It has been a very indifferent season for Tottenham Hotspur this season. After last season’s exploits and a year where the club broke the monopoly, albeit temporarily, of the top four, expectations were high that they were going to achieve the same again. Things, however, didn’t go to plan. Too many dropped points to ‘lesser’ teams at home and on the road have seen Spurs drop to sixth in the league and with a resurgent Liverpool routing Fulham 5-2 last night, it looks as though European football won’t be back at White Hart Lane until late 2012 at the earliest.
While the team are left to lick their wounds and think of what could have been, now is the time to begin the re-building process at Tottenham Hotspur. Streamlining one of the Premier League’s largest squads will not be easy but, when the deadwood is gone, it will allow for the players of similar ilk to Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and Rafael Van der Vaart to take their places.
It is a shame to be saying this but Heurelho Gomes is becoming indefensible. His save from Charlie Adam’s spot kick on Saturday was one he shouldn’t have made but he performed his Jekyll and Hyde trick once more from the resulting corner, firstly by allowing a simple catch to fall from his grasp thus giving Gary Taylor-Fletcher the impetus to latch on to the resulting drop before bundling the Blackpool man over for the Seasiders second penalty in as many minutes.
Fortunately for the Brazilian, his blushes were spared by Jermain Defoe’s 89th minute equaliser but his mistakes haven’t been forgotten throughout the season. Both of Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals in the Champions League quarter-final, Frank Lampard’s ‘goal’ last week against Chelsea and Didier Drogba’s goal at White Hart Lane at the end of last year are just a few of the mistakes the goalkeeper has made over the course of the season.
He makes the saves he shouldn’t be making but continuously makes the most basic of errors that have cost his side points this year. In fact, he is joint top with West Ham’s Rob Green for the most blunders that have resulted in goals from open play this year. While Redknapp has leapt to the defence of Gomes, his patience must be wearing thin for his number one. A top class keeper is needed is Spurs are to challenge for serious honours next season and one of either Maarten Stekelenburg, Allan McGregor and Shay Given would prove more than adequate as a replacement should Gomes be shown the door.
As for his back-ups, Carlo Cudicini and Stipe Pletikosa, well the former is more than likely to stay on at Spurs as a number two for at least another year until a young England hopeful will take his spot on the bench while the latter has failed to challenge for the number one spot and, after making only two appearances all season in the first team, admitted his move to Spurs was a mistake.
Starting with the full-backs, fans can expect to see Alan Hutton shipped out in the summer. Despite showing a glimpse of what he can do, the former Rangers man has failed to make the right back spot his own often playing second fiddle to the less than spectacular Vedran Corluka. With Younes Kaboul able to cover in the position with the Kyle’s, Walker and Naughton, both showcasing their capabilities and the two of them expected back at White Hart Lane ready for the new season, you can expect Hutton to be made available for transfer.
As for the left back scenario, fans have often criticised Benoit Assou-Ekotto and his ability to play the position. However, the Cameroonian international has been one of our best performances this season while the 3-3 draw at home to Arsenal has drawn plaudits from fans and pundits alike. Yet, with BAE currently sidelined with a hamstring problem and Bale missing the remaining three games with an ankle injury, the lack of depth in that position has been made blisteringly aware to everyone. Youngster Danny Rose did well to step into left back when asked on Saturday but isn’t a long term solution. Expect either of the Kyle’s to challenge BAE for a starting spot next season.
In the central of defence, question marks have been raised about the long term futures of both Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate. The former has missed a substantial chunk of the season after groin surgery while the latter has played a total of thirty-minutes of first team football in the previous fourteen months. With Woodgate’s contract set to expire in the coming weeks, it would be difficult to Redknapp to justify extending his deal beyond June unless he is on a pay-as-you-play deal.
However, with the squad looking to be thinned out and more money made available for new players, the easiest option would be for both to have their contracts cancelled. It is a massive shame for both players as, injury free could well have been two of England’s top defenders and when both are available for selection, have formed a formidable partnership in the Spurs defence. Yet while Woodgate maybe released from the club, King will undoubtedly be offered a role on the coaching side of things.
With that aside, Spurs still have four centre-backs to compete for the two starting spots. Michael Dawson, William Gallas, Kaboul and Sebastien Bassong all have the ability to start for Spurs and help them in their quest for another top four finish. However, with Gallas approaching his mid-thirties and Bassong eager to move for first team football, it may be the case that Redknapp will be in the market for another centre back. Roma’s Philippe Mexes is out of contract at the end of the season and could well be persuaded that his future lies in England’s capital.
Spurs have also been linked with a host of defenders from the Premiership with Richard Dunne and Gary Cahill two names mentioned as possible signings for the club. Blackburn Rovers’ Phil Jones is a prospect that Redknapp may well want to add to his ranks and the potential for him to succeed with a host of top clubs linked with the youngster and while he may not be rushed into first-team football with Gallas and Dawson the starting pairing, Jones, like Cahill, could be a player that lines up next to Dawson in the future.
When it comes to the wide men, the natural starters would be Bale and Aaron Lennon. Both have the ability to cause full-backs problems and with them on the pitch, can stretch defences. While Bale has been courted by some of Europe’s elite, he has affirmed his commitment to Spurs and wants to remain with the club despite the lack of Champions League football. As for Lennon, reports have suggested that Redknapp would be happen to get rid should the opportunity presents itself. A lack of playing time, prior to Bale’s season ending injury, fuelled rumours that Redknapp had lost patience with the England winger, reportedly quoted that he failed to listen to orders and hasn’t improved as much as Redknapp would have liked.
However, Redknapp would be foolish to get rid of Lennon. He still has room for improvement and would likely come back to haunt Spurs should he be sold to a rival. In terms of back-up, the likes of Rose, Andros Townsend and Stephen Pienaar are more than adequate replacements should either, or both, become injured.
However, it is a shame that one man will miss out and is likely to be sold in the summer; Niko Kranjcar. Signed from Portsmouth eighteen months ago, the Croat has been a consistent performer in the Spurs shirt and was part of the team that won the club their initial top four spot. Scoring the winning goals against Bolton and Sunderland this season has done little to persuade Redknapp that he should be part of the starting XI and the signing of Pienaar in January would have done little to persuade Kranjcar that his future lies with Tottenham.
Fans can expect a Kranjcar exit this summer and he is likely to be joined by Giovani Dos Santos and David Bentley in bidding farewell to White Hart Lane. The Mexican arrived from Barcelona hyped as the new Ronaldinho yet failed to make an impact in a Spurs shirt, making ten appearances and spending more time out on loan to Ipswich, Galatasaray and Racing Santander then in and around the first team.
Like Dos Santos, Bentley has had a torrid time in a Spurs shirt, often missing out in the starting XI to Lennon. A loan spell at Birmingham has seen him return to first team football but his chances of the same at White Hart Lane may well be slim at best.
Moving into the centre of the pitch, Tottenham pack an abundance of talent with the likes of Tom Huddlestone, Luka Modric, Rafael Van der Vaart, Sandro, Wilson Palacios and Jermaine Jenas all vying for a starting spot in the centre of the park. However, with Sandro, Modric, Van der Vaart and Huddlestone the four main contenders, it remains to be seen whether Palacios and Jenas will remain at Spurs in the future. Both have had bit-part roles to play during the season and at least one of them is likely to be sold in the summer especially with Jake Livermore, Dean Parrett and John Bostock all set to re-join the first team in the summer and, should West Ham be relegated, Scott Parker would look likely to join up with the squad at Chigwell in time for the new season.
Another loanee, Jamie O’Hara, is also set to move on once the transfer window re-opens again with first team football his priority having spent a majority of the past two seasons on loan with Portsmouth and Wolves respectively after failing to hold down a starting spot with Spurs.
Up top, Spurs have struggled for goals on a regular basis this season. With thirty-two goals between Roman Pavlyuchenko, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane, fans can expect a huge overhaul up front. Keane is definitely set to leave the club having found playing time hard to come by at Tottenham while two of either Defoe, Crouch or Pavlyuchenko will most likely be shipped out.
With Redknapp opting for a 4-4-1-1 formation, a striker that can successfully play the role of lone striker is a must. It has been made no secret that Daniel Levy placed bids for five Spanish based forwards in January with none wanting to join up with Redknapp and co. at White Hart Lane.
The club have been linked with Porto duo Falcao and Hulk, Athletic Bilbao target man Fernando Llorente, Espanyol’s Pablo Osvaldo, a return for former striker Dimitar Berbatov currently of Manchester United and even a move for Chelsea’s Didier Drogba. Any of the above would be an improvement on the current crop of strikers at White Hart lane especially if Van der Vaart is utilised as the man in the hole behind him.
This is where the biggest changes will occur in the current first team especially with top four the aim for next season. A few minor changes elsewhere and the club are ready to re-break the top four and take back the position that Manchester City won off them last night.
In – Mexes, Stekelenburg, Parker, Falcao, Hulk, Loach, Cahill
Out – Gomes, King, Woodgate, Jenas, Palacios, Keane, O’Hara, Hutton, Kranjcar, Dos Santos, Pavlyuchenko, Defoe, Bentley