Tottenham Hotspur: 5 Reasons for Hope and Fear for the Rest of the Season
Within the next three months, the current football season will be over. That means, two and a bit months of transfer gossip, managerial changes, and friendly matches against non-league teams, until the unrealistic hopes of a new season.
That, however is three months away, and Tottenham are in a similar position to last season.
We are doing well in the league, and our first jaunt in the European Cup has proved to be very successful—thus far. I should be full of hope for the remainder of our campaign, and yet, having watched Tottenham for several years, experience has lead me to be wary.
I really should be enjoying watching a brand of football not seen at White Hart Lane for several years, and yet, there’s that part of me that has seen us like this before, with even less at stake.
So I present for my five reasons to fear the rest of the season, and my five reasons that fill me with hope for the rest of the season. It should really only be five reasons for hope, but you know, it’s just not the Tottenham way…
Reason for Fear: Harry's Post-Transfer Window Comments
They were little off-the-cuff comments which didn't make a splash with the media outlets, but stuck with me, as a loyal supporter who's seen all sorts of power struggles at his club.
Two key points in Harry Redknapp's post-transfer window press conference—one about transfers in general, the other about a transfer target.
"The chairman wanted to make a big splash in the market this January." Maybe this was Harry's way of managing the team when he said, "The Chairman wanted to sign a player, but, as the manager, I was happy with the players I have."
When responding to claims that we had bid £500k for Everton captain Phil Neville, with only £250k upfront, it was his next answer that bemused me.
"Yeah, that was a bit insulting, to bid that much for another team's captain..."
Usually, Harry would admit to putting in a decent offer, not admit a bid was "insulting".
This is purely opinion, but it seems to me Harry Redknapp wanted Phil Neville, but some higher-ups wanted a big name to sell shirts. So, they offered big money for Negredo, Rossi, Llorente & Aguero and made a token bid for Phil Neville, just to keep their word with the manager.
It might be the paranoid 'Spurs fan in me, and I may be looking too much into it, but these sort of situations don't usually end well...
Reason for Fear: Chelsea Won't Continue to Slip-Up
I was hoping to have this completed before any signs of recovery would be spotted at Stamford Bridge, but unfortunately the Manchester United game came too soon.
We were within a Blackpool victory of third place and a cushion over Chelsea, but instead, we capitulated and, as of now, dropped to fifth.
Chelsea are too good to not step up a gear as the season winds down.
David Luiz is looking like a bargain, and it’s only a matter of time before Malouda, Lampard and Torres find their form and begin to pull away from Tottenham and the rest of the league.
Reason for Fear: Jermaine Defoe, and Our Lack of Goals Up Front
Jermaine Defoe is one of the best instinct strikers I have ever seen play.
He has one thing on his mind—to score—and that's all you want in a striker. The problem is, he's not scoring in the Premier League.
I accept that he has been injured for a good part of the season, but since he came back, he hasn't found the back of the net once.
You could argue that Peter Crouch has been fully fit, and only scored twice. It's his link-up play and forward play that have seen Rafael Van Der Vaart score.
Above all else, Defoe's game is built around scoring, and there is only so long we can go without him doing that.
Reason for Fear: Who's Our Other Left Back?
Benoit Assou-Ekotto is a competent left back.
However, I'd happily buy someone in the summer, or let him go elsewhere. For the time being, I am content to have him where he is.
What concerns me is what would happen if he picks an injury or suspension? Who is his replacement? The constant absence of Woodgate and King has meant we have had to buy our centre backs in bulk.
If the more-than-adequate Corluka goes down, we have Alan Hutton, and the two on-loan Kyle's—Walker & Naughton—ready to come in.
But we have no one at left back.
Gareth Bale can play there, yes, but do you really want our most explosive attacking force defending a right winger?
I hope it doesn't come to it.
Reason for Fear: We May Believe Our Own Hype to Stay in Europe.
I started hearing it from commentators and it scares me.
"On their day, Tottenham can beat anyone."
I know we can, I just don't want it to be made public knowledge. This is our first season in the major European competition, and, like a teenager on his first night of freedom in the pub, we're more likely to suffer a hangover.
The more that happens, the less likely we are to return there next season, and I don't want us to be a one-season wonder.
Champions League football is what we deserve, but the only way to achieve it is through consistent good results in the Premier League.
What I hope doesn't happen again are the "Blackpool away" defeats (it is Wolves away this Sunday), and the mindset becomes "The only way to stay in Europe is to win the entire competition."
That mindset is the quick route to a slippery slope. As much as I think we can, and want to, win it, this is my greatest fear for Tottenham this season.
Reason for Hope: The Most Enviable Midfield in the Land
I cannot remember a time when our midfield is as talented as it is now.
Yes, our defence can be suspect, and our strikers have had some trouble scoring, but we can control the midfield.
Quality holding players like Palacios and Sandro, who may not be world class but proved himself more than capable against Inter Milan, have been crucial. The underrated Jenas who, while his inclusion in England squads may be suspect, has proved invaluable as a box-to-box midfielder.
Then the plethora of potential match-winners such as the advanced playmaker Van Der Vaart, the sublime Modric, the effortlessly pacy Lennon & Bale, and the subtle, but deadly Niko Krancjar.
The 'Spurs midfield is definitely one of the strongest in the Premier League.
Reason for Hope: Michael Dawson
With no disrespect to Michael Dawson, or the position, I always saw him as a No. 2 centre back.
In my opinion, a centre-back pairing needs to have an Alpha Dog (see Bill Simmons' "Alpha Dog" theory) and a No. 2. who would shout, lead, marshal the defense, claim every 50-50 ball, and be the lone voice to restore calm.
With all this though, you need a competent second-in-command. Someone to read the play, spot when a second striker is making a run; a quieter, less-showy one if you will.
Watching Dawson mature, I saw him as the No. 2, to Ledley King or Jonathon Woodgate. To me, he was a quiet, unassuming, yet extremely talented second centre back, but I was wrong.
Dawson has developed into the Alpha Dog, the captain, the man to lead, but whether this was because of circumstance or natural ability, I don’t know.
Having him injured at the beginning of the season hurt Tottenham, and despite Gallas, Kaboul, and Bassong doing an adequate job, nobody can truly replace Michael Dawson.
Having him come back as the Champions League restarts, and when every game is crucial, is indeed reason for hope.
Reason for Hope: The Return of Tom Huddlestone
To quote the great Stuart Law, Tom Huddlestone looks like he was carved out of a "great oak tree". Despite a logjam in midfield, the reappearance of "Big Tom" cannot come soon enough. Pinging 50-yard cross-field balls to a gazelle-like Aaron Lennon as if he was a couple of metres away, opens up another dimension to an already formidable 'Spurs attack.
Though not particularly quick, he makes up for it with vision, a strong tackle and fierce (if sometimes constantly rising) shot. Huddlestone could, and should, provide a valuable asset for the remaining games, once he gets healthy.
Where he fits into the already packed but potent midfield is a problem for Harry Redknapp, but a welcome one nonetheless.
Reason for Hope: The Passion of Van Der Vaart
Rafael Van Der Vaart is one of the most talented players I have seen in a Tottenham shirt. His grace, vision, and deftness of touch is a throwback to the years of "Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur".
He is a player whose skill transcends generations, however, it’s not these qualities that give me hope—it’s his passion.
For every goal, misplaced pass, near-miss or ill-timed run by a teammate, you can see what it means etched into Van Der Vaart's face. You expect it of players who have spent years at a club, not someone who joined a few months prior in the closing moments of the transfer window.
Certain "big" names can be accused of going missing in games, but these criticisms certainly cannot be levelled at Van Der Vaart. His will to win won’t let him quit, and won’t let him or him teammates give any less than 100%.
It is this sort of personality that has been missing from Tottenham for the past few years. As the games get fewer but more important, the fiery passion of a Dutch master is a welcome reassurance for this 'Spurs fan.
Reason for Hope: The Return of Gareth Bale
To me, it’s the phrase I’ve loved hearing all year: "…And Bale turns on the afterburners…"
Watching the Welsh Wing Wizard size up a right back, knock the ball past him and explode down the touchline after it is a sight to be seen.
Bale was repeating this throughout the game, week after week…until he pulled up, clutching his lower back. There was no horror tackle, no misplaced anger at a clumsy opposing player, he just pulled up, and as fans, we just have to bear it.
It’s the fact that Bale could return at any week that gives me the most hope for the rest of the season. Premiership managers might be used to seeing him every week, but European managers still haven’t got the measure of him.
Even though the realist in me knows it would take a miracle to lift the European Cup, having Bale back gives me enough reason to think we could give any team a decent fight.
Hope Triumphs over Fear
I've hoped you've enjoyed my hopes and fears for the rest of the season.
To skew a little off-topic, I'd like to end by giving my condolences to Dean Richards and his family.
As a 'Spurs supporter, I'd like to say thank you, and as a human, I'd like to say 36 is no age to die, and may you rest in peace.