Don't Bale out just as opportunity knocks

Discussion in 'Columns' started by Allygold, May 29, 2013.

  • by Allygold, May 29, 2013 at 6:27 PM
  • Allygold

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    You know times are changing when the despair brought on by the annual end of season overtaking by that lot up the road lasts 24 hours rather than a month.

    There was the usual air of inevitability about the Premier League's final day. I've lost count of the number of times this season a late score update has arrived via Twitter, radio or Gillette Soccer Saturday's gloating Charlie Nicholas or Paul Merson informing me that once again that impending Arsenal draw or defeat is no longer.

    Years of experience and confidence means that in late March every year Wenger's boys appear from nowhere like machines sent from the future with the singular goal of hunting down and capturing Champions League status. They may have no need for silver polish, but they steamroll through their last 10 fixtures with expressionless faces and a total disregard for others.

    That doesn't mean Sunday wasn't without a sliver of hope - we're Spurs fans after all - although the news that Mike Ashley had offered the Newcastle backroom staff £1m to share between them if the team won was never going to inspire a bunch of millionaire French twenty-somethings to switch their attentions from their upcoming summer holidays to Kath Cassidy the tea lady and her financial well being.

    Gareth Bale provided yet another magic moment to brighten the day, even after the crowd realised Lord Sugar's tweet about Newcastle equalising was on a par with his usual Twitter fare.

    Yet as the ball nestled in the net for me it further hammered home the realisation that this Tottenham Hotspur is evolving into something different. Are we now so different from those machines up the road?

    December's defeat at Goodison Park served as a watershed for Villas-Boas' Tottenham Hotspur. The manager immediately sought to prevent further late goals being conceded by increasing the intensity in the latter stages of training sessions. Not only did it stop them leaked, but as a by-product the increased concentration in games' dying embers brought a whole host of last gasp goals at the other end. The mark of a top team is being able to come good when the chips are down and mere seconds remain.

    The last four managers have all brought something to the evolution of Tottenham Hotspur. Martin Jol reminded us that this club should be among the higher reaches of the table, competing in Europe and not content with mid-table obscurity, Juande Ramos brought silverware and Harry Redknapp gave us a tantalising taste of what's on offer at the top table of the Champions League.

    Andre Villas-Boas is the next step. He has not come to White Hart Lane to be the best of the rest. This is a young manager with a league title and domestic and continental cups to his name already, yet has shown the capacity to learn and evolve from his few tough time. Was I the only Spurs fan watching Old Trafford saying its farewells to Fergie who thought for just a fleeting moment that perhaps we have the man who could start the next dynasty in British football?

    Champions League qualification or not, Villas-Boas' first season at Tottenham Hotspur has been a major success whatever some in the media will tell you. Having lost his most creative players in Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart by the end of his first transfer window and the club's best defender in Ledley King to retirement, he had no right to break the records he has or finish just six points behind a second-placed Manchester City team that has spend hundreds of millions in recent seasons.

    The achievements stack up nicely. A record 72 points for the club in the Premier League era, the most victories in a Premier League season (21), the joint least defeats (8 - not since 1978 have we lost less), the most away wins in a Premier League season (10), one goal shy of our highest Premier League goal tally of 67, plus dramatic victories over top four sides Manchester United (at Old Trafford to break another long-standing hoodoo), Manchester City and Arsenal.

    The fact that we still missed out on Champions League qualification in the face of all that with just two defeats in our last 22 league games says everything about how much other teams strengthened and how Joe Lewis and Daniel Levy now need to get their heads together and the cheque book out to give their manager the best chance of delivering something special.

    When Chelsea needed creative inspiration this season they could call upon either Mata, Hazard or Oscar to deliver. That's why Rafa Benitez could rotate and handle their fixture pile-up so well in the campaign's latter stages. We just don't have that conveyor belt of top stars to call upon to carve apart stubborn teams when others aren't firing on all cylinders.

    Now is the time to invest. Next season three of the top four have new men at the helm. David Moyes has not won major honours as a manager and success will depend on whether the Manchester United machine can roll on without Fergie.

    Manuel Pelligrini, if he turns up at City, also has no European honours to his name - unless the Intertoto Cup counts - and could take time to adjust to the English league. If Chelsea bring back Mourinho they will be title contenders again, but how will he fare without the influence of Terry, Lampard and Drogba in his team's spine this time around?

    That leaves both Spurs and Arsenal with a great chance to shake the branches at the top of the tree and see what falls their way. If Levy can work some magic and bring in a couple of big players then Villas-Boas will do his bit at the still sparkling new training ground and on the pitch. The likes of Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga and AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie have shown in recent years that talented teams with great spirit can upset the natural order if given the chance.

    Upgrades need to be made to turn more draws and defeats into victories. When Villas-Boas first arrived he spoke of his desire to get Spurs playing a 4-3-3 formation after an initial transitional period of 4-2-3-1. With Moutinho now off the menu, another creative midfielder has to come from somewhere to fit in alongside Sandro and Dembele. Newcastle's Yohan Cabaye has been one of the Premier League's most accurate passers of the ball in the last two seasons. Could he be the answer?

    A 4-3-3 requires a flexible front three. David Villa has been filling recent column inches. Despite his age, the Spaniard would be a real coup and bring a winning mentality with him. He can also switch to the flanks during a game, allowing Bale to drift into the middle. Leandro Damiao and Roberto Soldado are more traditional strikers, but both would thrive on the service from Bale and Lennon.

    The woefully inconsistent Defoe and Adebayor struggled to make their case for the main striker role and with only one position up for grabs, it's unlikely both will stick around on the wage bill for the fight.

    Elsewhere it's about improving the squad. The energetic Lewis Holtby could end up being the natural heir to the waning Scott Parker, only with more ability in the final third. Sigurdsson and Dempsey have proved they can be game changers from the bench, with the Icelandic midfielder showing flashes of real potential. A more natural winger like Porto's Christian Atsu could yet be brought in to challenge Bale and Lennon, if Andros Townsend isn't ready for the opportunity yet.

    Tom Carroll and Jake Livermore may be given the chance like Townsend, Rose and Caulker to experience prolonged runs in the top flight on loan before making their real mark at Spurs. Tom Huddlestone is a gifted passer of the ball, but with the turning circle of an oil tanker he just doesn't fit the team's pressing style and puts too much pressure on those around him to cover, so could find himself on the move.

    At the back, in Hugo Lloris we have our world class sweeper keeper for the next 10 years if we can match his ambition. In front of him, a Vertonghen and Kaboul partnership could be one of the Premier League's best, but leaves little room for Michael Dawson, who could again find himself among the potential list of summer departures as one of the biggest potential sources of income, despite William Gallas' impending departure.

    Recent comments from the manager suggest Benoit Assou-Ekotto may not be on his way out the exit door, but could be pushed all the way by Danny Rose for his spot, if not by a new face with Villas-Boas' fellow Portuguese Fabio Coentrao mooted in some quarters. On the other side Kyle Walker was starting to show encouraging signs of last season's form in the final months of the campaign.

    All that is left is our mercurial Welsh superstar. Rumours that Gareth Bale had already signed a new deal swept around White Hart Lane on the final Sunday, but as the days go by that seems to have been premature or wishful thinking. Talks will no doubt have been going on and if the club is going to break its wage structure it will surely be for a player fast becoming one of its best ever. Bale is the current generation of Lilywhites fans' Gascoigne, Hoddle, Gilzean and Blanchflower.

    He clearly has a good relationship with his manager, and has him to thank for giving him a new role in pre-season and then building the team around him as the campaign wore on, allowing him even more freedom, sometimes to the detriment of the team's balance.

    Like Villas-Boas, he is no doubt waiting to see whether the powers that be can match his ambition. In not Real Madrid awaits. If they do then the young Welsh wonder, the club and the fans could be about to experience a Premier League season like no other.
     
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Comments

Discussion in 'Columns' started by Allygold, May 29, 2013.

  1. miles_64
    Nice article, Ally. Always good to see you about like the good ole days.

    I too would like to see AVB create a dynasty at Spurs but I don't think that's his game plan; I recall him speaking of ambitions to manage elsewhere and that this was a 5 year project. Let's hope he wants to prolong his stay!
    • Agree Agree x 1
  2. JimmyG2
    A settled team which has demonstrated an undoubted team spirit could,
    with crucial but minimal upgrading under a manager who has demonstrated his qualities
    well take the game to the current top four,
    three of whom are undergoing possibly destabilising changes.
    I agree with your upbeat assessment.
    Even Chelsea under Mourinho may generate more heat than light.
    Utd will struggle after a change of manager after 26 yrs.
    Keeping Bale, getting a striker or two in and a better start than last year are pre-requisits
    Holtby and Sigurdsson will need to step up and I think that they will.
    Walker will be a star next year.
    The Lilywhite future is bright, to coin a phrase
    • WTF!? WTF!? x 1
  3. faymantaray
    Fantastic, gripping article.
  4. Ginolas_Hair
    Great article.

    I appreciate that fact you have based your optimism on the evidence of last season.

    However, I'm hoping Dawson has shown AVB that he has enough quality to be considered a very reliable squad member / back up - possibly pushing for a starting XI spot next season.

    COYS!
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  5. Krokom
    Marvellous article. Very well put! Also agree with Ginolas_Hair regarding Dawson.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Sweetsman
    I must say that much as I want to dismiss the rumours today's news about Bale is worrying. If Levy sells Bale against AVB's wishes then next season may be AVB's last: he will want to be at a club with ambition, not one that sells its family silver. Moments like this don't come along very often, when the opposition is vulnerable and you have a world class talent in your hand to fashion a fighting force around. It will be criminal if Levy doesn't show the same strength he showed with Modrić.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. jolsnogross
    That is a good, upbeat article. The only slight issue is that suggesting the departure of Hudd and certainly Dawson seems counter to the idea that we need to boost the overall quality of the squad. Is there a center-half out there better than Dawson who wants to be at Spurs but may have to put up with being a squad player (missing out on the biggest ties)? I doubt it. Surely this season has proven we need 4 top class center halves and we have them in place so it would be folly to meddle with that.

    I very much appreciate the upbeat tone. We should think bigger than the top four, even if the top four is ultimately what we end up with. We're well placed to step up to a title challenge next year, even if other sides spend the GDP of a small country. Both Harry and AVB have said Spurs could win a league title within 2-3 years. But rather than falling into the usual Spurs trap of always waiting for next year, we need to grasp the opportunity now. And as the article said, that time really is now with the state of flux other top sides find themselves in.

    Two strikers of the class mentioned in rumours (Villa & Damiao) would be a massive boost to our chances. Combine that with key improvements in one or two places and you can see a first team and squad that is ready to challenge. In many ways, it's make or break for us - Bale, Lloris, Sandro, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Walker, Dembele - there's at least seven players that should be winning titles and will depart for top sides if we don't compete. Then we have to move back to a 3 year horizon during rebuilding or dreaded 'transition' seasons again.

    Add new improved personnel in some cases (signings that don't have to break the bank) and improvements in existing personnel*, and there really is no need to limit ourselves to trying to improve one place on fifth.

    *Lennon is the key example here. The penny should have dropped by now that he needs to contribute more to the business-end of moves. He's rarely linked to big money moves away, simply becasue he's good but not good and consistent enough. He's entering his prime now and must surely realize this is his time to make a Bale-esque leap forward next season.
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  8. Allygold
    Some great points. With regard to Hudd and Dawson I feel with them its more that they will likely both be third/fourth choice in their positions and for the wages they take up and fees they could recoup, they may want to move for first team football in a World Cup year and the club could spend the money on younger players like McCarthy at Wigan to come in or give the likes of Tom Carroll a chance.

    Dawson has been excellent this year but I feel injuries to others helped his cause. Will he be as happy next season behind the main two and possibly Caulker? Obviously injuries may strike early on again. My main fear if he goes and Parker plays less is who will become the passionate leader ready to put his body on the line?
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  9. vigospur
    Has to depend on what Real bid and whether Bale wants to go.
    Levy can't do any more than make sure that Real break the world transfer record. If they were prepared to do so it would be unrealistic to think he wouldn't be sold.
    We haven't got owners throwing billions at the team and we haven't got 70,000+ capacity. If Levy sells it will be because he judges it to be in the club's interest.
    Gareth Bale's own attitude will be important. I reckon he will give it at least another season. If not, he presumably loses the mega bucks as BT Premiership ambassador.
  10. mabolsa_ritchey
    I love these. Allygold, you're the reason I signed up to Spurs Community! Keep them coming.
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  11. elDiablo
    Lennon needs competition. It's all become a but too easy for him, and he seems happy playing in Bale's shadow. With Townsend or a new RF to provide competition, I like to think that Lennon will up his game, the same way he did when we bought DB.
  12. wizgell
    Can always rely on Ally to rise above all of the usual nonsense printed at this stage of the year...any stage of the year in fact. Never forget the brief spell I had where I was lucky enough to write alongside you for your Echo of Glory project.

    Quality piece mate. I've been thinking about Cabaye too, think he would fit in nicely but can't see the Toon letting him go without a fight and/or a huge fee.

    We need more of these articles Mr Gold, to keep the sanity in this place.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  13. Redfap
    Great article, nearly an exact replica of my thoughts. I think it was an impressive effort to post a a record points tally with a team that lost its 2 greatest creative talents, its best centre back and inspiration captain, played large parts of the season with either Parker, Sandro, BAE and Kaboul out. Not to mention that our best striker from the previous season Ade was barely an influence this season.

    I think lots of credit has to go to AVB. We have definitely lost some talent, but we have built what we probably lacked under Redknapp and that is a talented squad. Once our X1 dropped off under Rednapp we looked weak, so he had to play them and they got tired, I think AVB has built a stronger if less inspiring squad.

    I'm positive about next year, but that is entirely dependent on keeping Bale. If we can hang onto him it shows a lot! He really is a player we can build not just top 4 but a genuine title challenge around. IMO, if he stays around for another 2 years he will probably go down as the greatest player to suit up for Spurs. He really is that good,

    I think we will also see far better years from Holtby, Caulker, Dempsey, Sig and Dembele next year and dont forget we will see Sandro and Kaboul return.

    I'm positive, get around the lads

    COYS
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  14. onthetwo
    more please AllyG
  15. JoeT
    Good article; Spurs fans need a semi-inspiring read about now, but I feel it sells short what our top-four competition may be capable of next season. Even this season some would point to the fact that our 72-point acheivement came on a year when the top flight in the Premiership had slipped somewhat.
    I for one think Chelsea will do just fine next season without their "spine"- two of whom didn't feature much this season anyway- while Arsenal and Liverpool appear to be seriously re-building. Given that we are not alone in our ambitions, and other clubs seem to be in a likewise mode, can we in fact move ahead?
    For me and others on here this summer's transfers are going to be pivitol to the club's direction over next 5-6 years, but does our upper-management recognize this or will it be another year when the financial picture takes precidence over building a really competitive squad?
    We could show some real intent by really pushing Bale to sign a new contract, and seriously going after a top, top striker like Damiao, and a creative midfielder such as Cabaye.
    Until then it's all just talk.
  16. Allygold
    Some really excellent points there. However how can the elite have slipped if a points total that would have normally got 4th wasn't enough this year?

    Much depends on the how the new managers bed in and their and our summer transfers. If Liverpool can keep Suarez then they could be a force next season too. Going to be a very interesting one.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  17. camaj
    Ally I used to love reading your columns precisely because they were the perfect antidote to the Sky 4 rubbish we're used to reading that played fast and loose with the facts when they weren't convenient. I have to say I'm disappointed that you've made two glaring errors that I've heard repeated by Spurs fans who should know better this season.

    Firstly, this season there was a new, at least to me, cliche that Arsenal always finish the season strongly. Seemingly everyone ignored last season where Arsenal could only manage 6pts from their last 5 games. If they were a machine they were a broken one. True, they did win 4 of the 5 before that but they still lost to QPR

    The other one infuriates me, not because it's wrong but because how obviously wrong it was. Someone decided to pin the blame for the 1-1 tweet on our much loathed ex-chairman. Firstly anyone with sense would look at the timestamp of the widely reprinted tweet and notice it was 5:28pm, two mins or so before the final whistle. The fans thought it was 1-1 much earlier, somewhere around 5:10pm when it was still 0-0 at WHL. Secondly anyone who's ever tried using a phone at WHL knows how hard it is to get any kind of signal on match day let alone twitter updates. I was in the east lower at the time and I still don't know how people came to believe that, a fan nearby suggested someone in the box held two fingers up to suggest it was 1-1

    I hate to nitpick but I've always admired your ability to remind fans of how things really are. Credit where it's due, you did remind everyone just how good we've been this season even though you'd be mistaken for thinking so reading some of the comments. Maybe the slight slip at the end has coloured peoples views. While we should focus on the positives we should focus on the negatives too. We only had 9 clean sheets this season which was the 12th best in the league, the top 4 teams had a minimum of 14 clean sheets. We conceded the 8th lowest number of goals, 9 more than Arsenal. We also managed 6 fewer goals. A new striker or two should fix that but I think we'll still leak goals even with Sandro and Kaboul and I think that comes down to sloppyness in possession
  18. Allygold
    Thanks for the constructive feedback mate. Maybe there's been the odd slip but I still think over the last 5/6 years Arsenal have usually finished strongly. Or maybe its just in relation to us.

    Have to admit that I went along with the general reporting of Sugar's tweet. His tweets are usually so whinging with regards to Spurs that I didn't give him the benefit of the doubt as a friend said they saw it come up during the game.
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  19. camaj
    Admiteddly I haven't looked at Arsenals record over the longer term but it did amuse me how badly they finished last year and how quickly our fans forgot. I also remember the year of lasagne-gate they were slipping up left right and centre, just like us.

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