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Harry Redknapp’s Dilemma With Tottenham’s Defense

Harry Redknapp has promised more signings in order to strengthen and add more flexibility to the Tottenham squad as they attempt to reclaim their spot in the Champions League next season. In looking at the Tottenham squad they are truly blessed to have so many talented individuals, but one of the most frustrating things is to get results from such a talented group of players. Aside for the need of a new striker, defense is an area of concern for Spurs. As of right now Harry has brought in one new player in Brad Friedel from Aston Villa. However this selection does raise some concerns and possibilities.

Over the years Friedel has proven to be a capable goalkeeper but at 40 years of age, it does leave one wondering. Heurelho Gomes in my view has failed to maintain his number one spot. It is not to say he isn’t a good player. However he has allowed too many routine errors resulting in goals being allowed. Of course the most recent one was against Chelsea on April 30, 2011 where he allowed the ball to slip through his hands and — true he did prevent the ball from going over the line — but the officials didn’t see it that way. But it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. In addition, his further mistakes against Real Madrid certainly have not helped his situation. Carlo Cudicini in the last few games has demonstrated that he can do the job but he simply hasn’t played very much and so the veteran status of Friedel does have merit. With a two year contract and a good backup in Cudicini, Harry can begin the process of finding a young and talented goalkeeper to bring to Spurs for the future. In addition it appears that Gomes wants to move back to Holland to play so this could just what everyone wanted in the end.

Something needs to be done about the defensive issues with the squad.

In reality they have the talent but it is going to require some serious thinking and hard choices by the management of the club. Michael Dawson has been providing excellent leadership at the back and I can only see him developing into an even better player. William Gallas has provided mixed results in defense. Younes Kaboul, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Vedran Corluka have been providing good results on average. However, I think Alan Hutton deserves another look. For much of his playing this season he has provided some solid defense, passing and goal scoring.

With the return to fitness of Ledley King that should bring good news to Tottenham’s defense. Granted he has been sidelined with injuries but his performance in the last couple of matches has demonstrated his ability to play and with a year on his contract there should be serious thought given to a new one providing he stays fit.

Kyle Walker has really developed into a fine player while on loan with Aston Villa and Harry really should give serious thought about retaining him rather than loaning him out again or even selling him to another club. Walker is developing into a fantastic right back. Development of young defenders should be in the manager’s future plans.

Now, we come to Jonathan Woodgate and probably one of the best center halves in English football recent history. I think Michael Dawson is moving in that direction as well. Woodgate has been plagued with injuries with his spell at Spurs. His last regular match was on November 22, 2009 in the crushing defeat of Wigan 9-1. In that game Woodgate highlighted not only his leadership ability but his ability to provide a solid defense. Despite being left out of the starting 25 at the start of the 2010/2011 he did begin training and played a few reserve matches in January. According to Technical Coordinator Tim Sherwood, it was like he had never been injured. He played the last third of the first AC Milan match in the Champions League and again his performance was outstanding. However, he did pull a muscle and later injured his calf and hasn’t seen any playing since February 2011. Woodgate will be out of contract at the end of this month and the club and Harry have been deciding what to do. There is the idea of a play-for-pay contract because of the injury concerns and to be fair that is understandable. But to let him go with still a few more good years to play would be a serious mistake. Woodgate is a gifted veteran that could offer so much to the club and to the young players entering the squad. A fit Woodgate, Dawson and King can provide exactly what Spurs want and need, an unstoppable defense. If the club let Woodgate go, another club will almost certainly pick him up and Spurs would find that talent being used against them. Spurs need to offer Woodgate a pay-as-you-play contract and with that both parties can benefit from such a deal.

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  1. Jeff

    June 16, 2011 at 7:06 am

    Hutton was a fine player aside from injuries. Other than the main guys like Gallas and Benoit, you forgot to mention Danny Rose. He’s gonna be brilliant.

    • Gaz Hunt

      June 16, 2011 at 9:29 am

      It’s possible. He looked really good against Spain in the U21 tournament but was really, really poor against Ukraine.

    • Matthew

      June 16, 2011 at 2:04 pm

      Very true, Danny Rose is going to be a great player.

  2. Jake

    June 16, 2011 at 6:35 am

    With Walker and Naughton doing so well. It’s time for Hutton or Corluka to go. If Naughton is able to play on the left along with Rose then Ekotto can go too. Woodgate and King can go as well. Unless they plan on keeping King if Gallas goes after 2012. Either way the Spurs need to get rid of all these fringe players like Jenas, Keane, Woodgate, etc.

  3. dan

    June 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    wow you pretty much said nothing in this article.

    same crap said over and over again

    • Matthew Barnette

      June 15, 2011 at 6:35 pm

      Sometimes the answers are staring at you in the face.

  4. Gary

    June 15, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    There’s nothing wrong with the backline except Gomez. All Spurs need to do is find a decent goalkeeper and that in itself will be worth at least 9 points. Friedel is not a long-term solution and Cudicini is not the answer either. So the club needs to go out and get a world-class keeper.

    The real problem is at the front. Defoe, Crouch and Pavlyuchenko aren’t the answer to what Spurs need. I would sell both Crouch and Defoe and buy an experienced striker and a young striker with potential with a view to the future.

    • jameseps

      June 15, 2011 at 1:58 pm

      What they’ve done by signing Friedel and Cudicini is postpone the search for the long term goalie for a year. The two of them will split time and be more than adequate – both have been outstanding at points in their careers and will help to settle a defense which clearly became rattled by Gomez’s repeated howlers. As for Gomez, he is obviously gone.

  5. CHRIS

    June 15, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Ref: Harry’s dilemma with the defence.
    The dilemma should be who do we need to give a better and more importantly settled back four, week in week out.
    Gallas – had a great 1st season for us and thank god we signed him, but he won’t get any better and can he keep going with the level of performance next?
    Kaboul – Looked like a great central defender prospect early on until he got injured. Which used to happen in his first spell at the club.
    Played out of position toward the end of last and perhaps wants to leave?
    Dawson – Nice guy, good pro, slow, gets caught on occasion (bit like Terry without the great captain tag) but he is steady.
    Woodgate – 2010/11 didnt play, Ledley – almost didnt play.
    Can we afford 1, 2 or lets have 3 players who hardly ever play, but when they are fit just let them walk into the team. Well we can only afford Ledley, end of.
    Bassong goes to sleep, slow to react on occasion, let him go,
    Get in Chris Samba who is better than either of our regulars in my opinion to form a partnership with Gallas/Dawson.
    Let Hutton go and then its up to the manager .

  6. Brandon

    June 15, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Hutton is crap. That is all.

  7. Gaz Hunt

    June 15, 2011 at 10:36 am

    “William Gallas has provided mixed results in defense.”

    It’s all a matter of preference but I think he’s looked as good, if not better, than Dawson.

  8. jameseps

    June 15, 2011 at 10:00 am

    HAVE YOU WATCHED ONE SPURS GAME THIS SEASON??? Gallas is defensive MVP, Hutton is inconsistent at best, Ledley King will never be able to train again because of his knees. Really – you’re a Spurs “expert”????

    • Matthew Barnette

      June 15, 2011 at 6:32 pm

      I have watched all the games. Not saying Gallas doesn’t have quality but I wouldn’t say he is MVP of the back. Spurs leaked a lot of goals in the second half of the season and Gallas was there, you can’t blame the keeper for all that. The last couple matches Spurs played well without Gallas the back did well and King was a big part of that. Suggesting that if Hutton is pushed harder he could be a better player. But at the end of the day it is about one’s perspective and analysis.

  9. Amazed

    June 15, 2011 at 8:58 am

    You haven’t actually watched any games have you? Gallas has been excellent as has Ekotto, Hutton continually gives away penalties and commits fouls in the area, he is OK going forward but a liability at the back.

    Kyle Walker had a terrible second half of his loan spell at Aston Villa and needs to go out on loan to another Premier league club to gain experience and improve his major weakness, defending.

  10. Harry the god

    June 15, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Erm- Hutton = Sh*te. Corluka good defensively (apart from a few dodgy moments last season). Best bet is Kyle Walker to start at right back next season- especially if he continues his form in the U21s.

    BAE is a frustrating enigma- can look decent- but prone to errors caught out of position bad decision making- all in all sometimes his mistakes have lost spurs points in the past. We need someone stronger defensively so Bale doesn’t have to cover as much ground.

    • Juvenham

      June 15, 2011 at 11:07 am

      Prone to errors & out of position?..Are you having laugh or did you only watch the 2-2 West Brom match? In that case I guess you can also say Defoe was a great striker this season.

      BAE was quite solid this term, his passes are unrivaled, he did take care of his defensive duties (allowing Bale to focus on flanking up the wing), he’s healthy & fit allowing for consistent starts, and he and Gareth have a special bond in terms of reading the forthcoming play. Bale would not have been such a success this season if not for Benny.

      He deserves more credit than he’s given.

  11. Gareth van der Sandro

    June 15, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Ok, the problem with Spurs defending is Harry. He doesnt demand his players track back. He often chooses to play 2 ineffective strikers in the team when most top teams play 5 midfielders. Even when he does play an extra midfielder he is an attacking one.
    So PLEASE forget about new players unitl Harry makes defending more important it will always be this way.
    Think @ Milan with Willie P and Sandro in the middle we got a great result that day. Why didnt we do this in the league? Cause Harry likes to attack.
    On the other hand we are a great team to watch, we score goals and we give away goals. Getting results more regularly and challenging for the top 4 is about DEFENSE 1st. Not Harrys way.

    • MennoDaddy

      June 15, 2011 at 9:21 am

      So… you’re saying you’d like to see Spurs play a more negative style of football?

      • Gareth van der Sandro

        June 15, 2011 at 9:40 am

        Id like to see us away from home sacrifice 1 attacker for a defensive midfielder. You dont need modric, lennon, vdv, bale, defoe and coruch
        (or pav) on the pitch together. Leave 2 out and play 1 extra defensive central mid. If needed you can change it with 25 minutes left to go for the win. Unfortunately MennoDaddy you have to protect your back 4 to get results and Harry doesnt do that often enough.
        We can still be a very attacking side using bale and lennon wide.
        Part of the problem can be solved with a more effective striker who can play up front alone. Sandro is an absolute must in our team.

        • MennoDaddy

          June 15, 2011 at 9:48 am

          No, that’s true, and I can see your point. That was also Blackpool’s downfall in the league this past season. Part of the problem, as you mentioned, is that we didn’t really have an effective striker that can play alone in league play. (For whatever reason a 4-4-1-1 worked better on the continent with Crouchy alone up top)

          Just so I’m clear, you’d rather see, what? A 4-1-4-1 with Sandro or Hudd as a defensive midfielder? 4-5-1 with 2 defensive mids and Modric/VdV pushing up to support the striker? We’d still need that solid lone striker up top or I can see a lot of 0-0 or 1-0 results in our future. And that sounds more like Brum than Spurs…

          • Gareth van der Sandro

            June 15, 2011 at 9:57 am

            Listen I think most weeks were fine with a 442, providing we have our best team available. and the whole 442, 4141 451, 4321 is load of cobblers. Id make sure my best players on the pitch whatever the formation, so long as the know their responsibilities. Im also one of those who thinks Hud isnt good enough to play most weeks. If we are going to dominate the game and have a lions share of the ball, Hud is fine otherwise he is not good enough. The formation has nothing to do with production. 1 striker doesnt mean less goals. Especially in our side where strikers dont score.

          • Gareth van der Sandro

            June 15, 2011 at 8:08 pm

            You cannot make a comparison with The Mighty Tottenham Hotspur and w brom or bpool, whatever system they play.
            They simply dont have the quality we do.
            They play the way they do because they dont have enought top quality players. WE DO.

          • Daniel

            June 16, 2011 at 5:10 pm

            I think a 4-2-3-1 away from home would work — but with the right players at home and away. See how Bale/Lennon would do in a 4-3-3 for home games (I honestly don’t think it’d work, but I’d like to see us try it sometime).
            A 4-5-1 doesn’t have to be defensive — even with 2 holding mids. Knowing that there’s solid cover behind would free up the attacking players, as it is, when Bale charges forward he always has to be ready to sprint right back. 2 holding mids still leaves VdV/Modric, Bale, Lennon, ***new star forward*** and with their pace 3 of those 4 can be immediately in the attack. The 2 holding mids (Huddlestone is especially good for this) can also be used to distribute and as a pass-back option. This would help with ball retention rather than one try and then playing defense until they get the ball again.
            We tried — at times — to do this last season, but we don’t have a capable forward. Crouch knocks the ball down for someone else but isn’t a threat himself; Defoe is too small and not physically able to play alone (except on breakaways); and Pav could be good but either wasn’t given the chance or didn’t perform (consistently) when he was.

  12. jack

    June 15, 2011 at 8:01 am

    what are you talking about. You have offered no insight or conclusion. You have in fact said we need to retain everyone. How can he keep corluka but give chances to walker and hutton… hutton btw was awful this season defensively and 9 out of 10 times gets caught either too far up field or too narrow allowing the winger to overlap and cut inside…. watch a game once and a while.

    • Dave C

      June 15, 2011 at 12:27 pm

      Gotta agree with the above, unfortunately. You haven’t really said anything beyond “let’s continue with the same personnel as this season”, which isn’t really solving any dilemma (apart from saving money if you can get Woodgate on a pay-per-play deal). And I’m no Spurs fan, and don’t watch them regularly enough to have an opinion on Hutton, but judging from the comments here, you seem to be a lone voice on that one.

      Realistically, I think Spurs have to unsentimentally Woodgate the door (and maybe Ledley King too). The fact is, they’re perrenially injured.

      Sure, you could try and get them on a pay-per-play deal (although this is assuming that their current regular contracts are expiring this summer…is that the case?) in order to retain their services for the handful of games in which they’re actually fit. However, I feel that this is a disincentive to signing a top-quality center back to play in all those games in which JW/LK are not fit. Who is going to sign for Tottenham, knowing that whenever JW/LK are fit, they’re going to get picked ahead of them? If Redknapp doesn’t think Gallas is up to the job (personally I think he is), then Redknapp should go out and buy a top class CB (easier said than done), rather than hoping Woodgate or King are ever going to play more than half a season.

    • Matthew Barnette

      June 15, 2011 at 6:57 pm

      I do watch the games and offered my analysis it is all about perspective. “Is watch a game once in a while” the best you can offer. Some players have got talent but need to be pushed sometimes you have to take a chance with players.

  13. MennoDaddy

    June 15, 2011 at 7:49 am

    ” For much of his playing this season [Alan Hutton] has provided some solid defense, passing and goal scoring.”


    I don’t think there’s a single player I’d rather see go than Alan Hutton.

    As for the rest, true, but it’s not as dire as what you make it. Bassong is on his way out. I’d like to see us keep hold of Kaboul, but he wants regular playing time. Khumalo isn’t ready for prime time yet. Spurs need at least one more central defender for depth, and I’d feel better with two. The fullbacks, though, are fine. Assou-Ekotto will continue to start but now has an understudy in Danny Rose. Corluka is fine on the right, but Steven Walker may push him for the starting role.

    • Jolmember

      June 15, 2011 at 8:11 am

      Who is Steven Walker ? Kyle Walker looks promising. I think the time is right to move Hutton on. Woodgate pay – as – you play, only sell Bassong when we have someone better. The situation isn’t too dire – Steven Caulker could develop into a quality player and we still have Kaboul and Rose to back up the first choice fullbacks. Charlie – Dawson – King / Gallas – BAE. In reserve Walker – Kaboul – Bassong – Rose.

    • MennoDaddy

      June 15, 2011 at 8:13 am

      And by “Steven Walker” I mean “Kyle Walker,” naturally.

      Steven Caulker, Kyle Walker. Bah.

    • Daniel

      June 16, 2011 at 4:46 pm

      I would rather see Hutton at back than Corluka. Corluka might be slightly better defensively — and even that I think that with consistent playing time Hutton clean up there as well — but Hutton is MUCH better on the attack. He scored a few goals — great — but more than that he constantly looks for an overlap run and sends good crosses in. He’s more in line with BAE/Rose than Corluka. I’d like to see BAE/Rose and Hutton/Walker for fullbacks.
      This REQUIRES strong consistent fullbacks — which we have some of the time. I agree that King and Woodgate are great when they’re fit, and that a pay as you play contract would be fair — but we can’t can’t on them. Bassong is NOT good enough, Khumalo not tested. For this I totally agree with the article: Dawson/Gallas (for at least next season) with Kaboul and a new, young CB that can be developed over time.

      Also, while I’m not excited about Friedel (at his age) Gomes is FAR too inconsistent and Friedel will be a nice stop-gap while we find a new, younger keeper. This summer seems like everyone is looking for a new, long-term keeper; wait until next summer when prices aren’t being driven up so high.

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