Spurs RoundTable: Where To Next? / Tottenham Swapspur / Can Spurs Finish Fourth?

Spurs-RoundTable .Correspondent IDecember 11, 2008

Is Harry Redknapp the right man for Spurs?

by Christopher Potter

"It is a club that has massively underachieved this year—to be sitting there with two points and, let's be honest, in a real desperate situation, a relegation battle."

It really was too good to be true—Harry's cup of tea, time to roll up his sleeves and start from scratch…this time at a ''big, big club''.

When Harry Redknapp came to chairman Daniel Levy's beck and call the evening before Tottenham's decisive Premier League home match against Bolton, Tottenham had TWO points from EIGHT games.

This after recruiting heavily in the summer. This after enjoying an impressive unbeaten pre-season. This with a squad brimming with talent and a manager with pedigree.

Nine games and seven victories later, it is easy to forget that for Redknapp and his players, the hard work has just started.

Things are looking promising already. He has three in-form strikers, has established a good working relationship between players and staff and has enjoyed more luck than his predecessor.

So, where to next for Redknapp?

His ability to nurture young talent, pluck quality players for cut-price fees out of obscurity and turn poor sides into cohesive and skillful teams is the stuff of legend.

He did it at West Ham, he did it at Southampton and he did it twice at Portsmouth.

Tottenham, however, is a different beast entirely.

Expectations are higher—and rightfully so—at a club with such financial clout and a history of relative success.

If Redknapp does take Tottenham to safety this season, what is the goal for next season? Top six? The Champions League?

The resources are there for Redknapp but will he know how best to use them? He has never been afforded the opportunity to spend £10 million on a player. He has never been expected to create a team that can mix it with the very best of them.

Do you believe Redknapp has the necessary tactical awareness, the philosophies, the inspiration to take Tottenham onto the next level? Or is he a stop-gap? A quick fix?

How much longer will his "f*%$ing run around", arm around the shoulder tactics hold up against the more acute approaches of the Wenger's, Mourinho's and Scolari's—not to mention Benitez.

Tottenham Swapspur by David Jacobs

In the Juan-days, the weekly team sheet hardly changed; not even Jermain Defoe got the matches that he should've had. This left Keane and "golden boy" Berbatov to play every time. Ramos didn't trust the younger players like John Bostock or Jonathan Obika—who had just come up from the academy.

Maybe Ramos thought that placing them in the squad was a risk to a team already fighting relegation, or he wanted to make the players work for their place. The £1million question now is—"How can you make the players work for their place on the squad if you don't give them a chance to play?"

But now, Ramos has departed and a top-drawer replacement has arrived fresh from the city of Portsmouth, from which he has received the freedom of.

His name is Harry Redknapp.

Tottenham are starting to pick up the pace now with their improved mentality and quantity of possession. Redknapp has demonstrated the reason why he is a lot different to Juande Ramos.

Harry, or "'Arry", as he's more affectionately known, gives the younger/second string players a chance to show him and everyone else watching how good they are and how much better they can be. This obviously means more choice on who to choose as the starting XI.

January is now approaching and with that month comes the mid-season transfer window. It is a chance to grab last-minute players to paper over cracks in the squad.

Who should Spurs target? Who are they targeting? And are there any players who should go?

In recent seasons, Spurs have lacked defensive clout and were top-heavy in the forward department. With one of the best strike forces in the league, you'd expect to win matches and even get into the top-four.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the case. Spurs' weakness at set-pieces and the ability to give cheap goals away was far too frequent an occurrence to be classified as "just one of those things, whoopsie, blue moon, etc."

Drastic measures were taken to draft in some defensive presence for the team. Vedran Corluka was a great call by Levy, and an interest has been shown in Fulham's 27-year-old defender Brede Hangeland who has been impressive so far this season.

This possible target would be used as a stand-in for injury-prone captain Ledley King who has been regulated to no more than three or four games a month.

New signing Heurelho Gomes has caused a great deal of concern in the goalkeeping department and provided much debate since his arrival from PSV Eindhoven, where he was at the peak of his performance.

His shot-stopping hasn't been anything below outstanding, but his corner-stopping has. His ability to mis-judge crosses has caused nothing but problems, especially in a league where crossing happens so often.
Do Spurs need to merely swap him for ex-Real Madrid goalie César Sánchez? Should they just keep Gomes in the starting XI and hope he improves?
Or should Spurs be looking for a new presence between the posts? Over the past few weeks, Tottenham have been linked with moves for the £5m-rated Wayne Hennessey at Wolves, Shay Given, and Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Jaaskeleinen has been brilliant at Bolton. His "double saves" against Hull City a few weeks ago saved Bolton from embarrassment. 

I got a bit of a positive shock when I heard that Spurs were on alert about German forward Podolski possibly moving from Bayern Munich and also READY TO BUY the dynamic Inter Milan striking duo of Balotelli (£18million) and Adriano (at a knockdown price of £7million) in January. We have also been linked with Cavenghi since his impressive outing for Bordeaux against Chelsea.

But I still think with the fluent running of Luka Modric and the shrewdness of Pavlyuchenko and Fraizer Campbell upfront, we might not need a midfielder or two strikers.

I would personally just take one of those Milan strikers in preparation for the departure of Fraizer Campbell. That is unless Spurs make a move to buy him off Fergie. Would Spurs be so cheeky as to ask for a permanent deal? Maybe; if they're prepared to see Fergie's face to go redder than Man. United's shirt.

Who should Spurs be targeting?

Spurs have a loose cannon goalkeeper, but I don't think they should be hasty in buying another one, or even swapping for César Sánchez. But they should keep a watchful eye on other keepers.

Looking at Gomes in a "glass half full" light draws attention to the fact that positionally he is exceptional, his shot stopping is first class, and if new goal-keeping coach Tony Parks can help improve his handling, then Spurs will have a real 'keeper between the posts.

The defence has improved. Woodgate's winning headers using his love of playing leapfrog and Dawson is starting to regain the form he had a few seasons ago.
The left-back position might need another player. Bale has had quite a few minor injuries which kept him out of games (And Spurs have never won a game in the Premier League where Bale has started at left back).
Assou-Ekotto is okay, but who else in the squad is also naturally suited to the left-back position? That needs to be answered with a new player. I know John Arne Riise isn't left footed, but placing him in the defence somewhere would be brilliant.

The midfield is bulked out enough in my opinion. There's top-quality players like Modric with his glimmers of Ginola-worthy brilliance. Zokora makes good runs through the middle even if he can't finish the job by scoring. Lennon—who is still digesting the jet engine he swallowed when facing Blackburn—can dash so far down the pitch and then into the penalty box which wears out opposing defenders trying to catch him up.

He can't cross very well, but that's why Bentley is a significant player on the squad. He can cross with precision and put a load of pepper behind his shots at goal.

I wouldn't mind if Podolski or Beckham ended up at Spurs, but it's not important. As I have said before, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But why would Daniel Levy listen to me?

There's already plenty of choice for Harry when it comes to midfielders such as Huddlestone, Jenas, O'Hara, and Taraabt.

Saying that, the left sided midfield position has been a problem since Santini's days, remember his five minutes at the club? A player like Diego Capel would be an amazing addition to any squad in the Premier League.

The squad has recently enriched the strikers section with Russian international regular Roman Pavlyuchenko. He and Bent are showing a slight likeness to the dynamic Keane-Berbatov partnership.
Of course it hasn't fully showed yet, but little by little, it will happen. (They've scored more goals together this season than Keane and Berbatov had after the same amount of games).

When with Roman, Bent does as the Roman does. Newcastle United's Michael Owen might still be desperate to get out of St. James' Park because of the recent controversy and struggle experienced there and at 28, he still has some good years left. He also fits the profile of a Redknapp signing, and with recent media reports saying he is available at a knockdown price of £1m, Spurs would be mad not to put in an offer.

But maybe Spurs could use a player with more presence and punch, such as Valencia forward David Villa, who in the summer was looking to play under Juande Ramos for £20million, but no deal was ever struck in the end. Not very likely to happen for 'Arry then.

All of this begs the question about whether players should be imported from far and wide nurtured from the grassroots within country borders, or even just pulled up from the Spurs academy.

Are there any players who should go?

A lot of the old squad were removed by Comolli to make room for "better" players. Even though I wouldn't have considered Steeeeeeeeeeed Malbranque a bad player by any means.
But I think the wrong players were allowed to leave.
Malbranque's work ethic and commitment was second to none. Jermain Defoe was severely mistreated by Ramos and should have still played. Robbie Keane's move to Liverpool hit the striking department hard. He is the only player in Premiership history to hit double figures in the scoring charts six years in a row.

Hossam Ghaly hasn't had the best reputation at Spurs. Once known to have thrown his shirt to the floor out of rebellion after being substituted during a match. That is deemed a highly disrespectful act in football. He is currently on loan at Derby County, but a permanent deal fell through because Ghaly wanted to stay in the Premier League.

Derby County were relegated last season .And I think Ghaly has outstayed his welcome at the Lane, but there's no other Premier League club who have shown an interest as of yet, so he's stuck at Spurs.

Kevin Prince Boateng hasn't exactly the best player in the squad either. There was just no impact on the match from him. But when he made a recent appearance in Harry Redknapp's improved Spurs side, he was better. I would say he should've been transferred with Tainio and Kaboul , but I might be having second thoughts in a few months so watch this space.

Final Thought - I wouldn't mind David Beckham playing in midfield for Spurs after he's been to A.C. Milan. After all, Victoria Beckham can't shop forever.

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 short list for the vacant England managers job, Fabio Capello quite rightly got the job. 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 even 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 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 tweeked 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 thirty tears or so, in that they are very light weight throughout the team and a liable to find 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 clubs 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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