“I wouldn’t be surprised if they finished sixth. They didn’t rotate enough. They don’t have depth on the bench,” were the words from Vedran Corluka, currently on loan at Bayer Leverkusen from Tottenham Hotspur. Now, in the past if a player had made these comments, there would’ve been uproar. Carnage on the streets, Corluka shirts burned at the stake and chants to get him away from the club.
Well, the Croatian is away from the club and despite remaining in the close quarters of Germany; the fans feel they have never been closer to the defender. You see, as many of you painfully know, Spurs aren’t doing very well at the moment. In fact, the recent form see’s the club 17th in the league, ahead of relegated Wolves, relegation threatened Aston Villa and, to be frank, rubbish Liverpool.
For a team that has aspirations to reach the Champions League, and at the point this season as title contenders, one win in nine is, to be frank, shambolic. Much of the blame has been focused on Harry Redknapp with Corluka making comments that must have been directed in the way of the Spurs manager.
How is it Redknapp’s fault?
First and foremost, Harry is Spurs manager. When the team underperforms, he is expected to take a vast majority of the flak, closely followed by the player’s. His relationship with the media has helped ease the pressure when the going has got tough, but the fans are now starting to look through his tirade.
From being title contenders, to finishing third, to finishing fourth, to wanting Chelsea to secure safe passage to the final of the Champions League and to finally admitting finishing in the top four will be a struggle, his targets have changed more than my boxers following a hard day at the gym. The aim for the campaign has always been to finish in the top four. It didn’t matter if that was in first, second, third or fourth, Champions League football was always the priority for the club this year, regardless of a run in the FA Cup.
And having ran opened up a 12 point gap between themselves and fifth placed Chelsea back in January after the 2-0 win over Everton, Spurs now find themselves three points behind fourth placed Newcastle United and, should the Blues win the Champions League, with Redknapp getting his wish of them overcoming Barcelona in order to have ‘one more game, fourth place may not even be enough.
At the time, when the player’s were still firing on all cylinders pre-February, altering a winning formula would have been suicide on Redknapp’s behalf. However, this is where it becomes the problem. Pre-February, Spurs had enough strength in depth to rest a number of the starting XI when the going got tough.
But, after January, many have argued that the squad was weakened. Corluka, Harry Kane, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Andros Townsend, Sebastien Bassong and Steven Pienaar all left on-loan or permanently, while Ryan Nelsen and Louis Saha were brought in to replace the six that left. Many were praising the strength in depth that Spurs possessed at the beginning of the season, but that strength was sapped of the squad following the 11pm close of the January transfer window.
The fact of the matter is, Redknapp allowed those players to leave, confident that the current crop would suffice to secure that top four finish. A lack of squad rotation meant certain members of the squad were forced to watch from the sidelines for extended periods of time. Disillusioned with life at White Hart Lane, they were granted permission to, temporarily for five of the six, leave the club for the remainder of the season.
It isn’t a coincidence that in the past two seasons, the performances have significantly dropped during the latter half of the season. Whether this is down to fatigue or poor management, or a combining factor of both, fans won’t know. However, Redknapp is again going to receive a majority of the criticisms for this with his tactical ineptitude showing through once again. It’s all well and good being a decent man manager, but at this stage of the season, tactics are what is important and, speaking on behalf of many Spurs fans, he has, for the second year running, his failings have let the club down.
What is to come next?
A massive game on Sunday against Blackburn Rovers is approaching. Spurs’ so called easy run-in has proven the complete opposite of that. With Arsenal, Newcastle and Chelsea all playing before the 4pm kick off, a win is that much more important. But, like facing any team in a relegation scrap, it isn’t going to be easy.
Blackburn, like QPR a week ago, are desperately in need of points and overcoming them won’t be any easy task. Fighting for their lives, it becomes more difficult proposition to secure all three points. This is the one game I expected Spurs to win before the end of the season, but after last week, I’m not so confident about a positive result.
This is where Redknapp’s fabled man management skills come into action, something that has been painfully lacking in recent months. News of a bust-up earlier in the week did little to instil confidence through the squad, while Gareth Bale’s comments on Football Focus will have done more harm than good.
But, the return of Younes Kaboul and Emmanuel Adebayor will bolster the starting XI, despite the news that Benoit Assou-Ekotto will miss the remainder of the season. You can expect the team to line-up as follows:
Friedel; Walker, Kaboul, Gallas, Rose; Lennon, Parker, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart, Adebayor.
That starting XI should have enough to about them to overcome Blackburn on Sunday, but they key word in that is ‘should’. Spurs should have secured Champions League football next season. Should is a dangerous word for Spurs.