Like a freshly sealed bottle of wine, another season in the EPL has been consigned to a dusty cellar for future appraisal.
The 2007-08 harvest boasts a full-bodied red in European Cup-winning Manchester United, who have outdone themselves in attacking potency. A fresh continental blend in Arsenal—who were full of surprises to everyone but themselves and a bumper crop of nouveau pretenders in Manchester City, Everton and Aston Villa—all of whom looked capable of closing the gap on the usual suspects at the top.
Tottenham’s season has not been a vintage one. A managerial change, coming so early on after a disastrous start to the campaign, saw them garner only seven points from ten games. The outcome of the season was likely to be one of a team in flux.
With the appointment of Juande Ramos came the hopes of silverware. And although the fan’s hopes were dashed in the fourth round of the FA Cup by Manchester United, the Carling Cup was delivered, wrapped in white ribbon, in late February after the 2-1 extra time defeat of Chelsea (and a summary 5-1 humiliation of Arsenal on the way).
The Uefa Cup, Ramos’s specialty—with back-to-back trophies with old club Sevilla—slipped through his hands in the cruelest of ways. A penalty shootout demise against Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven meant Spurs were to spend the rest of the season pushing for a top-half finish.
With European football guaranteed after their Wembley heroics against Chelsea, the effort levels and performances dropped and mid-table loomed large. After a 2-0 reverse at home to Liverpool on the last day, an 11th place finish was all that was achieved.
As the summer sun ripens the vines of a new season that is just eleven weeks away, we cast our minds forward to what the Spaniard’s first full season in charge could produce. The signing of Croatian Luka Modric has already whetted the appetites of many a connoisseur. His arrival was announced just a week before the end of the season and looks likely to be the first of many new faces through the door at White Hart Lane.
With the disappointing performances of Paul Robinson, Didier Zokora, Pascal Chimbonda and Younes Kaboul this season, along with sensational striker Dimitar Berbatov looking to leave the club, the departures lounge at N17 will be just as full as the arrivals. To improve the squad as a whole, drafting in suitable replacements for the players who have under performed is essential, particularly in goal and in the centre of midfield.
Players who are still walking the tight rope such as Tom Huddlestone, Aaron Lennon, Jermaine Jenas and Michael Dawson will need to up their game consistently in order to remain a part of the Ramos revolution. It will be interesting what the manager decides should a suitable offer come in for any of these players.
Steed Malbranque and Robbie Keane both had sterling seasons and will quite rightly play a big part for Spurs next year alongside new boys Alan Hutton and Jonathan Woodgate, who proved instrumental in shoring up Tottenham’s creaky defence.
The return of young Gareth Bale to the left side of defence will be like a new signing. After a storming start to his Spurs career, injury hampered the young Welshman and he was forced to sit out the season in December.
Fellow youngster Jamie O’Hara was recalled from a loan spell at Millwall to force himself regularly into the first team with dogged displays on the left side of defence, and the centre of midfield. His progression will be watched keenly by many and he could prove to be the rough diamond the club have been looking for.
With the supposedly imminent signing of young Mexican Giovanni Dos Santos from Barcelona, the creative element in Tottenham’s ranks seems to be healthy. In order for Spurs to challenge on all fronts it is Tottenham’s defence that needs the biggest improvement.
While the additions of Woodgate and Hutton are a welcome start, the continual struggle of captain Ledley King with knee injuries means his position needs an experienced head to step in either as cover or as a direct replacement. Manchester City’s Richard Dunne would be a good enforcer to compliment the style of Woodgate but perhaps a more continental style defender such as Espanyol’s Daniel Jarque will be drafted in instead.
The goalkeeping position is of paramount importance. As former England number one Robinson’s confidence has waned, so has his performances. It is likely that the former Leeds man will be replaced, with Cameroon’s Carlos Kameni and City’s Joe Hart touted as possible options.
With the European Championships soon to get underway in Switzerland and Austria, all sorts of players will shine out and be looking to get snapped up by EPL teams. Whether Spurs will sit patiently and wait for the competition to finish before strengthening their squad remains to be seen. What is clear, is that Spurs, like last season, have the potential to make an impact on the league and in Europe.
With smart acquisitions and a summer of training and hard work by this time next year something fresh, zesty and distinctly Spanish flavoured may be bottled and set aside at White Hart Lane, to be enjoyed for years to come.