This season in the Premier League is set to go down in history as the most exciting ever. Not only do we have a good ol’ fashioned relegation scrap that looks like involving 11 teams, but the top 7seven are all still in with a shout of winning the title, being separated by just 11 points! Who are you calling a mid-table club?
With there undoubtedly set to be many more twists and turns between now and May, The Football Writer has decided to assess the chances of all seven teams who realistically could still lift the Premier League trophy at the end of the season. One thing’s for sure: it’s gonna be a hell of a ride…
This article looks at what Tottenham need to do if they want to be carved on to the trophy as Premier League Champions in 2014…
The mood surrounding White Hart Lane this summer was certainly best described as bittersweet. On one hand, the inevitable happened as Gareth Bale, the only truly world class player Tottenham possessed, and had largely carried them last season courtesy of his magic, packed his bags for Real Madrid after much speculation.
Spurs weren’t simply losing their star player; they were losing their talisman – the player who could separate the fine line between success and failure, whom the club had relied upon so heavily during his rise to superstardom.
On the other hand however, Andre Villas-Boas now had an additional £86million to play with in the transfer market, on what would have already been a generous sum from chairman Daniel Levy.
A glut of foreign talent followed as AVB looked to create a team packed with strength in depth that would finally break into the top four and cement their place in the Champions League, not hesitating to spend big; emphasised by breaking the club record transfer fee three times with the signings of Paulinho, Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela.
After a promising - if far from spectacular - start to the season, the pressure began to mount on AVB, who was seen to be leading an underachieving team, considering the vast sums they had spent on reinforcements that summer.
In December, the proverbial axe finally fell and AVB was replaced by Tim Sherwood, who seems to have steadied the ship in his first managerial appointment. There’s still a long way to go for the season, and Tottenham will have a lot to do if they want to reach the summit of English football. Yet they are still only eight points behind the leaders despite being in fifth place, so there is still that possibility of them making a charge.
Tottenham do boast a great strength in depth to their squad, and thus should be more capable of dealing with any setbacks by keeping their squad rotated and refreshed. They particularly have a lot of midfield talent: Lamela, Paulinho, Aaron Lennon, Lewis Holtby, Etienne Capoue, Mousa Dembélé, Nacer Chadli, Gylfi Sigurðsson, Christian Eriksen and their breakthrough player Andros Townsend, who is trying to alleviate some of the pressure following Bale’s departure.
Many of these players have been coveted previously by some of Europe’s top sides, so it is testament to Spurs that they have been able to attract these names to White Hart Lane.
Meanwhile, if we discard the heavy defeats to title rivals Manchester City and Liverpool that ultimately cost AVB his job, the club also have a solid defence to call upon that has made them tricky to beat.
This was especially evident in the early stages of the season as they continually grinded out clean sheets en route to victory. In particular, Hugo Lloris has generally looked solid in goal, whilst Jan Vertonghen looks as though he has developed into one of the best in the league.
Since the managerial change, Sherwood’s seeming masterstroke of playing two strikers – in stark contrast to a struggling, isolated figure of Roberto Soldado in the 4-2-3-1 formation – has led to the recall of Emmanuel Adebayor, who has been somewhat of a new signing with his resurgence causing an added threat upfront.
His imposing presence, combined with his technical ability, has given opposition defences something new to worry about, whilst Soldado will surely benefit from the extra help up top.
With such strength and depth, it may simply be a matter of time until the new faces finally feel settled and things begin to click into place on the pitch, making Tottenham a possible dark horse in this title race.
How to win the title.
There has been a lot of change and Tottenham, and thus it seems as though they are somewhat in a transitional period with lots of new faces still settling in. Unfortunately for Spurs fans, thus far the signings haven’t reaped the rewards that would be expected from over £100m of talent. Yet that is not to say that all hope is gone.
Question marks may remain over who actually pushed for these transfers, with AVB claiming several of these players were forced upon him – yet having had six months to settle, Sherwood’s biggest challenge will be to finally get them playing according to the price tags that they paid.
It is all very well saying that, but actually doing so is a completely different matter. Yet there is still undoubted quality amongst the ranks at Tottenham, so it all depends on the manager’s ability to get them producing, and the player’s dedication to justifying exactly why they were brought in to help with the assault on the Premier League title at White Hart Lane.
Lamela is certainly the most notable candidate here, having struggled to break into the team following less than impressive displays. Yet if he can find that spark that he produced in Serie A with Roma, there is no reason that he, along with any others within this team, can help to build on what has still been a good season for Tottenham thus far.
The one area that will need to be addressed in the transfer market is up front. With Jermain Defoe set to take off to Canada, Adebayor and Soldado are the club’s only established strikers – a particular problem if Sherwood wishes to continue playing both together.
What is more concerning however, is that while both players are undoubtedly talented, they are nowhere near the same league as the likes of Luis Suarez at Liverpool, Sergio Aguero at Manchester City and Robin van Persie at Manchester United. Although the two may have struggled to convert as the ammunition from the summer acquisitions has not come as well as expected, it is still an alarming lack of firepower if Tottenham want to be taken seriously.
For the last couple of years, Bale has been able to drag Tottenham to victory even when they are playing poorly – yet they can no longer rely on that spark that will help them when times get tough.
If Spurs realistically want to kick it with the big boys, a genuine world class striker needs to be signed as they are too far off the pace in terms of goals: they have scored eight less than any of the other top seven, with their paltry 26 goals comparing to 34 (Everton), 35 (Man Utd), 40 (Chelsea), 41 (Arsenal), 51 (Liverpool) and 59 (Man City).
Tottenham also need to ensure that they don’t crack when the going gets tough. After 16 games this season, Spurs had conceded just 21 goals – yet 14 of those came in just three games, against Manchester City, Liverpool and West Ham. They don’t necessarily need anyone new at the back; Sherwood simply needs to ensure that they don’t wilt in tough games.
A lot of this season will rely on whether Tottenham’s summer signings begin to display their talents regularly. If they don’t, Spurs will struggle to even get into the Champions League places. Yet if they do click, along with a new striker to add some much needed firepower following Bale’s departure, Tottenham could well quietly battle through to the end of the season still in contention of their first Premier League title.
Prediction: 7th – Bale’s departure mean Spurs lack the star quality to push them over the line. If the players can settle and find form they will still be in with a shout, but I don’t think they quite have enough to claim the title. 7th will still sound far worse than how close it will actually be points-wise.
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