Spurs RoundTable No.3: Can Spurs Ever Reach the Champions League?

Spurs-RoundTable .Correspondent IDecember 11, 2008

Can Spurs Ever Reach The Champions League?

by Willie Gannon

With Christopher rightly questioning Redknapp's ability now that he has moved to a bigger club and David perusing the transfer market, I've decided to take a look at whether Harry can lead Spurs into the coveted land of the Champions League.

As Christopher mentioned, Harry is famous for his "arm around the shoulder" style and over his 25-year career as a manager many of his players have come forward, describing him as a "player's manager", meaning he favours the communicative approach over a tactical one.

One thing to note about Redknapp is that he made the shortlist for the vacant England managers job, a job that Fabio Capello quite rightly received. What this shows is that the FA had seriously considered Harry for the premier post in the land.

At the time, it was felt by many pundits that Redknapp only made the list as a token English man and was never really in the running. We'll never know the real answer, but the fact remains that he figured in the final shake up.

Over his career Harry Redknapp has cultivated an "Arthur Daly" (Minder from the 80's for our younger readers, classic TV show) type character and perhaps it even became a self fulfilling prophecy. With even Harry not believing how good he is.

Last season he led Portsmouth to an unlikely date at Wembley where they won the FA Cup. During his time at Fratton Park he assembled a team that were physically very strong, played good football, extended the careers of one or two veterans, and were very tough to beat—all for a comparatively small budget.

Harry repeated this process during good spells with West Ham and Southampton too, and now that he's at Spurs with more money and higher expectations he'll be expected to do it again. And at this early stage I believe all the signs are good.

Everyone knows the predicament that Spurs were in under Juande Ramos, and within days Harry had seemingly performed miracles and had Spurs beating teams like Liverpool and coming back from the dead against Arsenal in a memorable 4-4 draw.

Most pundits put the results down to the impetus that a new manager brings to a club, and they may be right, but to all of the good results that Spurs gathered over the next few weeks it would be folly to say the least.

Redknapp made quick assessments and players like Tom Huddlestone who had found themselves training with the youth team were brought back into the fold with open arms.

Huddlestone has become a fixture in the team under Harry, and is now the preferred partner to Jermaine Jenas in the middle. His passing ability is second to none in the Premiership, and while he had added a physical presence to the Spurs midfield that was lacking under Ramos.

Bentley was also recalled from the dog house, Lennon has actually started to look like a footballer who can sprint rather than a sprinter who plays football and Bent has formed a relationship with Pavyluchenko up front.

Subtle changes have been made to formations, the 4-5-1 so favoured by Ramos has been tweaked so that Modric is pushed forward as an attacking midfielder in support of the striker. A role he was relishing until he picked up an ankle injury.

The wide men now get as wide as possible, and with Huddlestone enjoying life in his "quarterback" role Spurs have progressed rapidly in recent weeks.

They are still prone to the type of error that has dogged all Spurs team for the last 30 years or so, in that they are very lightweight throughout the team and are liable to finding matches against teams like Villa and Everton heavy going.

Redknapp will be well aware of this situation as it's one he tried to expose during his time as Portsmouth boss. David's article mentioned many of Harry's likely targets, but I have a suspicion that he will be looking to raid Portsmouth for Lassana Diarra, in a bid to strengthen midfield.

His transfer acquisitions are of utmost importance if Spurs are to challenge regularly for Europe, and Spurs have money to spend so buying Harry's targets shouldn't be a cash problem.

Should the right positions be filled, basically the whole spine of the team, there is no reason to believe that Spurs won't challenge the top six.

Harry has proved in his time at West Ham and Portsmouth that he favours players over tactics, but he has also shown a canny tactical nous when needed. And he has shown as much in his short time at White Hart Lane.

Much depends on Harry's transfer dealings, and Spurs can only look after themselves and shouldn't worry about what players end up at City or Arsenal or Villa.

At the moment Spurs are good enough to beat their main rivals for fourth place in the league, but they have to be at the top of their game. They don't seem capable of grinding out a result against lower opposition so the chances of grinding out a result against the likes of Arsenal is unlikely.

Spurs need the players to make that step up the ladder, in other words they need to find out how to win games playing badly.

In Harry Redknapp, Spurs have their best chance in years of breaking into the top four. Of course we said that about Ramos too. And while he was hamstrung by the clubs transfer policy at the time, Redknapp has the firm knowledge that he is in control of the club's policies from top to bottom.

With a real football man in charge, Spurs have a real chance to progress. And this time the chairman will back his man to the hilt. Everything is in place for Spurs to succeed, now all we need is for Spurs to start winning games.

Easier said than done I'm afraid.


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