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Are Tottenham Hotspur Too Fragile to Remain in Third Place?

I see a lot of promise in Tottenham Hotspur. I see a club inching its way to the top of the Premier League on the backs of four or five exciting young players, a club that is doing everything to prepare for the long term, short of recruiting an Abramovich-esque billionaire with a big yacht and the intestinal fortitude required for a working relationship with Daniel Levy.

I see a club that is sticking with a young, innovative manager because Harry Redknapp ran out of steam, and that is building a Modric-less team whose pacey, aggressive midfielders would probably plow right through Modric if they ever played against Real Madrid (and if Mourinho were able to pry Modric off the Real Madrid bench, which, let me tell you, when you sit in one place for a really long time, adhesion just happens). Tottenham is racing toward next season’s Champions League without bothering to look over its shoulder.

Even Emmanuel Adebayor looks happy – at least, by the low standards Adebayor set during his time at Manchester City, much of which he spent either sulking or trying to force a transfer. A new 56,000-capacity Tottenham Hotspur stadium is planned. According to people involved in the project, the new stadium will provide a “catalyst for the long-term physical regeneration of Tottenham.” I have my doubts, but new stadiums are always a lot of fun. Andre Villas-Boas has stopped squatting on the sidelines, and his annoyingly boisterous goal celebrations look positively restrained next to Steffen Freund’s ridiculous antics.

Tottenham has squad depth in virtually every area. Lewis Holtby, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aaron Lennon, Clint Dempsey, and, of course, Gareth Bale can play in a variety of attacking positions. In defense, Jan Vertonghen, Michael Dawson, Kyle Walker, Benoit Assou Ekotto, Kyle Naughton and Steven Caulker have rotated in and out of the starting XI without a hitch. Villas-Boas is expected to sign a striker this summer (Negredo? Damiao?), but Tottenham – despite Defoe’s injuries and Adebayor’s dips in form (relatively mild symptoms of his all-encompassing meta-sulk) – is already scoring plenty of goals, thanks mostly to Bale and Dempsey.

But I can’t shake the feeling that Spurs’ place in the top four (this season and in seasons to come) isn’t nearly as secure as most pundits would have you believe. The team’s central midfield is cohesive and efficient, but in an almost delicate way. Remove one important cog, you fear, and the whole unit collapses. Villas-Boas responded to Sandro’s long-term injury by partnering Moussa Dembele and Scott Parker. That’s the sort of flexible maneuver that AVB probably wouldn’t have attempted 18 months ago. (At Chelsea, Villas Boas played 4-3-3 — there was no room for compromise.) But now that Dembele and Parker have spent so many productive minutes in each other’s company, it’s hard to imagine any other combination working. Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore are overrated puff passers at best, serious liabilities at worst.

There’s an even better reason to doubt Spurs’ progress, however. The Premier League is in flux. It’s still unclear whether Arsenal and Chelsea will qualify for the 2013-14 Champions League. Last weekend, Liverpool beat Tottenham 3-2. Everton’s in the mix – or maybe not. Where Spurs will fall when the dust clears and Whichever Manchester Team Got Lucky wins next year’s Premier League title is anyone’s guess. Right now, everything is kind of confusing. All I see at the top of the league table is a lot of gray.

Read more by David Yaffe-Bellany at In For The Hat Trick and follow him on Twitter @INFTH.

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  1. Luca

    March 21, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    hmm it seems like all the comments are from over-confident Spurs fans that take offense to every critique of their team. David has some great points that you can’t argue without sounding like a Spurs fangirl. It’s great to have confidence in your team, but that confidence shouldn’t make you blind to the obvious flaws of the team.

    And David, even though you may have some biased comments in the article, it’s still well written and interesting. Nice job bro.

  2. Joe Brindley

    March 14, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Without Bale the Spurs are an average team. Dembele’s behavior in pretending to be injured was really shameful. Boras better keep Bale or it won’t be pretty next season for him.

  3. Naaman Albusaidy

    March 14, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Spurs are yet to reach fourth…th season’s not over. It’s a tough run-in to the end & they hwve the tougher fixtures than arsenal. With the way Arsenal are playing, you could easily put your money on them pipping Spurs to fourth place. Chelsea don’t look like slipping up with the experienced squad they have. Nonetheless Spurs fans have something to be pleased and give it a proper go to the end of the season.

    • Peter

      March 14, 2013 at 5:32 pm

      The way Arsenal are playing? Like how they lost to Spurs?

  4. dust

    March 14, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    To fragile? Mind the Gap the cry of Spurs fans last year, I too was confident last year, then there was ‘arrygate, there was a similar “Ides of March” article last year which stated the same things you are.

    The regeneration of the Tottenham area will not come from just a stadium, but the new complex isn’t just a stadium, the club is a center piece of a strategy to encourage commerce. Stay at the Spurs Hotel for he game, shops, restaurants and new flats for purchase to attract more money to the area. the Northumberland project is going to be great for the area, I grew up there and the investment in that project will do wonders for that area… it needs it.

    Us finishing 4th 3 out of four season wasn’t luck. The liverpool defeat was a blip, a cacophony or errors, LFC took he 3 points they took their chances, but they were gifts.

    You were doing ok until the final 2 paragraphs, especially with the “seasons to come” statement. You are uncomfortable with the idea of Spurs being consistently in the top four, you are used to a predictable top 4 each year, lots of Spurs fans are too, I cant tell the future if I could I’d share it in quatrain and be nostrodustus.

    I feel far more confident about our ability to stay 3rd than I have before, we a have a tactically astute manager and key games against other current top 4 clubs so we control our own destiny.

    Football is cyclical, Spurs being top 4 scares people, especially those that perhaps chose a club that may be on the downward spiral.

    I am extremely confident we will finish 3rd a win v CFC at scumford bridge will seal it. IMO.but who knows, are Farcenal or or Chelski fans confident they will finish top four?

    • ThompsonLives

      March 14, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      Pathetic Fanboy is Pathetic.

  5. James

    March 14, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    If Spurs want to build on there success this season and start to emerge as a top club in the PL and progress into Europe. They will need to expand there wage structure at the club. They need to attract players like Moutinho (who refused the salary that Levy offered him in the summer)and add better players to there squad. If Spurs can not upgrade there squad, they will always be behind Chelsea in terms of progression, and will have to hope that Chelsea drop points each season.

  6. Sacto Blues

    March 14, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    I’ve heard this before that Spurs have arrived. When Jol came in with Berbatov, Keane, and the immortal Steed Malbranque was going to send Spurs to the top for years but Spurs are what they are.

    • dust

      March 14, 2013 at 1:45 pm

      We finished above you last year, we are above you right now.. so yes we are what we are… above you 🙂

      • Sacto Blues

        March 14, 2013 at 2:19 pm

        Now Dust you would agree that Spurs have had managers come in as the guy that will keep Spurs in the the top 4 Graham, Jol, J. Ramos, Redknapp, and now AVB so when and if it happens I’ll say so but right now you’re London’s 3rd team.

        • dust

          March 14, 2013 at 2:42 pm

          LOL… keep saying it and hoping, we will see what manager you are able to get moving forward, I hear allerdyce might be available for you.

  7. Marc L

    March 14, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Laughed at the Ade slagging. Too true.

    Spurs need to keep doing things right to stay level with their current peer group of City, Chavski, and Arsenal.

    Unlike Spurs, the first two have the ability to outspend their mistakes. (Arse has ability but apparently not desire in this area.) The FFP regimen they have agreed on should prove to be a largely paper tiger to everyone at revenue levels above roughly what the Spurs are bringing in. So it is not as if Roman or the Sheikh will suddenly not be able to fling cash about when needed.

    Nevertheless, it can be done. You see it all over the sports world. A well run club with just enough financial backing can often get past the blankcheck outfits. Spurs definitely are well-run. Good club, and always good to watch. They play an attractive brand of the game.

  8. Mufc77

    March 14, 2013 at 11:49 am

    To be honest I’m expecting them to push city all the way for second place. I think thus spurs team has the potential to officially become a member of the big 4 with Arsenal dropping out.

    If they can maintain recent form until the end of the season and get another top 4 finish next season I could see them overtaking Chelsea and as Utds main threat.

    • James

      March 14, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      You need to realize that Spurs, as a club will not be able to attract to sort of players that Chelsea can attract. Your wage structure and financial capabilities are not strong enough. Spurs will have to hope that Chelsea drop points each season if they wish to finish above them. Spurs as a club can not develop further without splashing the cash

      • Mufc77

        March 14, 2013 at 1:42 pm

        If they keep changing managers every 6 months that shouldn’t be a problem.

      • dust

        March 14, 2013 at 2:39 pm

        What an absolute garbage statement. as revenue increases so will the ability to increase yes they will, but they will be smart and NOT pay 50m for a busted flush. Spurs were about to pay 25 for Mountinho and have offered 40m to bale in a new contract.

        Plus Spurs strategy is to develop and incorporate academy players over 2-3 years like Caulker, Carroll, Coulthirst, Kane, Adam Smith, Townsend, Pritchard, or buying smart like Holtby, Siguardson, Fryers.

        Watch out for SOULEYMANE COULIBALY as well as lago Falque.

        Im very confident on our future, AVB believes in using youth.

        • bucky

          March 14, 2013 at 4:41 pm

          If you cannot raise your wage structure, then players WILL leave. Agents will move their players to other clubs. Your best players will be picked off. This WILL happen. Unless you can pay your top 3 or 4 players 150k they will leave.

  9. bucky

    March 14, 2013 at 11:32 am

    They are much, much better under AVB than ‘Arry. Their fitness is much better this year. I expect them to stay in 3rd, but they could drop to 4th based on their opponents in the last ten matches. I still think Chelsea will finish 5th.

  10. Larry

    March 14, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Of the 3 teams, Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal, Spurs have the tougher schedule for the remainder of the season while Arsenal have the easiest. Also Arsenal are no longer in Europe while Spurs shuld advance tonight and will have to prepare for more Europa League games on Thursdays.

    If Chelsea advance in the Europa League tonight then they will have a schedule overload with the FA Cup tie with United still to be played and maybe more FA Cup beyond that.

    If Spurs stay healthy then i think they will finish in the top 4. Chelsea might miss out on the top 4 especially if they are in both the FA Cup and Europa League competitions and Rafa would rather win trophies than finish top 4, especially since he will be gone from chelsea this summer. So with Arsenal’s easier schedule and Chelsea’s scheduling overload and emphasis on Europa League and FA Cup, Arsenal might finish in the top 4 again.

  11. ThompsonLives

    March 14, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Dust is going to have your ass for this article.

  12. Sammy

    March 14, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Nope, I think they should be able to sustain for the remainder of the season. They’ll need to work hard to remain above Chelsea, which may be a bit challenging but not that much considering the way they’ve been playing recently. sadly, I don’t see Arsenal with much chance of finishing above them this year.

  13. Pat

    March 14, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Spurs will stay in top 4 and possible 3rd place as the team seem far more composed. The behavior at Liverpool would have been considered normal spurs last season but not under AVB.

  14. Peter

    March 14, 2013 at 10:33 am

    “Remove one important cog, you fear, and the whole unit collapses.”

    Couldn’t you say that about any team in the PL? Other then MAYBE the Manchester teams? Where is Liverpool without Suarez? Remove Hazard or Mata from Chelsea and they are a mid-table club.

    Spurs have had to deal with many more injuries this year then ANY of the other top flight clubs and are just just 5 points out of second place. Kaboul, our best defender last year hasn’t played yet, Sandro, our best defensive mid early this season is done, Scott Parker didn’t play until a few months ago, Dembele has missed significant time with his hip injury, BAE missed a lot of time early this year, Lennon didn’t play last week (thankfully he looks OK but still) You can’t name another top flight team that has had to deal with as many injuries as Spurs.

    Oh and sorry your manager never looks like he’s having any fun on the touchline. I’ll take AVB and Steffen’s rocking out after ever goal, because that’s what I’m doing as well!


    • Mark G.

      March 14, 2013 at 10:58 am

      Exactly right.

      If anything, the fact that Spurs are where they are after injuries this season to every single one of their key players except Lloris (Bale, Dembele, Sandro, Lennon, Assou-Ekkoto, Kaboul, Parker, and Dempsey have all been out for periods this season) shows resilience and flexbility, not fragility.

    • David

      March 14, 2013 at 11:22 am

      “Remove one important cog, you fear, and the whole unit collapses.”

      Except the times that virtually every cog has been removed and the team has still won. Remember last year when Spurs couldn’t even be competitive without King in the side? There isn’t a single player-outside of Bale-that we haven’t looked good without. And the Bale exception is due mostly to him playing so much, we just haven’t seen the side much without him.

      The team isn’t particularly deep, but they are amazingly flexible.

    • John

      March 14, 2013 at 11:52 am

      Every team think they’re team has had the most injuries.

    • COYS_USA_D1

      March 14, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      Couldnt have responded any better than this. Injuries to key players this year yet SPURS GO MARCHING ON! Next year if were healthy (knock on wood) we can contend to win the leauge.

      Every team has done worse with the injuries they have. City played terrible when Toure left for AFC. United play terrible with out Vidic. Injuries happen great teams overcome it and I think Spurs have done a great job.

      This post has many things wrong with it. Its like Gus Johnson wrote it or he got information from msn.

    • DavidYB

      March 16, 2013 at 6:59 am

      I’m referring only to the center of midfield when I says “remove one important cog…” Livermore and Huddleston are not very good. And Spurs have struggled without Dembele in the side.

      Spurs have reacted well to their injury problems — I even concede that they have squad depth in “virtually every area.”

  15. Fernando

    March 14, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Spurs just came off a pretty good unbeaten run and now you’re not sure they can stay in the top 4?


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