EPL: Will Competition For Places Be Tottenham Hotspur's Downfall This Season?

Chris PotterCorrespondent ISeptember 5, 2010

EPL: Will Competition For Places Be Tottenham Hotspur's Downfall This Season?

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28:  Robbie Keane of Tottenham looks on from the bench during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Wigan Athletic at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Imag
    Phil Cole/Getty Images

    ''Gomes praises unity'', ran the headline of an article recently published on Tottenham Hotspur's official website.

    The Brazilian goalkeeper, excited about the prospect of competing in European football's premier competition as well as the Premier League this season, praised the ''unity'' of the squad, suggesting that ''anything and everything is possible'' this season.

    Although most Tottenham fans, management and players will share this enthusiasm - despite recent injury setbacks to England trio Michael Dawson, Jermain Defoe and Johnathan Woodgate and a shock league defeat at home to Wigan Athletic - will the concern and discontent expressed by marginalised full-back Alan Hutton spread to undermine chairman Daniel Levy's shrewd business off the pitch, Harry Redknapp's training ground preparation and the players' triumphs on the field?

    Hutton, a £9 million signing from Scottish club Glasgow Rangers, has expressed his frustration that no transfer away from White Hart Lane materialised over the summer. He is just one of a handful of expensive players warming the bench these days at White Hart Lane, players that the club will struggle to offload at an asking price which represents a decent return on investment.

    Is Harry Redknapp canny enough to keep all of his talented squad together and in good spirits in order to mount a serious challenge for the Premier League title? 

    In this slideshow, I take a look at five players who may not be too happy to play bit-part roles in Tottenham's adventure this season. 

Alan Hutton: Will The £9 Million Full-Back Be Loaned In January?

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 29: Alan Hutton of Tottenham Hotspur in action during a Pre-Season Friendly between Tottenham Hotspur and  Villarreal at White Hart Lane on July 29, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)
    Phil Cole/Getty Images

    Alan Hutton, impressive in his role as a marauding full-back on international duty for Scotland and in Europe for Rangers, was coveted by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson before completing a £9 million move to Martin Jol's Tottenham at the end of the 2008 January transfer window.

    Despite starting his Premier League career well, he was ousted from the team by the younger, more composed 24 year-old Croatian right-back Vedran Corluka after he signed for the team from Manchester City later that year in an £8 million deal. Corluka was, according to the exhaustive football statistics engine Actim Index, one of the club's best performers last year.

    Despite starting five of Tottenham's seven pre-season friendlies this summer, Hutton was outshone by younger duo Kyle Naughton and Kyle Walker and is perhaps even less likely to see first-team action than he was last season. In fact, Harry Redknapp, having loaned Hutton to Sunderland for the second half of last year, heaped praised on makeshift full-back Younes Kaboul - in particular for his strong performance in the biggest game in Tottenham's Premier League history, their 1-0 win at Manchester City.

    Hutton says he wants to prove his worth to Spurs this season although he is unlikely to get the chance.

    Verdict: a cut-price January move back to Rangers for £3-5 million beckons for Hutton.

Jermaine Jenas: The Goldfish Needs To Go Back To His Bowl Or Risk Drowning

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 07:  Jermaine Jenas of Tottenham Hotspur in action during the pre-season friendly match between Tottenham Hotspur and Fiorentina at White Hart Lane on August 7, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    When England midfielder Jermaine Jenas was engineering a move away from Newcastle United back in 2005, he stated that he felt like a ''goldfish in a bowl'' at St. James's Park''.

    Following his £7 million transfer to Tottenham, he came in for a lot of stick from Geordies for what they and many others considered to be a disrespectful remark, especially in light of the fact that his performances had not been stellar.

    At Spurs he has fared better, scoring 21 goals in 137 appearances. He was particularly influential during coach Juande Ramos's reign as head coach, with the coach rating Jenas's fitness, professionalism and versatility highly. His form eventually led to England summoning him for a friendly match against Switzerland, in which he scored his only international goal.

    However, he has not enjoyed the same support from current manager Harry Redknapp, who has favoured Honduran Wilson Palacios and Tom Huddlestone, growing in stature with every game, throughout his tenure at the club. And with Jamie O'Hara returning to the club after a praiseworthy spell at Portsmouth and Brazilian midfielder Ranieri Sandro and international star Rafael Van der Vaart strengthening the club's midfield options further, it is hard to see how Jenas has a future at The Lane.

    Verdict: Stoke City manager Tony Pulis, still short on playmakers in midfield, is likely to make Redknapp another offer in the region of £6 million for Jenas as soon as he can. This time, it will be accepted.

David Bentley: Replaced By More Prestigious Models, His Career Is In Reverse

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 11:  David Bentley of Tottenham Hotspur holds his head during the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON Semi Final match between Tottenham Hotspur and Portsmouth at Wembley Stadium on April 11, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Get
    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    It is hard to believe that Martin Jol may have sanctioned a £15 million move for a player that he knew little about. Therefore, the blame for Bentley's shoddy Spurs career must lie heavily on the shoulders of chairman Daniel Levy, who is heavily involved in all transfer activity at the club, and also on those of the player himself.

    For despite an outstanding final campaign with Blackburn, which saw the winger notch eight goals and 13 assists, Bentley's career has never flourished since.

    As well known for his partying and off-the-field business and social life and for his changing hair styles as for his occasional, spectacular goals, Bentley has been in limbo in London.

    However, last week Bentley thought he finally had his chance to wipe the slate clean with a move to Aston Villa. But the deal fell through, with Tottenham unsure whether they had been successful in their attempt to sign Van der Vaart.

    Again, this is a player that Tottenham seem unwilling to let go unless they are offered at least two-thirds of the transfer fee paid by the club. 

    Verdict: a January swap move with Villa's Ashley Young is most likely.

Giovani Dos Santos: A Glimmer Of Hope For The Mexican Playboy?

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 07:  Giovani Dos Santos of Tottenham Hotspur in action during the pre-season friendly match between Tottenham Hotspur and Fiorentina at White Hart Lane on August 7, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    In his last game for Barcelona, Giovani Dos Santos netted a stunning hat-trick. With this in mind, some footballing experts questioned the logic of the Catalan club selling the talented, young Mexican winger to Tottenham just weeks later for less than £7 million ($10.5 millon).

    However, after 12 unremarkable first-team appearances for the first team, Dos Santos had to ply his trade for Ipswich Town, a team referred to as ''The Tractor Boys''. Talk about a fall from grace!

    Having returned from this first loan spell, he again failed to impress the coaching staff in pre-season and was sent to Galatasaray in the hope that he would rediscover some form under Barcelona mentor Frank Rijkaard. 

    Despite insipid displays in the Turkish league, ''Gio'' set South Africa alight during his first two outings at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and was eventually nominated in the Young Player of the Tournament category. This led Redknapp to reassess his stance on the player, claiming that if the Mexican could learn to ''pass a nightclub as well as he can pass a football'' he would find a role for Dos Santos this season.

    Redknapp has been good to his word as Dos Santos has impressed in pre-season and had some playing time in the league campaign, coming off the bench against Manchester City and Wigan and starting the first leg of Tottenham's Champions League Qualifier against Young Boys Bern.

    Verdict: Still a star in the making if he can keep his head down and Redknapp can remain patient about the player's development.

Robbie Keane: The Irishman Needs To Feel Loved Again

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 07:  Robbie Keane of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates scoring his first goal during the pre-season friendly match between Tottenham Hotspur and Fiorentina at White Hart Lane on August 7, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham
    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    He came, he left and then he came back.

    Robbie Keane's £19 million exit from White Hart Lane last year was an exciting development for a striker who dreamt of finally marrying his international exposure a glorious career with Liverpool, one of the world's most prestigious clubs and the team he supported as a boy growing up in Ireland.

    Less than one year later, his dream had become a nightmare. With just 5 goals in 19 appearances for The Reds, he was lambasted in the press and in the Kop. He had lost his scoring boots and his confidence and pride suffered greatly. 

    Harry Redknapp, newly appointed as Spurs manager, snapped up the chance to welcome the experienced forward back to White Hart Lane as club captain, citing his international pedigree and infectious personality as key attributes. Together with Jermain Defoe and Pascal Chimbonda, he was one of three former players Redknapp brought back to the club to bolster the first-team. A risky move which Virgin Trains alluded to in an advertising campaign with the slogan ''A Liverpool to London return faster than Robbie Keane''.

    Despite proving to be an influential figure in the club's renaissance under Redknapp, he was sent to Celtic as he was anxious to play more football. Just months later, he had been named as the club's Player of the Year, even though he had started fewer than half of the season's matches.

    His notable goalscoring form continued into the team's pre-season, but he has since found himself relegated back to fourth-choice striker. Yet, with strike duo Crouch and Defoe picking up injuries recently, Keane is likely to come back into contention in the coming weeks.

    Verdict: an important talisman for Spurs this season, whose guile and hard work will bring both himself and the club rewards.