Tottenham Hotspur have flourished this season. Many were shocked after the sacking of boss Harry Redknapp in the summer, and eyebrows were raised further at the appointment of Chelsea flop, Andre Villas-Boas.
After a slow start to the season, Villas-Boas and Spurs had more than their fair share of doubters, but have since managed to string together a 12-match unbeaten run in the league, whilst performing extremely well in Europe as well.
This has of course been benefited by the astonishing form of golden boy Gareth Bale, but there are plenty of unsung heroes in the success of Tottenham this year. The form of Bale will be crucial as to whether Spurs can prove their worth on the big stage, and here's an evaluation of their entire squad's quality.
'Keepers get a lot of critics from slight mistakes. However, Spurs' two goalies have been almost impeccable this year.
There has been a lot of fuss over the fact that Hugo Lloris, arguably one of the best in the world between the sticks, has been so frequently rotated with American Brad Friedel. Although Lloris is a terrific player, what AVB has done is in fact very clever. He has proved that no-one is guaranteed a place week-in week-out, and Friedel has repaid him with some excellent performances, whilst Lloris has been gradually moving into the team as the season progresses.
Eventually, Lloris will be full-time first-choice but for now, with things working so well, there is no need to change things.
The basis of a successful team is built on a solid platform at the back. I was shocked to hear that club captain Michael Dawson was going to be sold to QPR, only for a last minute U-turn. He has been a loyal professional, and his stay has been an important one. But most notably, the summer signing of Jan Vertonghen from Ajax has been arguably the biggest factor in defensive success.
He has shown great leadership ability and very consistent form, whilst also proving versatility is one of his traits as well, filling in at left-back when need be. Moving on to left-back, controversial Benoit Assou-Ekotto has been brilliant, bursting up and down the wing to support in attack whilst being strong at the back, too.
Kyle Walker, for me, is rapidly developing in to one of the finest right-backs in the country. He has his critics after high-profile mistakes, but he's young and will only learn from them. He's been great going forward and has built a good partnership with Aaron Lennon, and there aren't many wingers that can beat him for pace or strength.
Steven Caulker has been good when called upon and is pushing for a place in the England squad, whilst William Gallas has shown how valuable his experience is in Europe.
For me, Moussa Dembele has been the best signing of the season from the big clubs. He is incredibly consistent, has great vision and technique, brilliant awareness, and most blatantly, unbelievable strength and athleticism.
He has also shown that he can chip in with goals, after dumping Lyon out with a wonderful effort in the last-minute. Gylfi Sigurdsson is another that has impressed. He has had to be patient and wait for his chance, but puts in a good shift when called upon, as seen in the first leg against Inter.
Aaron Lennon is a player I've always admired. He has blistering pace and the correct attributes to be a top winger. This season he's been great, performing well each week, and has a strong partnership with right-back Kyle Walker.
Lewis Holtby has not been at White Hart Lane for long, but is already showing he has what it takes to be a fabulous player, with a great eye for a pass and a blessed left foot.
Scott Parker is still going strong, showing age is just a number at 32 years young. He is a soldier and will battle for the entire game.
Clint Dempsey is a player who has proven his value with big goals, most notably a last-minute equaliser against Manchester United.
Spurs have struggled to field an out-and-out striker all season, with Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor the only recognised forwards in the side and injuries hitting them both. However, both have shown they're great goalscorers and they both add different things to the team. Defoe can make intelligent runs behind the defence, whilst Adebayor holds the ball up terrifically and is perfect for the likes of Bale to peel off him.
Now, on to the man himself. The Welsh wizard, still only 23-years old, has been outstanding all season. He can win matches for the team, as he proved against West Ham and Lyon. He has it all - speed, strength and skill. He can score staggering individual goals, or headed goals in the area, not to mention his danger from set-plays. He has brought his league form into the Europa League as well, showing he can do it on the big stage.
AVB is finally showing what all the hype was about. He failed at Chelsea, but it's almost impossible to succeed with such a demanding owner. He's got a great eye for a bargain, too, purchasing Vertonghen and Dembele for what looks a snip by the looks of their performances. And, of course, Holtby for £1.5 million was an astounding bit of business.
The Portuguese also shows no signs of complacency which is admirable for such a young coach, as he has refused to play a second-string side in the second leg against Inter, despite having a 3-0 aggregate cushion.
All these qualities prove that the north London club have what it takes to bring a highly-respected trophy to the Lane, and prove that they are amongst Europe's elite.
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