes gain possession. He put the ball down to take a free-kick, but Nani got up, ran around the keeper and put the ball into an unguarded net.
Gomes should have played to the whistle, but following such a blatant infringement, why wouldn't a free-kick be given and having "scored", Clattenburg could have pulled it back for a handball and there would have been little argument. But this is Clattenburg we are talking about and he has history with Spurs at Old Trafford. Unfortunately, it was not to be the only controversial refereeing decision associated with Heurelho Gomes this season.
However, the defeat may have kicked the team up the backside, as they went on a long run losing only one game in 12. The only problem was still the lack of goals and too many draws. The comprehensive 3-1 win over Internazionale at home showed Spurs could compete at the top European table, but coming back down to earth with a bump with a sloppy 2-4 loss at Bolton Wanderers was another reality check.
Despite a lack-lustre 1-1 draw with Sunderland at home, Spurs then had four good wins over Blackburn Rovers, Arsenal, Werder Bremen and Liverpool. The away win at Arsenal saw Tottenham go two behind in the first half and it could have been more. But, true to their form this season, they came back and two goals from Bale and van der Vaart put them level, before Kaboul glanced a header in with five minutes to go and secure a 3-2 win.
A home draw with Chelsea saw Gomes concede a late penalty and then save it, before further wins over Newcastle, Aston Villa and Fulham took us to New Year's Day. The next game saw a return to the sloppy Spurs, who lost 0-2 at Everton, before we returned home to see off Charlton in the FA Cup and draw with Manchester United, before getting a last minute equaliser at Newcastle.
Resting a number of players, Redknapp sent a side out to face Fulham at Craven Cottage in the FA Cup that collapsed after the conceding of an early penalty by Dawson, who was sent off in the 14th minute for giving away another and then it got to 0-4 at half-time. Fulham eased off and Spurs stepped it up a bit, but they looked like a side who were not that bothered about staying in the competition.
Back in the league three straight wins, two of which were away at Blackburn and Sunderland, helped establish Spurs in fourth place before they travelled back to Milan, but this time to face AC in the knock-out stages of the Champions League. Expecting a tough game, it was surprising that Tottenham controlled the play with Palacios and Sandro outstanding in midfield and when Lennon burst away with 10 minutes left, his square ball was passed into the net by Crouch to give Spurs a 1-0 victory. To see them play this this was a dream come true, but nightmares lay ahead.
The next six games failed to bring a win, with points dropped to teams in the bottom positions. An immediate 1-3 reverse at Blackpool saw Tottenham have over 20 shots on goal, but only get one in the net in the final minute. The string of league draws with Wolves, West Ham and Wigan probably decided our season, although another draw - at home to AC Milan took us through to the Champions League quarter final. And that was where the nightmare stated.
15 minutes into the first leg, the tie was lost. 0-1 down, Peter Crouch got booked for two late sliding tackles in the forward third and was sent off. With an extra man and the space that brought them, Real Madrid passed the ball around imperiously. Spurs did what they could to stop any more goals, but even though it was still 0-1 at the break, tiredness crept in and it finished 0-4 and with it any slim hope Tottenham had of sneaking through.
Back at home for the next four games, a hard fought 3-2 win over Stoke was followed by the second leg against Real Madrid, when Gomes fumbled a shot from Ronaldo into the net, but it didn't really matter by then. What was more important were the next two home games against Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion in the domestic competition. Both ended up draws, with differing emotions. Having been 1-3 down to Arsenal, the team played very well to get a 3-3 draw, but against Albion, they were 2-1 up and lost a late goal to draw 2-2. More draws. More lost points.
So, the final run in did not look simple, with an away game against Manchester City looking like a repeat of last season's meeting, with fourth place depending on it. Before then we played Chelsea away and Blackpool at home. both ended up being disappointing results.
Taking the lead at Stamford Bridge and once more looking good, we were undone by a combination of Gomes' error and some highly questionable linesman-ing. Sandro smashed a shot past Cech to make it 1-0 to Spurs, but just before the interval, a low Lampard shot from 25 yards managed to evade Gomes' grasp, going right through his hands and body, but as it trickled towards goal, he turned and got back to it to grab the ball on the line. Only the linesman ruled that it had gone over. Neither Andre Marriner nor the linesman had a decent view and TV proved that the WHOLE ball DID NOT cross the line. Not content with that, Salomon Kalou scored right at the end of the game to wrap up a 2-1 win, when he had been offside twice in the move leading to the goal.
The Blackpool game was just as much of a let-down. With Liverpool now breathing down our necks in sixth and with a home game against us to come next, this was becoming a must win match. And it wasn't for the sake of not having enough chances, as Spurs battered the Blackpool goal, but found just about everything in the way. A penalty decision against Spurs for a handball, when it looked like Dawson had been pushed himself, saw Charlie Adam step up to take the spot-kick. Not flavour of the month for putting Bale out of the match with a late tackle high on the Welshman's ankle, his penalty was pushed away by Gomes. There was much excitement and in the ensuing goalmouth scramble after the resulting corner, the keeper pushed over a Blackpool player and another penalty was given. This time Adam made not mistake. It looked like any hope of European football was slipping away for Spurs, until Defoe finally did what he does best and larruped the ball into the net with a minute to go. It was less than we deserved and more than the Seasiders did, as they came with one intent and it wasn't to play football.
So, Tottenham went into what was billed as the Champions League decider without Bale and with Gomes dropped or out with a back injury ... whichever you believe. As it turned out the match was a bit of a damp squib and Modric could have put Tottenham ahead, but instead Peter Crouch turned from last year's hero to this year's villain with an own goal from the precise spot he scored last season and that was enough to settle the game and to settle who would finish in the top four.
Realistically, Tottenham would have struggled to be in the top four even if they had won that game, but with an away game at Liverpool and a home match against struggling Birmingham City left, the only crumb of comfort would be a place in the Europa League for 2011-12. Never a happy hunting ground, Anfield turned into a home from home, as Spurs strolled around, dominating and controlling the whole game and looking well worth their 2-0 win over the Scousers, who had been on a good run until then. The result jumped us over Liverpool into fifth and we had to at least match their result at Aston Villa to stay in that position in the final table.
Birmingham had slumped after winning the League Cup against Arsenal and needed to match results of other clubs around them, but so many teams were involved in the relegation battle with the situation changing all the time, that they really had to win. But then so did Spurs.
rum hardly ventured out of their half in the first 45 minutes, with Spurs attacking, but looking less than threatening, with the major deciding factor being Crouch having to leave the field with a head injury for Roman Pavlyuchenko coming on to replace him. It proved a vital switch, with Pav scoring four minutes into the second half, before Craig Gardner equalised with just 11 minutes left. However the erratic Russian was to have literally the last word on this season with a fierce dipping shot that went in off the underside of the bar to give Spurs a win (which they didn't really need as Liverpool were losing to Villa) and to hand a defeat to Birmingham, which they didn't need as it condemned them to Championship football next season.
So after 38 games, Spurs had finished fifth ... a position they had occupied for much of the season, but the final placing only tells part of the story.
Could things have been done differently ?
The lack of activity in January probably didn't help. Pienaar was an odd signing, as we were pretty well covered in midfield, while Khumalo was one for the future, but not signing another striker while letting Keane go out on loan left Spurs short of forwards in form.
And the tactic of religiously playing one up front away from home might have cost us some points, although our away form has picked up. Sometimes, against teams who are struggling, two forwards might have given them something to deal with rather than to concentrate on their own play.
But what next ??
Gomes had cost Spurs points, but there is no doubt that he won them some too, with vital saves and the ever-changing back four in front of him could not have helped establish an understanding with his defence. Michael Dawson was outstanding when he recovered from his early season injury on England duty, while Jermain Defoe never quite did. He didn't look the player of the previous season and struggled for goals and was frustrated that he wasn't getting in the side. While Pavlyuchenko got goals, he never looked quite as threatening as he should and Crouch does not get the return that he should either. That left Bale and van der Vaart to score the bulk of the goals and they were magnificent this season, aided and abetted by the sublime Luka Modric, who withstood the physical side of the game and made the team tick. William Gallas also showed his worth to the side with some steady, classy defending when called upon more often than Redknapp probably envisaged when he brought him in.
Of players for the future, Sandro's emergence was particularly impressive and he looks a rock for Harry to build his midfield around. An unlikely position for Danny Rose to shine arose at the end of the season, when he played left back with great confidence. Only little, but with a great turn of pace and a positional awareness that is still developing, he did very well there in the last few games.
Those who didn't do so well include David Bentley, Jonathan Woodgate (only because he only played less than one half a game all season) and Niko Kranjcar (lack of opportunity). With many of the fringe players out on loan, there may need to be a big clear out in the summer, with the likes of Giovani dos Santos, Robbie Keane and Jamie O'Hara loaned out and maybe on their way out. It will be an interesting close season, with Harry having to sell some to buy some, ahead of what will be a demanding season in the Europa League.
So, a season of highs and of unrealised expectations, but hopefully, it will stand as one to remember and one which will show what needs to be done if the club are to regularly challenge for a top four position and in Europe at the same time.
Club record number of fewest Premier League defeats.
Equalled record for number of Premier League home draws in a season with nine.
Twice Lee Probert awarded two penalties against Spurs
in the same game this season -
1. Heurelho Gomes
2. Alan Hutton
3. Gareth Bale
4. Younes Kaboul
5. David Bentley
6. Tom Huddlestone
7. Aaron Lennon
8. Jermaine Jenas
9. Roman Pavlyuchenko
10. Robbie Keane
11. Rafael van der Vaart
12. Wilson Palacios
13. William Gallas
14. Luka Modric
15. Peter Crouch
16. Kyle Naughton
17. Giovani dos Santos
18. Jermaine Defoe
19. Sebastien Bassong
20. Michael Dawson
21. Niko Kranjcar
22. Vedran Corluka
23. Carlo Cudicini
24. Jamie O'Hara
25. Danny Rose
26. Ledley King
27. Ben Alnwick
28. Kyle Walker
29. Jake Livermore
32. Benoit Assou-Ekotto
36. Bongani Khumalo
37. Stipe Pletikosa
39. Jonathan Woodgate
40. Steven Pienaar
SANDRO (midfielder) (£6,000,000; Internacional - Brazil)
William GALLAS (defender) (Free; Arsenal)
Stipe PLETIKOSA (goalkeeper) (loan; Spartak Moscow)
Rafael VAN DER VAART (midfielder) (£8,000,000; Real Madrid - Spain)
|NEW FIRST YEAR ACADEMY PLAYERS|
|PLAYERS WHO LEFT IN THE SUMMER BEFORE THE SEASON|
|Jimmy WALKER (goalkeeper)
Sam COX (defender) (Free; Barnet)
Lee BUTCHER (goalkeeper) (Free; Leyton Orient)
Dorian DERVITE (defender) (undisclosed; Villarreal - Spain)
Adel TAARABT (midfielder) (£1,500,000; QPR)
Ryan MASON (Doncaster Rovers)
|STAFF WHO LEFT IN THE SUMMER BEFORE THE SEASON|
|PLAYERS WHO LEFT IN THE WINTER TRANSFER WINDOW|
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