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Four reasons why….Tottenham’s season has capitulated

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Ineffective management

Doubtless after today’s loss to Norwich, Harry Redknapp will attribute the defeat to it ‘just being one of those days’. Maybe, although possibly their insipid and directionless football is the result of something a little less cosmic.

For a manager who’s eaten out through his entire career on his motivational ability, Redknapp’s doing a horrible job focusing his squad at the moment.

He’s incapable of stopping momentum swings. From the moment Robin Van Persie equalised in the North London Derby, Spurs have been really poor – and Redknapp hasn’t shown himself to be in any way capable of arresting the decline.

Gareth Bale

Playing almost entirely for his own highlight reel at the moment. A sulky, petulant shadow of what he was six months ago.

Having players that drift around the pitch is an asset, but not if they don’t really know what they’re doing outside of their natural position – all that does is unbalance a team, and contort a shape into something ineffective.

Whether the Welshman now believes himself to have a license to play low-percentage football or not, he’s got to be reigned back in and limited to occupying the role within which he’s so effective – because the team thrives on its width and pace, not on its wingers ducking in-field and congesting the pitch.

Over-reliance on Scott Parker

Today was a window into the past, this is how soft Spurs used to be. Profligate in possession, light in the tackle, and without any defensive shape or, most importantly, midfield protection.

Scott Parker has been Tottenham’s backbone all season, and not having a credible alternative to him is really starting to cost them. Parker has been run dry and kicked to pieces, and the decision to rest him today – while understandable – was always going to bring such an alarming drop in competitiveness.

Not only is Spurs’ defence laid bare without their anchorman, but Luka Modric looks a third of the player he usually is with Parker alongside him.

Yes, Tottenham’s squad is deep, but not necessarily in the right areas.

Lack of a Plan B

Say what you want about Peter Crouch, but he offered an alternative. When an opposing team managed to squeeze the passing life out of Tottenham, on could trot Crouch, and Spurs could start launching those long diagonals towards him.

Now what? What happens when the slick football doesn’t click into gear, or a highly-spirited opponent disrupts the fluency?

Tottenham have nowhere to go. Where are the players who enable a different approach? The only option that seems to exist for Harry Redknapp if a game doesn’t go to plan, is to replace first-eleven players with lesser replacements filling similar roles. Brilliant.

Maybe that explains the statistic about Tottenham only having won from behind once all season?

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Tottenham prepare for ‘big surrender’ at Stamford Bridge

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Different year, same fixture.

Tottenham are standing on the edge of the cliff, and tomorrow Chelsea will push them off. To save you the trouble of having to actually watch the game tomorrow lunchtime, here’s what will happen; Tottenham will start well and play neat, but not penetrative football, will miss an early chance, and will then concede just before half-time after a lapse in defensive concentration. At some point in the second-half, Fernando Torres will score a scuffed tap-in – the commentators will duly oblige with comments about him being ‘back’ – and Frank Lampard will score from the edge of the box courtesy of a deflection.

If you’re lucky, the referee may throw a howler into the mix as well.

To all those who have anointed Harry Redknapp as England’s saviour, riddle me this: if Redknapp is such a master at extracting the most out of his players, how is it that the Tottenham squad – extravagantly talented as it is – are now sinking into the Europa League without much of a fight. Surely the raison d’etre of a motivator is to alter the course of momentum shifts? So, why have Spurs never recovered from the moment Robin Van Persie equalised at the Emirates?

From being set to be one of Tottenham’s finest hours, this season is nosediving into the ‘infamous failure’ category, and the manager seems utterly powerless to do anything about it. Optimists will console themselves with the thought of all those ‘easy’ fixtures that follow tomorrow’s visit to Stamford Bridge, but wouldn’t it be just so typically Spurs if they all end up in a gaggle of draws and losses?

Just one of those days, isn’t it Harry? T’riffic.

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Redknapp confirms Spurs’ interest in Eden Hazard

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It’s a bit of a strange one this, because theoretically Harry Redknapp may not be Tottenham manager by the time the transfer window opens – regardless of that though, he has confirmed Tottenham’s interest in Lille’s Belgian winger Eden Hazard:

“Hazard is a talented player with great ability. He can do special things. He is on our list. I watched him last year about three times and I have watched him a couple of times this year.

I wouldn’t want to be saying he is the best player in the world because Man City or Chelsea might then decide they have to have him.

United and one or two others are in for him but I think Daniel is ready to compete with them. If you want to be a top four team you have got to do that. You have got to push on. The chairman is ambitious, we all are.”

Hazard has obviously made positive noises about moving to London, but given the list of potential suitors he has, Spurs are in for a hell of a ruck if they want to get him.

Ironically, I wrote a piece a couple of days ago about Dimitar Berbatov which relates to this, and more specifically the suitability of certain clubs to certain players. Yes, Hazard is wanted by Manchester United and there’s been talk of Barcelona, but Tottenham could well be the best option for him – an upwardly-mobile club with no predetermined hierarchy within the playing squad, the majority of whom are in their early-to-mid twenties.

Money may talk here, but White Hart Lane would probably be the best place to actually develop his career – the jump between Lille and that Barca/United level is a little wide for my liking.

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Tottenham ready to flatline, as their season threatens to fizzle out

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One word to describe Spurs at the moment – knackered.

Yes, yes, Everton have beaten both Manchester City and Everton at home, so in itself the result shouldn’t be cause for too much reaction, but really, that was a tired and unimaginative performance with very few positives.

If it wasn’t the case already, Tottenham’s FA Cup tie with Bolton at the weekend has now become un-losable – not because of the need for progression through to the semi-finals, but because it represents the nearest opportunity to arrest the alarming downswing in momentum.

There’s been something unsettling about watching Spurs in the last few weeks, all the old demons have resurfaced. The new-found resiliency that has been so heralded has evaporated; the surrender at the Emirates, the promise-but-no-product of the Manchester United game, and the grindingly predictable loss at Goodison to a very average Everton – these are hallmarks of old Tottenham, of the ‘soft’ Tottenham that Gary Neville made reference to.

This late-February/early-March period was always going to ask a lot of this side, but they’ve competed like a side running on empty. Ever since Robin Van Persie’s equaliser in the Derby, the vibrancy and energy seems to have vanished from their football. The urgency was there in the first-half against Manchester United, but quickly evaporated after Wayne Rooney had been gifted his opener.

This is the real test for Harry Redknapp, because with Arsenal finally playing up to their reputation, and Chelsea showing signs of life, the assured third-placed finish in the league suddenly looks very much under threat. Apologists will point to the relative ease of the fixture list post-Stamford Bridge on the 24th March, but those are all games that could easily turn into ‘one of those days’ if this club doesn’t rediscover the belief that it’s had for most of the season – it could all be in vain.

As loathe as I am to criticise two players that have been so integral to Tottenham’s rise, concerns exist over Gareth Bale and Luka Modric. Both look like they’ve been wrung-dry of their form, and are now clearly exhibiting the fatigue associated with being relied upon too heavily. Modric’s passing range was well under-par against Everton, and his play lacked the imagination and bounce that is so crucial to dictating the pace of Tottenham’s game. With Bale, the concern is that Redknapp is now overusing him. There’s always the temptation with an influential player to try and involve him in as much of the game as possible – to give him license to drift and make himself pertinent. That’s fine in theory, but Bale still looks like a fish out of water in central areas – and additionally, Tottenham simply aren’t the same side without the width that he provides.

If I’m Harry Redknapp at Spurs’ Lodge today, I’m simplifying everything, and I’m also stressing that our season is in danger of fading-to-black. Redknapp needs to prove now that he is the motivator that he’s believed to be, and pick these players out of the trough they’ve fallen into. Beat Bolton and the buzz of an FA Cup semi-final will alleviate some of the malaise, go on to take three points from Stoke on the Wednesday, and the side should have enough belief to take something positive from a vulnerable Chelsea.

Do you know what this reminds me of? That point in a Championship Manager season where, having rolled over team after team all year, your form suddenly evaporates for no reason and you end up stuttering through to the finish.

It would be an awful shame if that happened to Tottenham now.

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Redknapp acquittal increases the chances of a managerial vacancy at Tottenham

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Actually I don’t think that the innocent verdict handed down to Harry Redknapp today is particularly good news for Tottenham. Clearly, it’s more so than a custodial sentence, but the ideal outcome for Daniel Levy and Spurs would’ve been an outcome that stained Redknapp’s reputation enough to put off the FA from offering him the England job.

Remember Terry Venables? The Football Association are terrified of being associated with financial irregularities, there would have been no chance of Redknapp succeeding Fabio Capello had that charge been paperclipped to his CV.

Redknapp has offered the usual come-and-get-me rhetoric in response to the speculation about the England job; ‘it’s an attractive offer’, ‘who wouldn’t want to do it’ – all amounting to the safe conclusion that, if offered the position, he would take it.

On that assumption, and with the equally safe conclusion that the Wembley high-brass will be making a bee-line for his manager, Daniel Levy now has to consider what comes next for his club.

Spurs’ recent success has been founded on Redknapp’s relationship with his players, and as such his departure would leave a question mark against the future of the more integral members of that squad. Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Rafael Van der Vaart – where does their loyalty lie, to the manager or to the team? Spurs can’t be allowed to slip back into the Premier League’s chasing pack by showing a lack of ambition in their choice of Redknapp’s replacement.

I wrote a few weeks ago that if Redknapp was to depart North East London for the North West of the capital, then the stars are aligned for Tottenham to make a run at Jose Mourinho. And I think that’s exactly what will happen. The Portuguese wants/is wanted out of Real Madrid, he’s been very public about which league he’d like to return to, and there’s only really which both has a potential vacancy, and is of sufficient stature to attract him.

An appointment of any less ambition, and Levy is telling the current squad that he’s settling for second-best. A David Moyes-calibre manager? No – you can kiss your Modric and Bale goodbye if that happens. It has to be a proven winner, and somebody elite players want to play for as much as they clearly do for Redknapp.

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Roman Pavlyuchenko heads for home and leaves a strange legacy at Tottenham

Flashes of brilliance, and big dollops of apathy; Roman Pavlyuchenko’s Tottenham career in a nutshell.

As Pavlyuchenko leaves England and returns to his native Russia, even after three-and-a-half Spurs fans can’t be sure whether he’s really a good player or not. Is he the forward that rifled in that crucial second goal in Bern in 2010, or the shoulder-shrugging, movement-shy striker that we saw for most of the rest of the time.

As fans, you can never see what goes on behind the scenes, and what it is that leads a manager to place no faith in a particular member of his squad. One has to imagine though, that given Harry Redknapp’s almost immediate distrust of the Russian, that Pavlyuchenko was not the best trainer. Sulking and seething. Allowing ‘Pav’ any game time at all seemed to be a last resort for Redknapp, and any goal he scored seemed to be motivated by a desire to hit back at his manager.

What’s frustrating in retrospect, is that the talent was always there. The volley against Fulham in the FA Cup, the shift and hit against Chelsea at the Lane, and his last-minute winner against Liverpool in the North London rain. Good finishes, good times. But oh how he was wasteful – too borrow a phrase; he passed more infrequently than a Mastermind Champions, never saw a thirty-yarder that he didn’t fancy, and rarely showed an appreciation for a game outside of his own ambitions within it.

So farewell ‘Super Pav’, strangely loved by fans and teammates, fossil of the Ramos era – I feel like I know even less about you than I did three years ago.

Tottenham need to start preparing for life after Harry Redknapp

This is a strange time for Tottenham fans.

The team is as good as it’s been for as long as anybody can remember, Chelsea and Arsenal are currently playing second and third-fiddle to the Lilywhites, and the club’s manager is in court facing potential jail time.

Or maybe he’ll be the next England manager. A stark contrast, or maybe metaphorically one in the same.

What’s becoming clear, is that Redknapp’s tenure is under-threat. Harry himself has, as much as he can, made it perfectly clear that he’ll consider any offer that the FA make him – and he’s not really in a position to refuse whatever terms are handed down by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Regardless of where he goes, Wembley or prison, Daniel Levy needs to start planning for what happens if his manager moves on. As the Tottenham Chairman knows, the key to building a club’s stature is repeated success, and repeated qualification for the Champions League.

That continuity can’t be allowed to break if Redknapp does leave.

I’m going to throw a name out there: Jose Mourinho.

Rumour had it that Levy made a rather panicky call to the Potuguese around the time of the Martin Jol/Juande Ramos clusterfuck, and you would have to believe that he would do so again should he suddenly find himself managerless. Although this time that call might not be quite so panicky.

The Tottenham that exist today are very different to that of 2007. They’re an elite team, stuffed with world-class players. There’s no Pascal Chimbonda, Alan Hutton, Teemu Tainio, the Carling Cup is no longer an achievement, and the Champions League is not just a pipe dream.

Combine that with Mourinho’s very public desire to return to England, and his current troubles in Madrid, and Levy could put together a very attractive proposition for the former Chelsea manager at the end of the season.

If such a situation ever presented itself, Spurs should offer a Kings Ransom for Mourinho. Can you imagine the effect he would have on the club – you could kiss goodbye to the threat of Luka Modric wanting to ‘play for a bigger clubs’. Players don’t leave Mourinho, Mourinho tells them when he doesn’t need them anymore. And Mourinho wins wherever he goes.

It’s all based on several hypotheticals, of course, but it’s not as unrealistic as you think. Either way, that’s the level of ambition Tottenham would need to show to retain their momentum – no David Moyes, no other over-hyped, won-nothing British managers, shoot for the stars.

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Tottenham target Loic Remy

So Harry Redknapp has declared how much he ‘likes’ Marseille forward Loic Remy – and I think we all know what that means by now.

24 years-old, just over 6ft tall, and with seventeen caps and four goals for France, Remy is one of the best amongst the second-tier of European forwards – and one word to sum him up? Rapid. Absolutely lightning quick.

Spurs would have to come up with at least £20m for him, but they could do a lot worse…

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Impressed by Tottenham’s Emmanuel Adebayor

I think when they heard that Tottenham were bringing Emmanuel Adebayor to White Hart Lane, most Spurs fans would’ve assumed that the Togalese’s stay at the club would follow a familiar pattern; a good start, a couple of goals, and then growing apathy.

While it’s too early to pass a conclusive verdict on the loan move, the signs so far suggest that player, club, and manager are in perfect harmony.

The temptation with forwards is always to judge them on their most significant output – goals – but sometimes you have to also measure their contribution in relation to the system in which they’re playing. Adebayor’s a perfect fit for Harry Redknapp’s 4-4-1-1.

Five goals in nine appearances is a good return, but what’s actually been most impressive is his work-rate. There would have been more than one double-take last night at the sight of Adebayor chasing back into his own half against Aston Villa, much as there would have been at his general level of effort when not in possession.

This is a forward playing with a lot of desire. Maybe the penny has dropped with him, maybe he now realises that talent alone is not quite enough at the very top of the game?

The player will, for now, continue to have his detractors – and there’ll be some sections of the Spurs support who see this still as an uneasy alliance, waiting for the first signs of disaffection from what is still an ex-Arsenal player. However, so far all you can really do is applaud the player’s application and the high-level of his link-play.

With any player, it’s always interesting to note the way his teammates react to him. Watch the celebrations that followed Tottenham’s first goal last night, that you should tell you all you need to know about how valued Adebayor’s contribution currently is.

Goals are a forward’s currency, but that’s not the only criteria by which they should be judged – this could very well be a player in emotional transit, and could very well be one that Tottenham fans grow to genuinely love.

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Newly-resilient Tottenham still rising

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Something’s happened to Tottenham. I’m willing to bet that there wasn’t a single Spurs fan watching this afternoon who didn’t expect a Fulham equaliser at Craven Cottage. History tells you to protect yourself from impending disappointment.

Resiliency.

New additions to a side can always help to change the fortunes on the pitch, but sometimes a mentality is so deeply engrained within a club that it can override logic. Tottenham are the perennial soft-touch, they always let you down, they crumble when the pressure’s on. Not any more.

They’ve almost become what would have been inconceivable a couple of years ago – ruthless. Despite their lead at half-time, Fulham had been almost as prominent in the first-half as they were in the second, with the two goals the product of fleeting brilliance rather than sustained pressure. Brad Friedel actually summed it up nicely in his post-match interview:

“We can do the dirty stuff too.”

Yes, Spurs can it seems. This is no longer a football club painting pretty patterns at White Hart Lane with no result, it’s a club with a winning mentality – one which expects three points now wherever they go. Newcastle, Blackburn, Wolves, and now Fulham – all tricky games where they’ve taken more points this year than they would’ve done in seasons past.

Not playing well but winning; the cliched but priceless commodity in the Premier League.

What’s also clear, is quite how much this set of players enjoys playing with each other. They come across as a band of friends on and off the pitch. No more distant Berbatov-like characters, this side isn’t built on individual components and nobody’s in awe of anybody else’s ability. Does it look like Luka Modric still wants to be playing for Chelsea? Watch his reaction to the rest of the team; that’s not the body language of someone agitating for a move to a sinking ship in West London.

Some sections of the media love to deride Harry Redknapp for his throw-back style and matey-approach to the game, but how can you not applaud what he’s built at Spurs? The fans love the team, the manager loves the players, and collectively Tottenham are heading for the summit – and the Champions League again.

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