Season Preview 13/14: TOTTENHAM

by Charles Harris

roberto-soldado-tottenham-hotspurWith the new season less than a week away uncertainty still clouds White Hart Lane over the future of talisman Gareth Bale. The potential loss is obvious. Bale was not just the standout performer in North London last season, but the stand out performer nationwide. Voted  PFA Player of the Year by his peers, and plundering 21 goals as he single handedly kept Spurs in the battle for a Champions League spot.

Even with the addition of Roberto Soldado it’s difficult to see the Lilywhites breaking into the top four again if the flying Welshman did depart. There is the small matter of the sizeable transfer fee they would receive but time’s running out to reinvest it and make further additions, assuming they would receive a significant proportion upfront.

Last season was viewed as a transitional one as Andre Villas Boas took over the reins from Harry Redknapp, but Daniel Levy and the Spurs hierarchy will be expecting the former protégé of the late Sir Bobby Robson to push Tottenham on this season. Especially given that the gruff voiced mini-Mourinho has been given significant backing in the transfer market over the summer.

30cmzjk5a1jjlLast season: 5th
Odds: 33/1
In: Paulinho (Corinthians, £17M), Roberto Soldado (Valencia, £26M) Nacer Chadli (FC Twente, Undisclosed-believed to be around £7M) Etienne Capoue (Toulouse, £8M)
Out:  David Bentley (Released), John Bostock (Released), William Gallas (Released) Stephen Caulker (Cardiff, £9M) Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders, Undisclosed)

What’s new?

Well Villas Boas has a striker besides Jermaine Defoe who will actually show a genuine interest in his sides’ fortunes week in week out after the signing of Roberto Soldado from Valencia. The Spaniard effectively replaces Emmanuel Adebayor who unfortunately for Spurs fans delivered about as often as an intermittent postman. Perhaps a slightly surprising mover through the exit door was Clint Dempsey who returns to his homeland to play for Seattle Sounders in the MLS. The American enjoyed six successful years in the Premier League, and looked to have settled well at White Hart Lane following his move from Fulham. Continuing the Belgian World takeover in footballing terms is Nacir Chadli, who joins compatriots Jan Vertonghen and Moussa Dembele at the Lane.

Etiene Capoue has also bolstered the ranks, arriving from Toulouse for a reported £8M which on first glance seems a decent piece of business once again from Daniel Levy. He’s a versatile midfielder who can also be slotted in to defence, which could prove handy as Spurs look a little light at the back after departures and the untimely injury of Belgian lynchpin Vertonghen.

Levy who reportedly has concerns over Real Madrids’ ability to fund their tabled offer for Gareth has had none such issues with expenditure as nearly £60M worth of new talent has been brought in.

Tactics/Starting XI

It looks to be between Spurs stalwart Jermaine Defoe and new boy Roberto Soldado for the coveted striker spot, assuming AVB sticks with the 4-2-3-1 formation from last season. With Dempsey gone, Bale may be pushed inside more centrally as the American often occupied a role behind the front man last season. With Chadli and Aaron Lennon on the flanks that perhaps looks the most likely option. A surprise departure was Stephen Caulker who left for Cardiff. The young Englishman looked likely to stake a decent claim for a first team spot given the release of William Gallas, and his impressive 26 starts last season, only three less than Club captain Michael Dawson. With Vertonghen injured for at least the first month of the new campaign it Caulker would surely have been called upon, but perhaps the lure of guaranteed consistent starts proved too strong.  Once the Belgian is fit it now looks as if it will be a fairly settled back four of Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, and Kyle Naughton/ Benoit Assou-Ekotto, with Naughton switching to centre back in the mean time.

AVB did use Adebayor and Defoe together at times last season and it would certainly be interesting to see the latter paired with the new La Liga import Soldado.

Interesting stat: Gareth Bale averaged a goal or an assist every 100 minutes last season, in all competitions.

The tactics are, as indeed are Spurs’ fortunes, subject to change if Bale does depart for sunny Spain (or Old Trafford-longshot). AVB would perhaps then revert to something akin to the 4-3-3 he employed at Chelsea, and Porto previously, with Lewis Holtby, Dembele, new Brazilian import Paulinho, and fellow Brazilian Sandro fighting it out for a midfield spot. This system could push Scott Parker further down the pecking order with the one-time England international more likely to start in the 4-2-3-1 system.

Key Player

The Welsh lad, I forget his name.

No in all seriousness of course it’s Gareth Bale again isn’t it. Without him Spurs would have lagged far behind in the top four battle and he dragged his side to three points time after time when it looked as if they would slip up. Though not far behind Bale himself is Jan Vertonghen. The Belgian enjoyed a hugely impressive first season in the 2012/13 campaign and has become a real mainstay of the Spurs’ rearguard. A handy contribution of six goals from the back was an added bonus too, and the former Ajax man will be a vital component once again of the side for the new season once he recovers from his current knee injury.

Bale was phenomenal last year, unstoppable at times, but if he does go big Jan will be doubly important in terms of leading by example and building on his excellent first season in London.

One to watch

Nacer Chadli. The 23 year-old who has 14 Belgian caps to his name arrives from FC Twente where he notched 31 goals in 106 games for the club. Tottenham fans may remember him as he scored twice against them back in their 2010/11 Champions League campaign. With Belgium producing impressive player after impressive player right now he’s certainly another to keep an eye on, and at an inch over six foot you won’t miss him out on the wings.

Opening Fixtures

A brilliantly diversified opening with maximum emotional stimulus required in two particular intensified situations. That was my best AVB impression by the way. Some fairly gentle lobbers punctuated by two toe crushing Yorkers in Spurs’ opening half dozen, and a bit of a googly in Swansea for the first home game on the second week-end. That’s followed by the standout visit to the Emirates on August 31st, whilst subsequent clashes with Norwich (h) and Cardiff (a) are the warm up acts for another encounter with his old employers at Stamford Bridge. It’s Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park first up though and you’d expect last seasons’ fifth placed side to secure maximum points.

Where will they finish

Even with Gareth Bale’s assistance I think Spurs will struggle to improve on their position from last season. Bale could hardly have been more influential and it still wasn’t enough. 21 League goals, but more importantly it was the match winner on no less than 9 occasions. Arsenal look like doing their usual trick of not really strengthening and still securing a coveted top four place. They, and Wenger, have the valuable nous and know-how which seems to see them through to the Champions League time and again, whilst there’s no way in my mind that AVB’s side will live with my predicted top three of Manchester City, Chelsea, and Manchester United. If Soldado settles well and scores at a rate of anything like his 30 in 46 games last season for Valencia he could potentially usurp the red half of North London though.

BPF Prediction: 4th

10 Responses

  1. Romeo Longsword says:

    Sounds like a lot of crap to me.

    First, AVB would employ 4-3-3 as his favorite formation, secondly, predicting Tottenham would come 5th because Bale was not enough and will not be enough, but ignore Spurs has such busy and positive transfer windows, sounds like anyone could write season preview nowadays.

  2. Greg says:

    I think that back four might change as well. Kaboul and Vert as CB.

  3. James Rodgers says:

    Some decent points but whole article belies someone who is not familiar with the Tottenham side, tactics and transfers. Slightly naïve in his view of Spurs being a one man team and gross underestimate of record signings Soldado and Paulinho who both have the potential to succeed or fit in with Bale. The author has evidently not taken into account the style and flair which Tottenham played with in the opening period in the Espanyol game. Also misses out the fact that “The Beast”- Sandro, and Kaboul will walk into the starting 11 after long term injury’s the most likely strongest 11 will be:
    Lloris
    Walker Kaboul Vertonghen Rose/Coentrao (transfer on the cards)
    Sandro
    Paulinho Dembele

    Bale Chadli

    Soldado
    Also Holtby, Eriksen, Pjanic, tommy Carrol could be utilised if signed and depending on form as part of the midfield triumvirate.
    Thanks

  4. Emad Nimah says:

    Yes, it is true that the results of the first 6 opening games will determine Tottenham’s season. Anything over and above 75 percent success in those opening games would suggest that the Spurs would truly be marching on in the battle for a CL spot.
    With Kaboul, Dawson and Vertonghen plus Fryers there is no worry at center back of the field, but the worrying spot is at left back where AVB, as it seems, has no confidence in BAE while it would be a massive error of judgment on his part to play Rose, in that department, who simply cannot defend and is either caught out of position or forced to commit fouls to compensate and consequently most goals would be conceded from that area.
    It is true that there are so many outstanding players in the middle of the park, some with defensive skills and others with attacking and scoring flare that it would be a miracle for AVB to keep everybody happy in that area.
    At the striking end, all depends now on Soldado’s quickly settling in as the article quite rightly points but also on Defoe’s mood and temperament unless, as it is speculated, AVB will be acquiring the services of another talented striker.
    Whatever happens, the new season for Tottenham will always be remembered by the Bale/Real Madrid saga.

  5. Kirillus says:

    Yea wtf?….. the main reason for ua dropping points last year was a lack of depth. At one point we had Lennon, Bale, Sandro, Kaboul and Defoe all out injured…….. thats five starters…. what did Arsenal have? Wilshere out on and off and Arteta, Podolski and Walcott out for little bouts of time (but not at the same time) which is normal. What happens to Spurs every single year withinjuries is NOT normal. Now that we have depth and a striker that can acrually score more than one out of every 20 shots taken, I’m confident we’llsneak into the top four without too much hastle. We also have Townsend back from loan who I would say is turning out to be an excellent player (better than Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain imo) and with thw additions of Paulinho and Capoue to boss the midfield and the returns of Sandro and Kaboul plus the additions of Soldado and Chadli its more like we made seven new signings, not four (Kaboul, Sandro back & Townsend back from loan = +3).

    I’m sorry, but with Arsenal not reinforcing and us going crazy (rumours doing rounds we have bid £30million for Lamela) with acquisitions, a healthy Spurs squad will rip a healthy Arsenal squad to pieces when they play and it will show in the table. I don’t understand why everybody is backing Arsenal to finnish highwr than Spurs when they have the same shitty team and oursis drastically improved. We lost out to them last year by one point with a crippled, transitioning, Modric and VDV-less squad. Scrap history, this is a new year, different pieces to the jigsaw, and a new beginning for Spurs…. especially if we sign Lamela and keep Bale. Let’s not forget that Joe Lewis (our owner) just gave Levy the green light to spend, spend, spend, so that we can challenge for thebtitle because he sees that this is an opporunity that rarely appears in football. Fingers crossed for Lamela and Bale!
    COYS

  6. Kirillus says:

    And I predict Man Utd will come close to to missing out on top four.

  7. Tom says:

    If you could read you could see he acknowledges all that in the final paragraph.

  8. Robbie says:

    Not the most impressive of previews. Very generic and lacked any real knowladge of the Spurs squad and tactics.

    Without Bale Spurs have made some top signings so the use of “if Bale leaves Spurs are in trouble” is poor and somewhat lazy.

    Statistically speaking, over the past 3 seasons (over 100 EPL games) Spurs have a 50% win ratio with him in the side and a 50% win ratio with him not in the side. Little nuggets like this should be analysed before such blanket comments are made.

  9. Redspur says:

    I am on that one with you except that arsenal on current showing are looking more likely, my top four
    Chelsea
    Man city
    Spurs
    Arsenal

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