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

    Allygold The Editor Admin

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

  1. JoeT
    Hi 'Ally'...In response to how we made 72 points but missed out on C.L. qualification I would say, yes you are correct mathematically..however when one considers that with 3 points more we could have finished 3rd, plus we took points from those top teams, also I felt that all of the E.P.L. top teams whilst playing in this years' C.L. did really poorly, and looked - almost outclassed - at times. All of which makes me think that this past season wasn't exactly a vintage one for many of the 'big boys'. Cheers......
  2. Allygold
    Interesting stuff. Not sure I agree on the whole. I think City certainly weren't as good this year as last, maybe due to Mancini's early tactical tinkering, but United ran away with it, Chelsea were better in the league than last and Arsenal were almost on a par.

    Those clubs' European performances may affect the light the Premier League was seen in this year, but doesn't really reflect the competition itself in England. If anything you could argue that early European exits alllowed them to focus on their domestic form more.
  3. CowInAComa

    City were in a group with Dortmund and Madrid.
    Utd were by far the better team in the Madrid tie QF, the sending off changed the results.
    Arsenal*cough* scum*cough* almost turned around the Bayern tie in germany and Chelsea won the Europa.

    I think the media have got a little carried away with English Leagues so called collapse, as they have with Germanys unstoppable rise. Dortmund were 30 seconds away from being eliminated by Malaga.

    There are a handful of clubs from Spain, Germany, Italy and England who always comprise the last 8-16, law of averages says sometimes one nation has two finalists and that one nation dont feature past the QF.

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