The 2010/11 season was a mixed bag for Tottenham Hotspur fans. Some of the more memorable highlights of the season included beating Milan in San Siro, Gareth Bale’s hat trick against inter, and coming back from 2-0 down at half-time at the Emirates to stun north London rivals Arsenal. This came as a bittersweet resolve as the failure of Spurs to make a top four finish in the Premier League resulted in settling for a spot in the Europa League.
Harry Redknapp considered the 2010/11 campaign better than 2009/10 and I must say that I wholeheartedly agree. Fans learned a lot about this team, which was stretched from all the injuries and additional matches that come with Champions League qualification. Though inconsistent, this team was able to hang with the best clubs in the world when healthy. How they do in this summer’s transfer market will depend on how well they can build off this season’s successes and learn from their mistakes.
Let’s examine each area of the pitch to see where Tottenham need a new injection of players, or not:
The best aspect of this Hotspur team in 2011 was midfield. This midfield could stack up against any team when healthy. Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Rafael Van Der Vaart put together great seasons. All three of them logged some time on the injury list at some point during the season. But these three did exceptionally well.
Bale was voted player of the year, which was hard to argue against after his amazing first half. At times, it seemed he could run forever. Van Der Vaart put together a great season, scoring 13 goals in 28 games and had 8 assists, which was good for most on the team in both categories. Modric’s season may not look amazing on paper, but he was very good at creating space and moving the ball through the midfield. As of now, he’s attracted a lot of interest from other clubs, including fourth place rival Manchester City. Harry Redknapp insists it’s essential to keep Modric. However, this may not be Redknapp’s decision and a large sum of money may sway the club to let him go.
Although Modric was a great playmaker, his sale could benefit the club if they were to replace him with the right players. Scott Parker has been strongly linked to Redknapp and Spurs. Though five years Modric’s senior, Parker was similar tactically on the pitch in being a playmaker. His pace may not be as great as Modric’s, which is fine given Spurs’ speedy left and right wingers of Bale and Lennon respectively. Parker is valued at £8 million by recently demoted sellers West Ham, which is still very reasonable for the 2011 Football Writer’s Association Footballer of the Year. I predict he goes for less. Parker could be a deep-lying midfielder and Van Der Vaart would play more up top as an attacking midfielder. Some have suggested Redknapp move Van Der Vaart instead of Modric due to his lack of pace not meshing with such a speedy midfield. While pace is important for a midfielder, Van Der Vaart was deployed as an attacking midfielder and sometimes a striker role during the 2011 campaign. His results speak for themselves and he seems to really enjoy White Hart Lane. A midfield of creative playmakers is equally important as speedy playmakers. Playing VDV up top with support behind from Parker and Sandro, while also getting support from speedy wingers Bale and Lennon could work really well.
A working midfield of both speedy and creative playmakers can make a striker’s job of scoring goals all that much easier. Despite having a top midfield, Tottenham strikers were inept at converting opportunities into goals. I can’t tell you how many times I watched the Tottenham midfield run all over the opposition only to get the ball to a striker who couldn’t convert. Jermain Defoe is the main culprit, despite a brilliant 2009/10 campaign in which he was a leading goalscorer. Selling him for a young, ambitious striker may just be what this club needs to break into the top 4.
I liked Pavlyuchenko’s grittiness and scoring prowess. He scored 9 goals in 18 games started and came on as a substitute 11 times. He scored twice against Birmingham in the last game of the season to prove that he belongs on this team. At 6’2″, he’s also a solid force in the air. Despite scoring an own goal against Man City and getting a red card in 15 minutes at the Bernabeu, we shouldn’t be looking to sell Peter Crouch either. He scored the game winner at San Siro and you would rarely see him lose an air challenge. Both Pavlyuchenko and Crouch will be valuable assets as substitutes and as starters in the many Europa League games Tottenham will be forced to play. This means Spurs are in desperate need of a legitimate striking force capable of playing many games. If Modric gets sold for a kings ransom to a team willing to overpay, Tottenham may be able to get a talented young striker. My guess is as good as any since Spurs are linked to almost every name under the sun. My hope is that we get someone with speed and creative instincts so that this midfield can properly do its job.
Spurs’ defense in 2011 was probably the least talked about. The back line was solid through and through despite injuries to players such as veteran Ledley King, Michael Dawson and Alan Hutton. Sandro and Wilson Palacios fit the defensive midfield mold, so they may be considered part of the defense as well. It seems as if Palacios will most certainly be sold. He rarely played and is being crowded out by Sandro and Danny Rose.
Dawson was great in the games he played. William Gallas proved that Wenger was wrong to sell him. Younes Kaboul proved his worth down the stretch as well. I am especially excited about the prospects of Danny Rose. Though a left midfielder on the youth squad, he’s taken to the left back role extremely well. He was on loan to a Championship team all season except for the last three games of the season. I was especially impressed by him in those games. He showed exceptional pace and skill against Manchester City and Liverpool. He could be a nice first team squad player in 2012.
Another young defender who might make an appearance is Kyle Walker, who was on loan at Aston Villa this season. He will likely start Europa League games. I like Tottenham’s depth on defense. Though, it couldn’t hurt to buy a cheap, young defender from the Dutch or Belgian leagues. If the defense can stay healthy, they should be very good.
Last but not least, there’s our goalkeeper situation. Gomes was possibly the worst EPL goalie in 2011. I don’t believe he was this bad. There’s a chance he gets sold. There’s also a chance he stays. Veterans Brad Friedel and Carlo Cudicini are going to be competing with him for full-time duty. Having three goalies that want full-time duties may be too many, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Gomes gets sold. Getting a top goalkeeper would cost way too much for an disproportional level of production.
I probably didn’t need to breakdown every position to conclude that this team needs a striker and maybe a defender. While I’d love to keep Modric, a big club offering big bucks may be too difficult to pass up. Scott Parker is an affordable midfielder who could fill a void left by Modric, which would give us extra money to get a striker and defender. If Redknapp and Spurs ownership can accomplish this, Tottenham should be right up there with the other top clubs for Champions League qualification in 2012/13. I wouldn’t count out a run at the title either if the other top teams play as poorly as they did in 2011.