Tottenham's winless run extended to four games on Wednesday as Rafael Van der Vaart's late equaliser salvaged a point for his side against Stoke
Spurs have seen their title challenge crash and burn, their ten point gap to Arsenal and their confidence disappear amidst a four game winless streak.
So what is going wrong at White Hart Lane as the desperately try to cling onto a Champions League spot? GMF investigates just what needs to be changed at White Hart Lane.
Get Aaron Lennon fit
With Aaron Lennon once again absent because of a hamstring complaint, Tottenham have been robbed of one of their more potent attacking threats.
Against Manchester United, Lennon caused Patrice Evra no end of problems. With Gareth Bale absent through ilness all of Tottenham’s best moves came through the fleet-footed winger and he looked to be nearing his best, only to be halted by injury again.
Without him, Tottenham’s balance is compromised. Not only because his usual stand in, Niko Kranjcar, lacks his pace and likes to drift in, but because Redknapp has been forced to use Van der Vaart or Bale there, which has cause further disruption in his side’s rhythm and shape.
Against Stoke, with Bale once more coming in-field, there was no real natural width to the game. There is little the club can do about Lennon’s injury-prone nature but they need him back desperately for the Chelsea game.
Get Bale out wide
In tandem with Lennon’s absence, Bale’s tendency to drift in through the middle has meant that Tottenham’s natural width, which caused so many teams problems in the first two-thirds of the season, has disappeared.
Bale’s logic is sound and when his central role has paid off it has done so spectacularly; against Norwich he burst through the middle to tear apart the Canaries defence and score a beautiful goal, while Wojciech Szczesny was forced to bring the Welshman down as he launched through the middle at the Emirates.
The problem is that while he may get more space to operate in through the middle it is to the detriment of the team’s overall shape and width.
There are few blessed with more pace and the ability to whip a ball in or flash it across the face of the goal like Bale. With Lennon on the other flank earlier in the season, opposing teams were stretched and gaps would appear for the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor and Van der Vaart to exploit.
He may complain that he is doubled up on out wide and that may well be true, but that plays into the hands of team-mates willing to get forward; Benoit Assou Ekotto in particular has benefitted by being left free because two men have gone with Bale, who in any case is easier to track by a tough-tackling deep lying midfielder when he comes in-field.
If he moves back out wide he can create space for others and help stretch the game, while also injecting some pace. It worked earlier in the season, and if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.
Ultimately despite all of the tactical analysis, there a few people that before the game against Stoke could highlight any real faults in Tottenham’s recent performances.
Against Manchester United and Everton, Spurs looked capable of picking up maximum points but walked away with nothing; when coupled with their disastrous loss to Arsenal it is perhaps understandable that they have lost the swagger that took them up to third initially.
As much as Redknapp may protest, off-the-pitch distractions coming all at once have also almost certainly knocked them of their stride; the England manager sage, Redknapp’s tax evasion court case and Fabrice Muamba’s collapse will have knocked their focus.
With the return of confidence will come the Tottenham trademarks of pace and verve, but after a run of four games without a win, this is easier said and done.
Spurs haven’t lead a league game since going 2-0 up against Arsenal and that is certainly showing; they have seemingly seized up and came close to grinding to a halt against Stoke.
Redknapp’s repeated insistence that there is nothing else they can do, that they are performing perfectly fine without luck is not helping; he would do well to focus his energy on his players rather than batting away claims of a collapse.
The former Portsmouth boss has garnered a reputation as being an expert man manager. Now it’s time to prove just that.
Settle on attacking options
Earlier on in the season, the settled attack partnership of Adebayor and Van der Vaart worked excellently.
The Dutchman, linking play between attack and midfield , was the grateful recipient of Adebayor’s hard work and hit a purple patch in front of goal, equalling a club record by scoring in five consecutive games.
Injury has certainly transpired against them in this area as Van der Vaart and more recently Adebayor have both struggled with knocks.
Jermain Defoe’s form warranted inclusion recently but then he dropped down to the bench with Louis Saha coming in to the team, only for Defoe to come on at half time in place of Niko Kranjcar against Stoke.
Having had a settled line up for the first half of the season Redknapp is seemingly tinkering and trying to find his best combination when one or both his first choice pairing are absent.
Of course much has been made in the papers of Redknapp’s desire to bring in striking options over the summer, with Loic Remy the object of his affections, so evidently he has some reservations about his current options.
For now he has to work with what he has got and find a pairing or lone striker that works. the goals have dried up - Spurs have scored just twice in their last three games - and he must find a way of getting them flowing again, and a settled back up partnership would certainly help that.
‘Typical Spurs,’ goes the time honoured lament. When the going gets tough, Tottenham fail to get going, according to history.
A soon as Stoke went 1-0 up on Wednesday, the sense of forebdong around White Hart Lane was palpable, and the ill-feeling in the stands translated to panic on the pitch, something that Redknapp picked up on.
"It was difficult tonight, and I just feel like we panicked a bit. We stopped playing, stopped passing, stopped probing, when we needed to be patient," the Spurs boss said after the game.
"If you look the best sides, sides like Barcelona, they don't suddenly start lumping it with five minutes to go, they play until they get an opening and we went away from that.”
Van der Vaart’s late equaliser went some way to showing Spurs have something about them and the game against Chelsea is perhaps the biggest of the season; too many times they have got up for big games, done all they can and walked away empty handed.
They have one final chance away from home against one of the big boys to inject some life in their faltering campaign.
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