2010 Champions League: Is Tottenham Hotspur in Trouble?
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As an avid Spurs supporter, I’m quite pleased that the team qualified this year for Champions League play. I’m even more pleased that they were able to advance past Swiss side BSC Young Boys in the qualifying round to reach the final 32. I’m quite concerned however about the squad’s prospects for both Champions League and Premier League play this season. While the 2-2 away result at Werder Bremen was a positive outcome, it was somewhat disappointing after jumping out 2-0 on an own goal by Bremen and a header by Peter Crouch. This disappointment was tempered somewhat by the 2-2 tie between the other two teams in Group A: Inter Milan and Dutch side FC Twente. With all 4 teams sitting on 1 point, the group is still wide open. If however, we operate under the assumption that Inter will advance, than that leaves Spurs, Twente, and Werder Bremen to fight for second place. Twente’s result against Inter came as something of a surprise and showed that the Dutch champions will be a tough out in group play. At any rate, Spurs have their work cut out for them. Needless to say, the rigors of playing both Champions League matches and Premier League matches in close proximity are new for Spurs.
After beating Young Boys 3-0 at White Hart Lane, the squad stumbled 0-1 against Wigan (a relegation candidate). They tied West Brom (recently promoted) last week 1-1. One has to wonder if there will be any hangover this week against Wolves at White Hart Lane. It doesn’t get any easier as the boys have a Carling Cup match against rival Arsenal on Sept. 21.
Causing even more concern is the injury situation. It was reported last week by ESPN that Jermain Defoe will miss the next 3 months of the season as he recovers from an operation on the ankle injury he sustained during England’s 3-1 win in Switzerland in Euro 2012 qualifiers. Adding to the problem have a series of injuries affecting both Michael Dawson and Luka Modric. Dawson sprained his left medial knee ligament against Bulgaria in 2012 qualifiers and will be out 6-8 weeks. Perhaps the biggest scare of all came when Luka Modric went down in a heap last week against West Brom. After putting Spurs ahead 1-0, Modric was taken off and left the stadium on crutches. It was feared he had broken his leg but scans came back negative. It looks like he will be eligible for selection in both Champions League and Premier League matches over the next few days, though Harry will likely be cautious. He could bring him on as a sub to see how he fares or he may just rest him for a few days to make sure he is fully recovered.
Most concerning is the loss of Defoe. Spurs don’t really have a consistent goal scorer besides him and you can argue that even though he scored 24 goals last year, most came in the first half of the season. Peter Crouch is better on set pieces and is one of the best in the world at headers. Roman Pavlyuchenko can disappear for stretches, and Robbie Keene just doesn’t seem to get enough opportunities under Harry Rednapp. Giovanni Dos Santos is young and could be an option now that Defoe is injured. The bottom line is that they had little stability at striker with Defoe. Without him, I think they’ll have trouble scoring goals. The addition of Rafael Van Der Vaart is huge. We needed another hard-working creative midfielder in addition to Modric and he acquitted himself well against West Brom. William Gallas looked a bit out of form but he played hard and should shore up central defense. Once he gets fit, our central defense should be very solid when he and Ledley King play together.
In conclusion, I think the moves that Harry made to shore up the defense (particularly in Dawson’s absence and with King’s injury situation) coupled with the addition of Van Der Vaart in central midfield will make us a deeper club. That said, I think we’re woefully inadequate at forward. In my opinion, they need to focus on landing a big-time forward/striker during the January transfer window. Harry likes the 4-4-2, which would be far more effective with two threats at the forward position. I’d like to make one final point which may not be popular but I think it is necessary. I think Spurs need to seriously consider replacing Aaron Lennon on the right side. His speed is breathtaking but he can’t exploit it to full advantage because he isn’t very good on crosses. This cuts down on the number of chances for Defoe and I think serious hinders the scoring. Bale is incredible on the left side, but I think they need someone better at crossing who doesn’t get pushed off the ball. If you watched the West Brom game you saw that Lennon just got muscled off the ball most of the match. This isn’t against Man U or Chelsea either. It’s West Brom. I think Lennon is a bit overrated and while he might be a nice change of pace as a substitute, I don’t know that he should be the every match starter.
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