Relegation form. That is exactly how Tottenham Hotspur are playing at the moment. Saturday’s loss to QPR was their fifth in nine games and the club have won just twice in 11 Premier League encounters. The fact that Spurs lost to the West London side 1-0 was bad enough, many were expecting to lose to Mark Hughes’ side having recently overcome Liverpool and Arsenal at Loftus Road, but what angered the fans more was the way in which Spurs lost.
A lack of heart, a lack of grit, a lack of determination. A performance lacking any real sort of quality whatsoever saw an understrength Tottenham side absolutely capitulate against the R’s. Yes, it may have only been one-goal, but as I mentioned, it was the way in which Spurs lost that has maddened the fans.
Many are blaming the player’s, many more Harry Redknapp. Either way, something is detrimentally wrong at White Hart Lane for the team to have capitulated so badly since February. Why aren’t Spurs playing with the same cohesion from the beginning of the season? Why does Redknapp look as though he doesn’t care? Why don’t the player’s care?
Taarabt goal 1-0
A free-kick that never should have been. Sandro won the ball from ex-Spur Bobby Zamora in what looked like an excellent tackle. However, referee Mark Clattenburg felt Zamora had been felled by the Brazilian and blew for a foul. Whether it was for the initial challenge, or what looked to be handball in the follow through, we will never know. Either way, a free-kick to QPR, 25-yards out with Adel Taarabt standing over the ball.
The Moroccan lofted his effort over the wall, past Brad Friedel and into the bottom corner. Now, there are three things to look at with the goal. The first is the initial challenge which wasn’t a foul. Sandro won the ball expertly, even if Clattenburg begs to differ. Secondly, the organisation in the wall was abysmal. Gareth Bale, Scott Parker, Sandro, Rafael Van der Vaart and Jermain Defoe all looked unsure as to what to do when the ball left Taarabt’s boot. Parker charged, while the others were unaware as whether to jump or remain static. As it turns out, it was the former, albeit, too late and with no real organisation when it came to actually jumping.
Finally, and I feel I may be clutching at straws, but Friedel could well have done better with the goal. His attempts to organise the wall left a lot to be desired. Whether it had anything to do with the sun or the player’s inept ability to listen to the goalkeeper, one will never know. Furthermore, his positioning could well have been improved for the goal as he moved away from where the ball was going to end up just a split second before Taarabt struck the ball. Caught flat-footed, and not on his toes, it is hardly surprising to have seen him beaten from such distance.
Where does this leave Redknapp?
Redknapp hasn’t seen his stock slowly slide in recent months. Since the England job became available, the performances of the team have significantly dropped, the player’s look disinterested and the veteran tactician looks to not care as much as he once did when he initially took over the role in North London.
Whether it is the England job on offer, or exhaustion from the events earlier in the season (heart surgery and the court case), this Redknapp isn’t the same Redknapp that took Spurs to perennial title contenders over Christmas. Naturally, fans knew that the former Portsmouth and Southampton manager wasn’t the most tactically astute manager in football.
More often than not, he would tell the player’s to simply ‘do what you do best’ and when match fit, this would work. However, as the season has gone on, and fatigue has begun to sink in, Redknapp’s plan A has become to fail him. He lives by the mantra that football is there to be enjoyed so for the player’s to go and enjoy it. With the likes of Bale, Van der Vaart and Luka Modric firing on all cylinders, much as they were in 2011, this worked expertly.
However, with tiredness setting in, a lot of the emphasis switch to tactical knowledge and this is where Redknapp fails. Tactically, the Spurs boss isn’t the most clued up of managers, and often relies on his coaching staff to make many of the decisions for him. It’s all fine telling the team to run around a bit and do what they do best, but tactics are becoming more and more predominant in the game.
It’s why we lost to Norwich City, for example, because Paul Lambert knew Spurs would be far too open playing 4-4-2. With Jake Livermore in the middle, a player who, ideally, performs better alongside a tough tackling partner such as Parker or Sandro, the midfield was comfortably bypassed by the Canaries because Lambert outwitted Redknapp on the afternoon.
His lack of squad rotation earlier in the season has also left Spurs significantly weakened. With the likes of Vedran Corluka, Steven Pienaar, Andros Townsend, Sebastien Bassong and Harry Kane all out on loan, players that could’ve been utilised in recent weeks, the squad look less effective. Poor judgement in January has left the squad of options in all areas of the pitch. Bringing in Ryan Nelsen and Louis Saha may have been direct replacements for Bassong and Roman Pavlyuchenko, but losing the likes of Pienaar and the rest, who have since shone following their moves, was a travesty.
As I said, the squad don’t look as dangerous as they were at the beginning of the season and it’s hardly surprising when the usual starters are fatigued and the ones to come in aren’t match fit. The comments from Redknapp after the game on Saturday, claiming the player’s on his bench weren’t up for the task, doesn’t exactly instil confidence throughout the squad. Mind boggled by the words from the manager, many fans now believe Redknapp has lost the respect of the dressing room, much like Andre Villas-Boas did at Chelsea.
At the very least, he has lost the faith and belief of the supporters. No more does ‘Harry Redknapp’s blue and white army’ ring around White Hart Lane much like it did in the past and since the 5-0 win over Newcastle United in February, the atmosphere has subdued somewhat around White Hart Lane. Many are now calling for Daniel Levy to sack Redknapp and allow either David Pleat, Glenn Hoddle or Tim Sherwood the chance to lead Spurs for the remaining four games in order to salvage something from the rest of the season. Either way, it appears as though the previously untouchable Redknapp now finds himself in an untenable position with the club and the sooner the season comes to an end, the better.
The player’s also need to shoulder the blame
Whilst Redknapp controls who lines up on the field, the way they play is down to each individual player on the pitch. As previously mentioned, fatigue will surely have an adverse effect on the ability, but the way in which they have effectively rolled over and accepted fourth place is out of their grasp is sickening beyond belief.
Using the 2-1 defeat to Norwich as another example, when Elliot Bennett netted the winner with 25 minutes to go the player’s on the pitch simply gave up. Against Chelsea, the determination was lacking even when Bale pulled the game back to 2-1. The energy levels and drive have been sapped from the team and, as a result, the team look far less productive going forward and more susceptible to mistakes on the back foot.
Redknapp ultimately is going to bear the full force of the criticism, as a manager it’s his job to do so. But, the player’s look as though they no longer care. Either they’re looking to the end of the season or they know the manager is leaving. In recent weeks, only Parker, Van der Vaart and, to an extent, Emmanuel Adebayor look like the only player’s that care with the current rut Spurs currently find themselves in.
QPR was never going to be a walkover, let’s be honest. They are a decent unit at home, having taken points off Liverpool and Arsenal in recent weeks. Our so-called ‘easy run-in’ may look just that on paper, but the fact is, Spurs are going to be coming up against three teams battling to stay in the Premier League in the next four games. At this stage in the season, teams fighting to stave off the threat of relegation go from a down and out side to a wounded beast capable of picking up a shock result. Personally, prior to the QPR game, I felt a possible four points from 15 was the best return Spurs could hope for from the remaining fixtures. I still believe it will happen, but games against Bolton Wanderers and Aston Villa are where Spurs are going to struggle.
Fourth place is still well within our grasp, however. Yes, currently outside of the Champions League place after Newcastle’s win over Stoke, but, as I said, on paper Spurs’ run-in is easier. Every game is winnable, and should be won, but it is never that easy with the Lilywhites. As said, I am not confident of anything more than four points from the next four games, but should Spurs pull their finger out and find some form between now and the end of the season, then a fourth place finish is still available.
Redknapp needs to let the fans know once and for all what his plans are next season. None of this talking up the England role. No talking up opposition teams, much like he did with Chelsea in mid-week. If he is going, then tell the media that you are. It is painstakingly obvious that you want the England role; you’ve made no secret of it, but stop with the media lapdog persona that you live up to. Don’t claim you’re focused on Spurs, when every fan of the club knows you aren’t. The sooner something comes out in the media, which you can or cannot confirm nor deny, the better for the club.
Furthermore, the player’s believe they deserve Champions League football. No, you don’t. Not with performances like the one against QPR, or the one against Chelsea, or the one against Norwich City or any in the last two months. If Spurs don’t make the top four, chances are Bale and Modric will be linked with moves away from White Hart Lane with ‘Champions League football’ the reasoning. Frankly, you had it sown up in January when Spurs opened up a 12 point gap between themselves and, at the time, fifth placed Chelsea. But, you blew it after believing the hype and two months worth of lacklustre performances. You claim you want to play in Europe’s top competition, but can’t handle the pressure when it seemed off at one stage.
Finally, it is clearly evident that a player who isn’t afraid to get up in the face of the opposition is one Spurs are lacking. Parker may well be passionate in what he does, but he isn’t the type that is going to ruffle the feathers of any team we come up against. A player like Patrick Vieira, Roy Keane, Craig Bellamy, Marco Matterazi…the list could go on. The fact is; Spurs are a soft team with a softer underbelly and are lacking a player that isn’t afraid to really cause a stir.