EPL: Spurs Blow It Again, Lack Top-Four Mentality

Chris PotterCorrespondent IJanuary 31, 2010

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 30:  Liam Ridgewell of Birmingham City celebrates as Michael Dawson of Tottenham Hotspur looks dejected during the Barclays Premier League match between Birmingham City and Tottenham Hotspur at St. Andrews Stadium on January 30, 2010 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Michael Dawson's anguish as he watched Liam Ridgewell's injury-time equaliser for Birmingham said it all.

Tottenham, one-nil up and in control of a banal and nondescript match, failed to clear their lines and were made to pay dearly again.

Just as Michael Dawson's lack of concentration deep into injury-time cost Spurs a clear passage to the fifth round of the F.A. Cup last week, Vedran Corluka dozed in front of goal yesterday with three minutes to play, as Liverpool closed nearer to an improbable return to the top four.

With Aston Villa starting to wake from a New Year lull and Manchester City building up momentum and games in hand, yesterday's 1-1 draw at Birmingham City was desperately frustrating for Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, who lamented his side's inefficiency with the ball and mentality in defence.

Had Liverpool and Aston Villa not won yesterday afternoon, this result would have seemed respectable for the London club, despite facing an under-par opposition.

Yet, as was the case against an under-strength Liverpool outfit and during home bankers against Hull, Wolves, and Stoke, Tottenham bottled it when presented with a chance to pull away from their Champions League rivals.

The news that the board has re-signed French centre-back Younes Kaboul from Portsmouth and finalised a loan deal for experienced play-maker Eidjur Gudjohnsen will have been scant consolation to expectant travelling supporters.

The former, a better player for his stint at the South coast club, failed to sparkle in his 18 months at the Lane. The latter is perhaps past his sell-by date after Pep Guardiola offloaded him to Monaco last year.

These moves will do little to quell fears that Johnathon Woodgate and Ledley King may soon be forced to retire, which perhaps also prompted chairman Daniel Levy to tie up a new contract for brave young defender Michael Dawson, who has excelled in recent weeks in the absence of his more experienced and distinguished colleagues.

Gudjohnsen's arrival may trigger a chain of transfers which would see Robbie Keane seek a Steve-Bruce-shaped shelter from a torrid twelve-month exile from top-flight football, and Kenwyne Jones aim to reignite his Premier League career at either Hull or Birmingham, who have seemingly been priced out of a move for Russian striker Roman Pavlyuchenko by Spurs.

So...more change at the Lane, despite Harry Redknapp claiming on more than occasion recently that he was happy with his squad, and confident in their ability to realize their potential (a top four finish).

Tottenham, despite their newfound defensive resolve, are struggling to convert possession into goalscoring chances, and when they have mastered that art, the team has been let down by their first-choice strike partnership.

Two recent examples can be found in Jermain Defoe's penalty woes and the tangle which occurred between Defoe and Peter Crouch in yesterday's second-half. The former, played through by Luka Modric, clumsily lost control of the ball and ran into Crouch, who proceeded to trip over himself and poke the ball hopelessly wide.

Perhaps it is time for the club management to show more faith in Pavlyuchenko, who, in spite of his lazy Berbatov-esque on-field demeanour and his poor training efforts, showed real class and instinctive finishing last weekend during his cameo substitute appearance at Elland Road.

Redknapp will pray that it is time for Aaron Lennon's return to the team. The lively winger is a shoe-in for South Africa if he is fit, and was the club's best player until injuring his groin during the 2-0 victory over West Ham in December.

Fans will have been encouraged by the continuing improvement in the form of both David Bentley, who should have added to his season tally yesterday, and Gareth Bale. But instrumental midfielders Modric, Huddlestone, and Palacios must improve their efficiency and output if Tottenham are to have a chance of finally catching up with their more illustrious North London rivals.

Once again for Tottenham, it is the ''mo' money, mo' problems'' dilemma which has hindered their progress (perhaps inevitable with Harry Redknapp at the helm). So, back to basics and big on belief should be the message coming from the all-too-comfy White Hart Lane dressing room when Aston Villa visit next weekend.

The ball is in Tottenham's court—they should start making better use of it!