Bright future for Tottenham
JULY 14 ― For Tottenham Hotspur, last season was a strange one.
After an excellent start to the campaign, the Londoners were poised to mount an unlikely English Premier League title challenge alongside the Manchester clubs.
But then Fabio Capello resigned as England manager, Harry Redknapp was widely expected to be his named as his successor, and Tottenham’s season fell apart. How much those facts were related is open to conjecture: Redknapp would argue that his team’s dip in form had nothing to do with the speculation; others would claim that the squad became distracted.
However you interpret the end-of-season calamities, Redknapp was promptly dismissed, meaning that he had gone from potential England manager to unemployment in record time.
So now we have a fascinating summer of changes at White Hart Lane. How will their fortunes fall next season? Will they continue their Redknapp-inspired ascent of the last two or three years, or will they sink back into the mid-table obscurity that had been their trademark in previous campaigns?
Andre Villas-Boas has been appointed to replace Redknapp, and the ambitious young Portuguese manager will certainly feel that he has unfinished business in England after his brief reign at Chelsea last season.
Most observers, myself included, feel that AVB was harshly treated at Stamford Bridge. He inherited an ageing squad that needed overhauling but that found itself under the political control of the very players that needed to be replaced.
Not an easy situation for any new manager to walk into. AVB was supposedly appointed to oversee a long-term project to reconfigure the Chelsea squad and style of play, but was then ruthlessly discarded less than eight months into the job.
Of course, the fact that Roberto Di Matteo subsequently led the same group of players to FA Cup and Champions League glory doesn’t look great for AVB, but I believe that Chelsea’s exploits on the European stage were a glorious, one-off fluke that only serve to mask their longer-term problems. I see troubled waters lying ahead for Di Matteo.
Back to Tottenham. AVB has a talented base of players to work with, and the likelihood of Gareth Bale remaining at White Hart Lane is a real boost to the new manager ― earlier this year, the Welsh wizard had been widely tipped to join Barcelona, but they have subsequently signed Jordi Alba instead and Bale has now signed a new four-year contract at Spurs.
Luka Modric, however, appears to be heading for the exit door with Real Madrid reportedly close to sealing a deal in the region of £35 million (about RM174 million). Although Modric is an excellent performer, I don’t feel this is particularly bad news for Tottenham at that fee, especially if they can snap up outstanding Porto midfielder Joao Moutinho to replace him.
Tottenham have already strengthened their midfield this summer with the excellent signing of Gylfi Sigurdsson, snatching the goal-getting Icelander away from the clutches of both Swansea and Liverpool.
Sigurdsson shone last season after joining Swansea midway through the campaign on loan from German club Hoffenheim, scoring seven goals in just 18 appearances. Swansea then lined up a deal to sign the midfielder on a permanent basis, but that fell apart when Swans boss and Sigurdsson mentor Brendan Rodgers was lured to Liverpool.
Initially, Sigurdsson was expected to follow Rodgers to Anfield but Spurs swiftly stepped in with an improved financial offer, and the Icelander is now a Tottenham player. It could be one of the signings of the season ― he’s a good passer with a ferocious long-range shot and deadly ability from set-pieces.
Spurs have also bolstered their injury-prone defence with the signing of Belgian international central defender Jan Vertonghen from Ajax, and are now being heavily linked with French international goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to replace the excellent but ageing Brad Friedel. On paper, they both look good signings.
Another item on Villas-Boas’ to-do list is the signing of Emmanuel Adebayor, who spent last season on loan from Manchester City and will now be allowed to exit the Etihad Stadium permanently. Wages are the stumbling block, but if Tottenham can come close to matching Adebayor’s demands they will give themselves a focal point for their attacking play.
So, although a ball has not yet been kicked, the early signs are promising. A midfield trio of Scott Parker (or Sandro), Moutinho and Sigurdsson (or Rafael van der Vaart), with Bale and Aaron Lennon providing the width and Adebayor (or Jermain Defoe) up front looks a potent combination. Maybe Tottenham, more than London neighbours Arsenal or Chelsea, will be the team to threaten the Manchester duopoly?
The biggest question is whether Villas Boas will be capable of creating an effective team from his talented individuals. But if AVB is given the one thing he didn’t have at Chelsea ― time ― the future could be bright at White Hart Lane.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.