Tottenham Hotspur: Complete Guide for the 2012-2013 Premier League Season
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It is a mark of how far Tottenham have come over the last few seasons that finishing fourth in the Premier League last term was seen as a disappointment.
At the end of any usual season, that position would have handed Spurs a place in a playoff for a spot in the Champions League group stage, but the success of London rivals Chelsea winning that competition in May saw them take that place without the need for a two-legged breaker.
They have already changed managers this summer, and most likely will lose one of their star players too, but there is still cause for optimism around White Hart Lane.
Here's a look at how they are looking ahead of the 2012/13 season.
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Spurs kick off the season with a tough trip to Newcastle United. They may have thrashed the Magpies 5-0 at White Hart Lane back in February, but in the end only finished one place and four points above the north-east side.
After that it's a first competitive home fixture for new manager Andre Villas-Boas against West Bromwich Albion, followed by games against Norwich, Premier League new-boys Reading and London rivals Queens Park Rangers before the first real stand-out match of their season—a trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United on September 29.
That month also sees the first fixture of their Europa League campaign, something which it is Villas-Boas's job to motivate his players for in spite of the disappointment at missing out on the Champions League.
If Spurs can get to the end of September with 10 Premier League points or more then that will go some way to easing the early pressure on the new boss.
Here's the list of all confirmed fixtures via the official Tottenham website.
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Despite finishing in the top four last season, Tottenham's squad was shown to have some glaring holes in it.
Long-term injuries to Michael Dawson and William Gallas—and the demise of long-serving captain Ledley King's career—made the centre of defence a thin area of the squad, something which the whilst the cover for their top-class full-backs Kyle Walker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto could be better.
Striker Emmanuel Adebayor was a revelation last season, but his year-long loan deal means he is now back at Manchester City. The Togolese is expected to rejoin Spurs on a permanent basis for the start of the season, but even if he does return Spurs still need to strengthen in that area.
But the biggest concern of all will be concerning midfield playmaker Luka Modric. Spurs did well to stubbornly refuse the Croatian's desire to join Chelsea last summer, but this year it looks like a move to Real Madrid is inevitable. Trying to replace a player as gifted and unique as Modric like-for-like may be a futile exercise, but the sooner he has left and Spurs can re-invest the fee the better.
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Spurs have made two significant signings in the summer transfer window thus far. One of them had been in the pipeline for a long time and the other was a classic bit of opportunism that erstwhile manager Harry Redknapp would have been proud.
The £12 million acquisition of Jan Vertonghen is a huge boost for the squad's defence, especially given the retirement of Ledley King. The Belgium international was a target for Arsenal last summer, but he has ended up in another part of north London instead. Vertonghen arrives from Ajax having just won back-to-back Eredivisie titles as their captain, and he scored 14 league goals in those two triumphant campaigns.
Gylfi Sigurdsson was a much more reactive purchase as opposed to a proactive one. The Icelandic midfielder was all but certain to make his loan move to Swansea City permanent, only to have a change of heart when manager Brendan Rodgers jumped ship for Liverpool. Tottenham saw their opportunity and pounced, signing up the player who scored seven goals in 17 starts in the Premier League last term, including one against Spurs.
The exit door at Tottenham has been a lot busier this summer, with six first-team players leaving the club under differing circumstances.
As mentioned previously, King's retirement was hardly a surprise but will still be keenly felt around the club.
All the talk has been about Modric leaving the club this summer, but two other Croatians have already done just that. Versatile defender Vedran Corluka joined his former national team manager Slaven Bilic at Lokomotiv Moscow for £5 million and talented midfielder Niko Kranjcar has also gone east, signing for Dynamo Kiev for £2 million.
Another midfielder to leave is Steven Pienaar, just 18 months after he joined. The South African initially impressed upon his arrival from Everton, but after his first-team prospects all but evaporated last term and he has now rejoined the Toffees for £4.5 million.
Also leaving the club this summer were veteran striker Louis Saha and defender Ryan Nelsen, whose short-term deals expired at the end of the campaign.
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Tottenham are expected to receive as much as £40 million from the sale of Modric if their own valuation of the player is met. Given chairman Daniel Levy's reputation for driving a hard bargain, don't rule out that price being met just yet.
In addition to the aforementioned Adebayor, here are some other players they have been linked with spending that windfall on:
Gaston Ramirez: The Evening Standard reports that Spurs have joined the race to sign the Bologna midfielder. The attacking midfielder has long been a target for Liverpool, but his performances for Uruguay at the Olympics appear to have convinced Spurs that he is an ideal signing for them too.
Leandro Damiao: Another young South American currently dazzling at the London Games is the Brazil striker. The Internacional player has been on Tottenham's radar for a while, and Goal.com reports that they are ready to offer £15 million for the 23-year-old.
Hugo Lloris: Spurs pulled off something of a minor coup last summer when they managed to sign goalkeeper Brad Friedel when his Aston Villa contract expired. The American is 41 now, and even he cannot go on forever. According to Metro, Spurs plan on replacing him with France No.1 Lloris, who Lyon want £15 million for but could Spurs hope to get for closer to £10 million.
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So much of Tottenham's prospects hinges on how quickly they adjust to life under their new head coach.
Andre Villas-Boas arrived at Chelsea last summer as the hottest coaching prospect around following an incredible year in charge of Porto, but he was sacked in the spring with the Blues well out of the title race and teetering on the edge of Champions League elimination. The fact that his former club went on the win the biggest prize in European football only served to compound his failure at Stamford Bridge.
Now the Portuguese is at a club which was perhaps a more suitable destination for him from Porto in the first place, and he should have fewer egos and more reasonable expectations to contend with at White Hart Lane.
Villas-Boas has had a full preseason to impress his style onto his new players, and also to legislate for the loss of Modric. Sometimes when a team loses its most influential player it allows for a tactical overhaul that gives the side a new lease of life.
Spurs fans will be hoping that is the case this season. If it is, then a repeat of fourth place may not be out of the question. If it is not, then the patience of the club's fans and hierarchy will be tested.