top four reasons why spurs won't make the top four

09.08.2007

Peter Lis takes a view on how Tottenham might find it hard to progress further than the two fourth place finishes of the last two seasons ...
 

All Spurs fans, myself included, approach the new season with genuine reasons to be optimistic : two consecutive fifth place finishes, a squad bristling with attacking talent and intent and a lack of inferiority about the two teams above us, Liverpool and Arsenal, neither of whom scare as they might once have done. 

There are, equally, reasons to be cautious lest the pre-season triumphs in South Africa and over (it must be said) a so-so Torino outfit lead us to believe that we just have to turn up and the majority of sides in the Premiership ( our so-called 'inferiors') will roll over and die allowing us to take maximum points. 

First, and most glaring of all, the left sided midfield player has not arrived - in fact he has gone to Manchester City or stayed at Blackburn (Downing, no thanks ...) and we will again be hoping to run into defences who do not realise that Malbranque, Lee and most others who turn up in the wide left midfield berth will invariably turn infield to deliver crosses/passes.  The problem is currently exacerbated by Bale's absence : against Torino Rocha played admirably well, but coming forward was a doddle to defend against when he shifted the ball to his right foot to cross the ball.  This lack of balance will cost us, especially against the better organised teams (cf Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal) as it did against Sevilla in the UEFA Cup, a key reason why we didn't progress to the final.  The one saving grace might be Taarabt who seems to play reasonably well on the left, but it's a makeshift at best. 

Secondly, goal difference.  There's a definite feeling that we can outscore the majority of teams we play against given the presence of the best quartet of strikers in the division.  This works well in cup competitions as Brazil have demonstrated at World Cup level, but it's not going to win us the league.  Boring George Graham has a point : defences win titles.  Compare our goal difference with that of the teams above us not just last season, but the ones before that.  We have to be as watertight as a mermaid's brassiere ( 'Blackadder Goes forth') if we are going to make the Champions League spot, even more so if we play in the Champions League against Milan, Barca, etc.  King's absence is a major loss which not even Daws' incredible enthusiasm and will to win is going to make up for.  Kaboul is young with all the advantages and faults of youth, Rocha a little unsteady.  Opposing teams are going to target the heart of the defence as a weak point as well as attacking down our right flank to unsettle our temporary left back (whoever he might be) until Bale returns.  Even then we will have a seventeen year old up against seasoned pros.  Absolutely no doubting Bale's quality, but experience is also needed.  Chimbonda is excellent going forward, but a tad wonky at times defending and frightening in some of his distribution coming away from our goal line.  We are going to need at least one player in front of the back four, maybe two in our away games to help out. 

Which brings us, thirdly, to Robbo.  Great shot stopper, brave and looks the part.  The Orient game showed that he is still not the most reliable in some aspects of his game.  He won't need reminding about the various long range efforts last season (too many to mention) that undermined both his credentials as England's No 1 and confidence in league games.  Thankfully the bizarre rushes from the goal line only to be caught out of position seem to be a thing of the past.  I only hope Segers and co can instil in him the positional sense he seems to lack on occasions.  Make no mistake he saved several 'certain' goals against us last year and will do so again this time round.  Last season's experience will hopefully bear fruit this time round. 

Finally, it's all about punching a hole in that glass ceiling to reach the rarefied atmosphere of the top four.  We are in danger of becoming the Tim Henmans of the football world if we continually stumble and trip at the threshold of greatness.  The above caveats not withstanding this should be our year, particularly if we beat all the teams we should beat at home (everyone bar maybe Man U and Chelsea) and improve our dismal away record, especially against the teams we should be overturning.  That means starting with a win at Sunderland this Saturday, not being happy with a draw, tough game, they were up for it, always knew it would be difficult, blah, blah, blah ... Dodgy refereeing and unforeseen injuries aside we need to win at The Stadium of Light whether their new keeper costs 9m or 9p.  The same resolve we see season in, season out in the top teams, not just domestically but Milan, Barca and, yes, Sevilla, last year : do the job, do the simple things well and the results will follow.  It's nothing more fancy than that. 

The game is about glory and winning in style as Blanchflower said.  The presence of Mackay, Norman and Smith enabled him and Johnny White to parade their skills.  Whilst in no way comparing the Double team to the present one, we do have to show the steely determination needed to dominate lesser teams and to hold our own with the so-called Big Four - until we do so we are always going to have our noses pressed up against the window looking in on what others are achieving.

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