Tottenham Hotspur: 6 Reasons Why Spurs Can Excel Next Season
For about two-thirds of the 2011/12 Premier League season, things couldn't have gone much better for Tottenham Hotspur.
After losing their first two games, Harry Redknapp's side enjoyed a lengthy run unbeaten, playing arguably the best football in the division whilst recording notable wins over Liverpool and Arsenal among others.
However, the consequences of Spurs' collapse post-winter after the Gunners exacted revenge with a 5-2 win in the return game have been felt ever since, with Redknapp sacked and the club's seemingly inevitable march back into the Champions League cruelly taken away at the last possible moment by Chelsea.
As frustrating a conclusion to the campaign as it was, it should not wholly cloud over a lot Tottenham have to be proud of, and indeed be positive about looking forward.
Throughout the 1990s and the early part of the last decade, most at the club would have grabbed at the chance to once more be competing with the country's best at the top of the table, as they have in recent years with five Top Five finishes in the last seven seasons.
The players that have achieved this would certainly rank up there with successful counterparts from Spurs sides of the 1970s and 80s in league form at least (though, naturally, they fall behind the title-winning sides of Arthur Rowe and Bill Nicholson).
Issues certainly need to be addressed ahead of the start of the new Premier League calendar, but Tottenham are a side still capable of competing with the division's best and may yet improve upon last season's fourth-place finish.
The New Manager Might Actually Be Rather Good
The most pressing issue at hand for Tottenham Hotspur (and in particular their chairman Daniel Levy) is appointing a new manager to succeed Redknapp.
This is a daunting task, knowing as they do that they must make an appointment that can keep the club on the forward-moving path of recent years or risk falling behind in a division full of teams eager to make their own case as legitimate top sides.
Yet it is also an opportunity.
As worrying as it might be for Spurs supporters that the new manager might not turn out to be any good, there is every chance he could be the person that takes them even further forward or at least maintains the level at which they are currently operating.
Spurs right now are as enticing a prospect for a would-be manager as they have been in a long time.
So long as Levy has taken the time to examine as many options as possible (and hopefully learn from his own past experiences in this area), the quality of manager who will be interested in Spurs (and vice versa) should be someone who has some impressive credentials.
Nothing is a given in football, but if Spurs get the right man, they could be in store for another good season.
The Toughest Tottenham Midfield for Many a Year
One of the most common slights against Tottenham in the Premier League era has been the criticism that they are a soft touch, especially in midfield.
Players like Steffen Freund, Edgar Davids and Wilson Palacios have been brought in with the purpose of remedying this, implementing steel, toughness and canniness where it was lacking before.
In these areas, Spurs are currently as strong as they have been in a long time, possessing players more than capable of getting stuck in to a proper midfield battle.
Scott Parker and Sandro especially stand out here.
Scott Parker is one of the club's shrewdest acquisitions of recent years. The England international is a tenacious presence, harrying and snapping at the heels of the opposition as he attempts to disrupt their play and get the ball back.
Sandro is equally persistent. Spurs have had few midfielders comparable in their ability to block shots and win important tackles when under threat, while also possessing the athleticism to then drive his team forward.
Others too, like Luka Modric (if he stays) and Jake Livermore, are not afraid to put themselves about and are more than capable of contributing defensively.
Outside of playing 4-4-2 (usually with Modric alongside one of the others), Spurs have not yet found a system that consistently has been able to accentuate this tougher side to their midfield without being detrimental creatively.
That is something the new manager will have to look to address.
If he can do so, there are certainly the parts in the squad to build a midfield that can be formidable and effective going forward too—something which is vital to success over the course of a long season, as Spurs will surely engage in some terrific battles with rivals like Arsenal and Chelsea.
The Return of Tom Huddlestone and Michael Dawson
One man who has been absent from the Tottenham midfield for the best part of two seasons has been Tom Huddlestone.
Huddlestone finished the 2009/10 campaign impressively, demonstrating his increasing ability to combine his creativity going forward with a better awareness and aptitude for his defensive duties, playing a significant role as Spurs earned Champions League football.
After starting the following season decently enough, he was injured just a few months in and has since then only played a handful of games.
It is difficult to determine the effect injuries have had on a player, but if everything is fine in that department, the belief now must be that if Huddlestone is going to be the kind of footballer his talent warrants, this will be the season we will see it happen.
That is an exciting prospect for Spurs supporters who have marveled at his sublime passing and watched in awe at the power and precision of his shots when struck well.
If the new manager is able to incorporate him into his system effectively, the 25-year-old will surely be desperate to make up for lost time, which is almost like getting a new player in itself.
Joining Huddlestone in the treatment room for the majority of last season was Michael Dawson.
After returning from one injury and playing well (especially in the 0-0 draw at Liverpool), the centre-back was inexplicably dropped ahead of the Arsenal defeat and was then injured again not long after.
Dawson's leadership and determination were missed terribly in the campaign's final months, as with Ledley King and Younes Kaboul losing form at the worst possible time (in fairness having played the majority of games), a once-solid defence suddenly looked disorganised and rudderless.
With injuries looking now to have got the better of Ledley King, Dawson is more important than ever to Tottenham's cause.
Young Players Ready to Make an Impact
Jake Livermore's promotion to regular first-team action was one of the big positives of Tottenham's season, the central midfield growing in confidence and stature as the year went on.
Promisingly for the club, not far behind him is the best crop of youngsters Spurs have had to call on in a long time.
Excitingly, some of these have shown in their first-team experiences thus far (both at Spurs and on loan) they might not be too far off from contributing on a consistent basis in the manner Livermore has.
Ready-made cover for Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon out wide, winger Andros Townsend plays with a lot of positivity and is not afraid to run at defenders.
Returning from Swansea City, centre-back Steven Caulker proved more than comfortable at the Premier League level and will himself expect to compete for a starting spot on defence soon enough.
It is not a given that these, and others like Harry Kane, Adam Smith and Tom Carroll, will succeed, but their presence alone will provide valuable competition for places in the squad.
Seeing a player come up from the academy and play well really is capable of re-energizing a fanbase, something that should not be underestimated when a team is stuck in a rut and in need of a boost to their fortunes.
That Spurs have at least a couple of these among their ranks to call upon over the course of the season is good news for a club that has struggled in this department for a while now.
The news on Wednesday afternoon that Gareth Bale has signed a new contract (until 2016), signalling his intentions to remain at White Hart Lane at least another year, is a timely boost for the club.
The Welshman's decision also says a great deal about the togetherness of a squad that, over the past few seasons, has progressed, experienced and learned a lot together.
Most of them will be well aware of the significance of what they have achieved (for this club) and of just how close they have come to being really successful.
Bale said as much to the club's official website in quotes posted after signing his new deal:
"The Club is progressing and I want to be a part of that, so it was great to get the deal done," said the 22-year-old.
"I love the Club and the fans and I want to play my part in trying to get us back into the Champions League - where we belong. We’ve a good, young squad and we need to work together to get back on the biggest stage again."
In the reasons discussed already (and others too), Tottenham have a very good squad, one which is bettered by maybe only three or four other clubs in the Premier League.
The make-up of this will certainly change (and the hope will be, improve) at the discretion of the new manager, but it will retain a core that, having been through a variety of highs and lows, will believe they have the know-how to make the most of these experiences this upcoming season.
Premier League Teams Will Beat Up on Each Other and Spurs Might Sneak Through
Any football team in the world knows they have to get on with their own job and cannot afford to rely on what goes on elsewhere in regards to their own fortunes.
But that is not to say how other teams do cannot help you out.
The Premier League has been especially competitive in recent seasons, and there seems little likelihood this will change with so many teams throughout the division driving to improve their fortunes.
As much as this makes things difficult for Spurs this season, it can also work the other way, so long as they do what they need to do in their own matches.
The teams they will be looking to compete with—City, Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea—will take points off each other.
It will require substantial improvement on Tottenham's part to take advantage of this to the extent that they will compete for a title.
But it is entirely realistic that these teams (and others who may get into the mix) beat each other up enough so as to allow a club like Spurs to make their way back into the Top Four.