As a Chelsea fan the last decade or so has been a fairly enjoyable one when it has come to our London rivals Tottenham. The odd hiccup aside (2008 at Wembley is still a sore point) Tottenham have recently provided great entertainment in their attempts to reign in their arch rivals Arsenal.
Although both finished above us in the 2011/12 season our Champions League run and AVB and Chelsea’s obvious incompatibility provide two useful excuses. Last season was probably the tightest it has ever been between not just those two but all three London clubs, just three points separated them. Chelsea have responded with the re-appointment of the mercurial Jose Mourinho who would find it near impossible to become unpopular at Stamford Bridge and Arsenal seem (although full intent remains to be seen) keen to spend this mysterious “war-chest” that the club keeps referring to.
What then for Tottenham? Well if you believe what you read in the papers (and I know plenty of Spurs fans who don’t) then this could end up being quite a productive summer for them. First, foremost, vitally, importantly and every other word meaning the following is key; Gareth Bale is not going to be leaving Spurs. That is according to Daniel Levy who has apparently told Bale that he will not be sold this summer but he may be allowed to leave next summer in a similar ploy to how Tottenham handled Luka Modric. My guess would be that Levy will be hoping Tottenham get back in the Champions League and that might persuade Bale to stay. The key difference here is that most places are suggesting that Bale and Levy have a far better relationship than the one between the former and Modric. Therefore Bale would be reluctant to force through a move and may cite footballing reasons as leverage for a deal to happen. Tottenham will probably never acquire the global footballing stature of Real Madrid but if they are playing in Europe’s premier competition that might be enough to keep him for a little while longer.
So Bale is staying but who else is? Well not the wage eaters that are David Bentley and William Gallas. Having now played for all three London sides I really wouldn’t put it past Gallas to rock up at West Ham United. It’s not like Big Sam and co wouldn’t be happy to pay his wages given they are supposedly forking out 100k per week for Andy “I’m determined to cost more than Nicolas Anelka” Carroll. As for Bentley well in my opinion he’s actually just been a bit unlucky. He is by no means the worst player Spurs have ever signed (I might reserve that accolade for Bongani Khumalo) but he just didn’t deliver often enough. He will always have that goal against Arsenal to look back on and I doubt many Spurs fans will ever forget that moment but a large part of the blame has to lie at the door of the club. £17 million was a pretty steep price for Spurs and indeed most sides back in 2008 but it became obvious pretty quickly that he was nothing more than a backup to Aaron Lennon. Surely when Harry Redknapp took over from Juande Ramos he would have worked out that Bentley didn’t fit in with his plans and might have allowed the winger to leave? Nevertheless they are both gone now and so too is “future England star” John Bostock, perhaps the perfect example of hyped English youngsters moving to a big Premier League side too early. On the flip side for Spurs young Tom Carroll does look like he could develop into a decent player.
In terms of arrivals there could be no end of players jetting into North London with the likes of Paulinho, Bernard, Leandro Damiao, David Villa, Younes Belhanda and Fredy Guarin all being linked to Tottenham. The likelihood of all of the above arriving is virtually nil but the first two are looking increasingly possible. Indeed Paulinho is rumoured to have been offered a contract by Tottenham but he is refusing to talk about his future until after the Confederations Cup. I would suspect that one of David Villa or Damiao would arrive but don’t rule out the arrival of more than one new striker given the failure of Emmanuel Adebayor this season.
Who should Tottenham sell? Well in my opinion the club can afford to lose both Scott Parker and Tom Huddlestone. Unfortunately for Parker despite his excellent work rate and I suspect vital dressing room influence his ability just doesn’t cut it anymore. Huddlestone, even with his astounding hair, also isn’t quite up to scratch for a team that have ambitions of welcoming the world’s best to White Hart Lane. Whilst I have been impressed by the few appearances I’ve seen Tom Carroll make I must admit that whenever I’ve watched Jake Livermore for Spurs I can’t help but feel he is out of his depth as well. Amazingly both the aforementioned Khumalo and Heurelho Gomes are still under contract at Spurs and surely their time at the club is over? The one for me though who has to be offloaded under any circumstances is Adebayor. Yes he was amazing against Chelsea but he takes inconsistency to a whole new level. In fact I don’t think that one good game amidst a whole host of terrible games can even qualify for inconsistency. He was meant to be on £150,000 per week or something ridiculous like that at Manchester City and I don’t know how much Spurs are paying him but whatever it is it is too much. There have been inexplicable misses, games where he doesn’t show up and of course that incredible (-ly funny) penalty against Basel. Spurs need to cash in now and just get rid of him.
I would like to see Tottenham keep Jermaine Defoe though, I think whilst he isn’t good enough to start week in and week out he is a fantastic option off the bench. Younes Kaboul and Sandro will be returning from injury and they will be two massive boosts for AVB. I thought Moussa Dembélé was one of the strongest midfielders in the Premier League last season and compatriot Jan Vertonghen was equally impressive. I’d like to see Tottenham use a 4-3-3 formation next season as opposed to their more accustomary 4-2-3-1 under AVB. The time that really springs to my mind when they used this formation well was when they played against Manchester City in April of this year. After going one down a trio of substitutes in the second half completely changed the game and Tottenham came back to win 3-1 in what was a remarkable finish. I believe Spurs could utilise this formation to great effect with Sandro, Dembélé and Paulinho playing in the middle three. These players complement each other beautifully in theory. Sandro is a dogged and industrious defensive minded midfielder, Paulinho a hard working box-to-box midfielder and Dembélé the playmaker. In the front three I would have one of Damiao or Villa and then Bale on one flank with Bernard or Lennon on the other. The back four probably picks itself depending how well Kaboul returns to full fitness although if I were a Spurs fan I would probably be hoping to sign a better left-back than Benoit Assou-Ekotto. Nevertheless if Spurs (and importantly new man Franco Baldini) can do well in the transfer market then it could end up being an even tighter (is that possible?) race for Champions League qualification next season.
Below is how I think Spurs should line up. (Yes I know Bale is on the left but he and Bernard would interchange freely). Thanks to FootyFormation for the picture.