Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Could Spurs PLay in the Champions League?

UEFA President Michel Platini has announced that each club in the four biggest leagues in Europe with the least amount of debt would be granted a place in the Champions League this summer. The contenders for the spot for England are our very own Lillywhites, Bolton, Manchester City and Wigan.

The team that shows the least amount of debt will be granted a place in the qualifying stages of the Champions League, which is all one can hope for, if you can't advance at that stage, you shouldn't be playing European football. Apparently, we are still in the running for this spot, even with the vast resources of City.

I hope we would qualify, but my question lies somewhere else. If a club like City were to secure this Champions League spot, and they were already slotted to play in the Europa League, would they be replaced by the next team in the table. In other words, if City were to finish 7th, and Spurs 8th, would we slot into the Europa League if City were to go to the Champions League?

I wouldn't have thought that European football would have been an option for us even a month ago, but now it's close and I can almost taste it. Staying in Europe would help us keep our big stars, i.e. Modric and Lennon, and would provide us another stream of revenue, which is important if the rumors about Mansion ending their sponsorship deal are to be believed.

I hope we get the Champions League spot we were denied by bad lasagna three years ago, but I would take the Europa League, what do you think?

Pavlyuchenko to Play a Role?

With news coming out of the England camp that Darren Bent has withdrawn from the squad with an injury, the nightmare of the club vs. country debate comes to a head for the club once again. Granted, Bent has been one of my whipping boys this season, but he had just started to look like a real footballer again, and while I don't know the extent of his injury, it certainly jeopardizes his chances to be in the lineup versus Blackburn on the weekend.

Getting injured on the training ground for your club is one thing, but it hurts so much more when it happens when your players are on international duty. There is no greater pride than your country winning a World Cup, but for me, I'm going to have to settle for Spurs accomplishing something since the US have little to no chance of winning the World Cup in my lifetime, so I'll still be upset when one of our boys gets hurt on international duty.

Will this injury to Bent give Roman Pavlyuchenko the chance he's been waiting on since the Boro game at the beginning of March? Much has been made about his appearance with the reserves and his lack of playing time this month, with Russia and Chelsea boss Gus Hiddink ready to make an offer for him, if you believe the papers. Roman has had to make several statements that he believes his future lies here at the Lane and he wants to fight for his place. I have been one to voice my support for Roman, but it seems my voice and others like me keep getting shouted down, and Harry has not exactly instilled confidence in the Russian.

If Roman is going to settle at the club, he needs to seize this opportunity this weekend. A mediocre performance will only make the doubters of his ability howl even more, and give Harry more and more reason to believe he needs more striker cover in the summer. A strong performance might not hold off Bent or Jermain Defoe in the run-in to the season, but it could give him a huge boost of confidence, and convince Harry he's worth keeping around.

So Roman, you've been granted your wish, your fate is in your own hands. Go out and show us what you've got son, or else don't be surprised if Harry looks elsewhere.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Big Move for Spurs?

World Cup winning defender Fabio Cannavaro could be moving to Spurs in the summer. His contract runs out at Real Madrid in June and it is more than likely than Real will not try to retain his services. He's long been linked with a move to Naples to finish his career, but if Spurs were to offer a big payday and first-team football at a high level, it would be hard to turn down.

Harry is clearly looking for cover in the center of defense in the summer, with Ledley King needing a good bit of rest throughout the season. At 35 years of age, Cannavaro is no spring chicken, but has least one season of football left in him. Could he have two seasons left in him? Only his physio and his legs know the answer to that question.

My other question would be if Cannavaro would be happy at Spurs, especially if when fit, King and Jonathan Woodgate would be the first choice center back pairing? Cannavaro has looked a step slow this season at Madrid, and while his quality is unquestionable, I have the same feelings about him as I did about our rumored move for Marco Materazzi in January, thanks but not thanks.

I know this is not the popular opinion, but I think the best course for Spurs is to find good players, who are not seeing the twilight of their careers. One player her and there wouldn't be bad, lending maturity to the squad, but Harry shouldn't make a habit of buying older players, and I still don't think Cannavaro would be the right fit at the Lane, though it would be pretty cool to have a World Cup winner at the club.

Juve In for Bale?

Juventus have now been linked with a possible move for left-back Gareth Bale in the summer. They are apparently interested in having him compete for the left-back slot in Turin, which makes me wonder, what are we missing here?

Bale came in with such high hopes and now he's been in the reserves for the last month, but Juve, Man United and Chelsea have all been linked with a move for the defender.

Will Juve come in for Bale in the summer? It's all speculation at the moment, but if Bale does move on, to a bigger club no less, what will Spurs fans not see that the other clubs are seeing?

The Curious Case of Darren Bent

Love him or loathe him, Darren Bent has been involved in a lot of the Spurs talk this year. Mostly it's been about his poor form, moving on because Harry doesn't rate him, not getting on with Jermain Defoe, but he got the England call-up didn't he?

Does that say more about Bent coming back into form, or the lack of striker options for Capello at the moment?

I think we had all figured that Bent was moving on in the summer, and I still think that it's going to happen. But Harry might be under more pressure to keep him at the club now that he's getting another call-up to the England squad. He's played decently as of late with Robbie Keane and I don't see Harry changing things up at the weekend. If it's not broke, don't fix it, right?

But why should we keep Bent around? He seems to sulk whenever he's on the bench, and while I want our players to want to play every week, the sulking only seems to hurt his play when he does make it on the pitch.

When he does start it seems to take him awhile to get into the game, if he does at all. He's making a little bit of a connection with Keane now, but it's nowhere near instinctive, and for someone who cost us so much money, he does little to justify it.

That is Bent's biggest problem at the club I believe, his price tag. If he would have moved here for around 8 million pounds, maybe even 10 million, it would be a different story with the fans and him. But since he cost more than any other striker on our books at the moment, you expect him to, you know, score regularly. But as the miss at Portsmouth attests, Bent has not been prolific in front of goal for us.

Until this year I gave Bent the benefit of the doubt, because he never got a regular run in the side, with Keane, Defoe and Berbatov in front of him. I thought, "He's a lad who needs to be playing regularly before he can get in a groove." But after giving him the beginning of the season, and watching him fumble his chances throughout the year, I still think he should be moving on.

It would be better for everyone if he did, giving Bent a fresh start would allow him to get the weight off his back about the price tag, and for the club we could look for someone who is comfortable coming off of the bench and creating that spark in the 70th minute when we need it.

I'm happy Bent got the call to the England squad, though I don't expect to see him play on Wed. night. I'll be pulling for him when he suits up for the club through the rest of the year, but I think his future lies away from the Lane.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Spurs' Left-Wing Dilemma

How long have Spurs had problems down the left-side of midfield, and for that matter at left-back as well? It seems that we've been linked with more left-wingers than I care to count, but none have made their way to the Lane. At the moment we have Luka Modric on the flank, and he drifts further infield as the game progresses, with BAE acting as the de facto winger for the team.

It seems to be working well, I'm not going to complain about the results over the last month or so. It seems like the team is starting to find it's shape, and firing on all cylinders at the moment. I'm reminded of the saying that my mother and countless others have used over time, "If it's not broken, don't fix it."

But I am going to go against my mother's advice and look at our options for the left-side in the future. No matter how well the team if playing at the moment, I have a feeling that Harry will want to tinker with things over the summer, and the left-side seems to be the position he is intent on "fixing."

Many have suggested that we have several left-wing options already at the club and there is no need to spend big money on a winger. We do have several options, but I'm not sure that Harry agrees with us, so I'll look at what is already at the club, and some of the players we've been linked with.

Luka Modric: Our current winger, he has been one of the best players for the club this season, and was masterful against Chelsea. He is not a true winger of course, he drifts infield during the game and allows BAE to provide the width at times. But I have been impressed with his effort down the left-side and he does help keep the width himself at times. Honestly this is not a bad solution to our left-wing problem, we're winning and that's all that matters, but I think Luka would do even better things for the club in a central position, but can he handle the physicality of the center of the field?

Gareth Bale: Let's face facts, Harry clearly doesn't rate the youngster as a left-back, his defending is too poor at the moment. The strongest part of his game is his play upfield, and I have mentioned before that he could an option down the left-side. Each time Bale has played as a winger he has looked uncomfortable however, he just hasn't had enough experience to feel comfortable there. Maybe some time in the reserves at this position could help us see if he could make it, but unfortunately I think Harry will be selling young Gareth on in the summer.

Jamie O'Hara: Pluck is a good way to describe Jamie in one word. He's not the flashiest player on the pitch, but he'll give you everything he has. Lacks the pace to be an out and out winger, but so does Luka and he's doing well at it. Jamie is young, left-footed and has the desire to do well wherever he is out on the pitch. I think Harry sees his future more in the middle however, or as a utility-type backup for the club.

Danny Rose: The anointed one. He's been tearing it up in the youth sides as well as the reserves, and has recently gone out on loan to Watford to get some match experience. Those who watch the club closely think he's going to be a real player. He might have a chance at making an impact next year, he will be 19 in the summer and I think will train with the first-team in the preseason, unless Harry brings someone in.

Stuart Downing: If I had a nickel for each time we've been linked with the Boro player. With Boro looking more and more like they are going down, there will be a fire sale at the Riverside, and Downing would probably be the first to go. I have stated before he's not worth 15 million pounds, I don't think he's worth 10 million to be honest. But it seems that it is a requirement to be manager at Tottenham, you must be infatuated with Downing. If we buy anyone in the summer, look for it to be him, though I will reiterate that I think Adam Johnson would be the better Boro winger to buy.

Stephen Hunt: The rumors were hot and heavy in January that he was coming to either us or Aston Villa, and he's still at Reading. I have to wonder about him, he does seem to do well, but in the year that Reading played well in the Premier League, it was Bobby Convey who was first choice, but his injuries allowed Hunt to force his way in the side. As an American fan as well, I can say that Convey is only okay, and if Hunt wants to succeed in the Premier League, he would need to do more than compete with Convey for first choice. Few rumors about him as of late, it seems the bloom is off the rose.

Aidan McGeady: The Celtic winger is being linked with all sorts of clubs, us among them. If you've watched the YouTube highlights, he has the flash, but does he have the substance to be a first-choice winger in the Premier League. I also wonder about his temperament, he's had bust-ups with players and management at Celtic. I would take a pass.

We'll see what happens, there are no shortage of options for Harry, but for now I'm happy with what we've got.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Another Attacking Midfielder? & Pavy Wants to Fight

Spurs are being linked with out of favor Real Madrid player Rafael Van Der Vaart, the 26-year old who only moved to Real this year. It is pretty well known that he and Robben don't get on, and he has thus far failed to make an impression since his big money move.

I have a question about this possible move, why in the world do we need him? We already have a glut of players who can be an attacking force in the center of midfield. Luka Modric and Van Der Vaart are similar, and I'll take Luka any day of the week.

I think this is more of the papers needing to churn some copy before the qualifiers this weekend. Even if Van Der Vaart and Robben don't get on, I don't believe Madrid will give up on a big money buy after only a few months. And also, I think his attitude is not exactly what we need at Spurs.

It always seems like we're buying what we don't need, a right-sided midfielder last summer, and neglecting the positions that need help, such as left-wing. I'd rather have us linked with every left-sided player on the planet, at least then we know that we're trying to balance the side.

The papers today are also quoting Roman Pavlyuchenko as saying that he wants to stay and fight for his place at Tottenham, which is exactly what he needs to say. The fact that he wants to battle for a place and prove his worth to the club should prove something to Harry, unlike Tom Huddlestone who seems to be ready to talk about how frustrating it is not playing. Roman is saying that but is also talking about wanting to earn a spot on the field and prove his worth.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What Spurs Will Leave the Lane this Summer

While the League is on an international break, I thought I would take the time to identify some of the players that might be leaving Tottenham in the summer. Mostly this would be because Harry doesn't rate them and wants to finish putting his own stamp on the team. Some of the players on this list as favorites of mine, some I would be happy to help pack on their way out, but I know that things will change for the club over the summer, just like every season at Spurs it seems.

What I am going to do is list the players that are most likely to leave to those who are only rumored to be moving on.

Darren Bent: Like I've said before he should have his bags packed. He's played well in the last couple of matches but still is not a favorite of Harry's. At the moment I think he's the best of what's available and Harry doesn't want to upset the balance of the team. Probably will move somewhere like Everton, or possibly Aston Villa. We'll be lucky to recoup half of the investment we made in him three years ago.

Giovanni Dos Santos: Was sold and failed the physical. Now out on loan at Ipswich and I think it's a way of showing the wares in a sense for Harry, and then Gio goes and gets another knock. A finesse player to be sure, I don't know if he has the physical stature to stay in the Premier League. Pompey could buy him, but over the course of the summer will probably find someone more suited to their side. I think he might move back to Mexico, somewhere like UNAM Pumas would be a good place to rehab his reputation.

Ricardo Rocha: Hasn't featured in God knows when, doesn't even seem to impress in the reserves. A move abroad is on the cards, maybe back to Portugal. I feel bad for him, but he just doesn't have what is needed to cut it in the Premier League, much like the next player on this list.

Gilberto: I thought he would leave in January, but I don't think we could find a taker. He's far along in his career, and I doubt another European side will take a chance on him. I doubt he wants to go back to Brazil yet, but a good payday at one of the better clubs might be what to doctor ordered.

David Bentley: A nightmare he's hoping to wake up from I'm sure, but that's not going to happen. Has lost the support of the fans, so it's only a matter of time before he's gone, much like Ghaly earlier this season. He'll have no shortage of suitors, Aston Villa, Everton, Manchester City. It's too bad since he was a supporter growing up, but that's the way that football is, isn't it?

Tom Huddlestone: It seems that once or twice a week I'm reading about Tom talking to some reporter about his lack of playing time, and how he didn't sign for Spurs to play in the reserves. Of all the players we are likely to sell on in the summer he probably has the most talent. But it has been unrealized. He's like that kid in class who's smarter than the rest but is too lazy to work at it. I would love for Tom to stick around, but it seems that Harry doesn't think he can motivate him. Fulham would love him as the replacement for Jimmy Bullard. He'll be a good player, but I don't think it will be for us.

Gareth Bale: So much talent, so little shown in a Spurs shirt. Could still be a player, but as I said in an earlier post today, he might be on his way, especially with the emergence of BAE at left-back. There would be a host of teams that would be happy to take him on I am sure, but until he grows as a defender, perhaps a Championship side would be the best destination for him. I still think a loan would do him good, but I don't see that happening.

Roman Pavlyuchenko: Guus Hiddink seems to have taken a page from Harry's book on Pavy. Talking about the talent of another team's player can certainly help unsettle the player and maybe make him look to greener pastures. I think he's a good player who should be given a chance and a real offseason to rest, but since Harry didn't buy him any option could be on the table. Chelsea would love him, so would most other Premier League sides I would think.

Pascal Chimbonda: Harry only wanted him on a loan, but Sunderland knew crap when they had it, so insisted we buy him back. Hasn't featured too much since his arrival, is a malcontent and not too interested in defending to me. Maybe a promoted side would be dumb enough to take him on next season, or send him to France.

Jermaine Jenas: With the way he has featured in the side's resurgence lately I don't think he'll be moving on, but Inter were reportedly interested in January and make a bid in the summer. I'm sure there will be Spurs fans happy to see him go, but I think he's quality and has shown it in the last couple of weeks. He doesn't do anything spectacularly, but is pretty good all over the pitch, and makes a great partner for Palacios in the middle.

So those are the ones whom I think might move on. Modric and Lennon aren't included in this list, because I might be tempted to jump off a bridge if Harry was convinced to let them leave. Not all of these players will leave in the summer, but some certainly will, especially since Harry needs to sell before he can buy.

Is Bale on the Way Out?

With the form that BAE has shown throughout the second half of the season, it seems that Gareth Bale has become one of the forgotten men at Spurs. I think most Spurs followers had recognized Bale's weaknesses, primarily his ability to defend and it has been no surprise that he has not seen the field as of late.

Harry has settled on a back four it seems at this point and Bale has not even been making the bench as of late. When Harry is filling out the team sheet, the defenders he keeps on the bench are Dawson and Chimbonda because of Pascal's versatility, and when Alan Hutton is fit I think he'll be on the bench, putting Bale further down the pecking order.

With Bale basically playing for the reserves at the moment I had wondered if he was going to go out on loan for the rest of the season. Many of our young stars have been loaned out now, and Bale is still only 19 and will certainly get better, but most Spurs fans have seemed to have given up on him.

But my question is, has Harry given up on Gareth? If he was to be loaned out, I would think that would be a sign that Harry thinks that Gareth has a future at the club, as it is he has kept Bale in the team, but is not playing him. Rumors have swirled over the past couple of months that Bale could be sold this summer, and I feel that these rumors could be gaining some credence now.

Levy has apparently told Harry that he must sell before he can buy this summer, and the players that have found themselves on the fringes of the team in the last two months would seem to be the most likely to be sold on by Harry in the summer, primarily Bale, as well as David Bentley, Tom Huddlestone, Pascal Chimbonda and Giovanni Dos Santos. The sales of these players would give Harry a nice little war chest for his purchases this summer.

I'm sorry that Bale might be sold on this summer. He's not ready for us as of yet to play in the Premier League, but like I said, he's only 19, so he has a bright future. But it seems that Harry has already made his decision and Bale will be moving on in the summer.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gomes a Keeper?

With the reemergence of Gomes for the side many will believe that the club's name won't be linked with big-name summer goalkeeper signings. Gomes has looked like the keeper I saw at PSV in the last few weeks, and was outstanding against Chelsea Saturday, but I still feel that another keeper may come into the mix this summer.

Based on the past couple of months I would be happy sticking with Gomes and Carlo Cudicini for next season. If you would have asked me about this two months ago, I would have railed against keeping Gomes. I don't think he's the next Schmeichel, but how many are? He's looked like he has started to adjust to the physical nature of the English game and has earned the trust of his teammates finally.

Having Cudicini and Gomes at the club will allow us to spend our cash on other purchases this summer, but I am sure we will be linked with all manner of keepers, including Joe Hart of Manchester City, Scott Carson of West Brom, and possibly Sebastian Frei as well.

It is something as fans we will have to tolerate all summer, gossip about who's coming, but that's part of the fun of the close season isn't it? Given another two months to prove his quality, Gomes can either cement his place or convince Harry to go shopping. I'm starting to believe that the former is going to be the case, which is good for both him and the club.

King Out for England And A Rose Blooms at Watford

Ledley King has left the England squad ahead of the qualifier this weekend. With so many central defenders in the squad, he was unlikely to feature, and really training would only hinder his chances of playing throughout the rest of the season for Spurs.

I feel so bad for Ledley, his injury is so frustrating, it doesn't limit his ability, but only his fitness. As someone who has had some knee injuries as well, I understand his frustrations. He could be a regular for England, but his knee will never allow him to feature regularly. He can't be in a World Cup squad I would think because of the number of games in such a short amount of time.

As sad as I am for Ledley and his England dream, I am happy as a Spurs fan, hopefully he will be able to rest over the next week and a half and be fit for the match against Blackburn next Saturday. Let's all keep our fingers crossed.

In other Spurs news, another of our young starlets has gone out on loan until the end of the season. Danny Rose has been loaned out to Watford as they struggle to remain in the Championship. Rose is another one of our talented youngsters, like Jonathan Obika and Andros Townsend, who went out on loan last week. This loan will let Rose get a little bit of time on the field and get him ready to feature in the preseason for us next year.

While Rose is young, he has loads of talent, and as a winger, could be a possible answer for us at that troublesome left wing position. But with the way the midfield is playing at the moment, do we want to mess with a good thing? Tell me what you think.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hutton Close to Return? And Other Random Tidbits

Alan Hutton returned to action for Spurs on Monday night, and by all reports looked fit before being substituted in the seventy-first minute. This is good news for the club, he didn't seem to show any ill effects from the long injury layoff, and while he didn't light up the field, (in fact very few full-backs short of Roberto Carlos do) he did what he needed to, got some match experience to get his legs back.

Now he will head off to the Scotland camp, and I don't expect him to play during the qualifiers, though that could be a possibility. A week from Saturday Tottenham travels to Blackburn to take on Rovers, and I would fully expect him to be in the side, though on the bench more than likely.

I have read that the person most likely to come under threat with Hutton back in the side would be BAE. As the people who have read this blog from the beginning know, BAE has been my own personal pinata at times, but I think in the last month he's turned into a decent footballer. I've never seen Hutton play on the left-side and at the moment, BAE and Modric have a good connection and with the form that the club has shown lately, I would not expect Harry to do much tinkering at all with the side.

So Harry was off in Italy watching Diego Milito this weekend? Can't say that I'm surprised, but not really sold on the Argentine. He's a good player, but how will he fit into the side. I still believe that Darren Bent already has movers on retainer for his imminent move away from the Lane, so we need one more good striker, but I don't think Milito would be that answer.

I also don't think that Kenwye Jones is the answer either, the form that he has shown for Sunderland as of late makes me wonder what Harry sees in him. I have also watched him on international duty with Trinidad and Tobago, he doesn't exactly ring my bell there either. But we'll no doubt be linked with just about every striker who could be for sale from now until September, so it's something I'll get used to.

Not too much else from the papers other than the usual transfer gossip, which I think will take up a large portion of this blog while the team is off on international duty, but I will keep an eye on our boys who are representing their countries, especially Aaron Lennon and Ledley King. And Ledley deserved this call-up, but I also think that Woodgate deserved one as well, he has been outstanding for us all season, and for selfish reasons I don't really want to see Ledley on the field for England, because that would almost certainly rule him out for the Blackburn game for us.

Where Has This Spurs Side Been All Season?

I am just now getting my chance to put in my two cents about the great Spurs victory this weekend because my Internet connection died on me over the weekend and the technician cannot come until this week to fix it. But enough about me, what a game by the boys this weekend.

This was a deserved win against a Chelsea side that should have been flying, but stuttered for the first time under Gus Hiddink. I was nervous heading into the game, but my fears were allayed early in the first half when I saw the composure the side was showing. Like I've heard several times over the past couple of days, Tottenham looked like the team that was challenging for the League title, and not Chelsea.

It looks like Harry has finally decided on a group of players that can do the job for him. The only change that was made was Corluka in at right-back, where he should have been from the start against Villa as well. The midfield contingent is working well, Lennon and Modric have been terrifying defenses over the past month and I don't see that changing. By allowing Modric to come infield as he wishes we are getting 3 central midfielders and Modric is even doing well keeping the width of the team at times, when he stays out wide.

I just have to wonder where this team was the whole season. I have a theory about our current run of form, and it includes our new team captain. Since Robbie Keane has come back into the side, we haven't lost a Premier League match, and have tied only two of those matches. The matches we've lost in that time, away to Shakhtar and the Carling Cup Final were games that he couldn't take part in. Could our returning Irishman be our good luck charm after all? Let's see how that progresses throughout the rest of the season.

Just last week I had written a post about not wanting to raise our expectations too much about qualifying for Europe, and I'm not ready to totally retract that article, but I am willing to say that it wouldn't hurt for the lads to try for that position. If we could finish in 7th place it would be an incredible way to end a roller-coaster season, but even if we just finish in the top half of the table I will be happy, and the club should be as well.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Facts on Lennon's New Deal & Early Team News Ahead of Chelsea

Aaron Lennon has agreed to a new deal at Tottenham, which will bring his salary more inline with the other first-team players at the club. Some websites and papers are reporting that it's a five-year deal, while others are reporting that it's a two-year deal.

From what I have been able to gather, he has signed an extension to his current deal, which ran until 2012. He signed for an additional two years, keeping him under contract until 2014, and adjusted his pay rate for the years in the previous deal, bringing him more in line with the others at the club.

In the rumors that Lennon might be headed elsewhere, the fact that he wasn't among the top earners, or even in the same league as the top earners at the club was a sticking point, but this has now been rectified.

Does this mean that Lennon won't be a target of big clubs this summer? No, I think Liverpool and possibly Real Madrid might try and make a big for him this summer, but with him signing a new deal, it does show that he wants to be at the club, and hopefully we can keep him. This is certainly encouraging.

Jermain Defoe has been ruled out for tomorrow's match against Chelsea, I didn't think he was training yet, so of course he'd be out. Alan Hutton will play a reserve match on Monday night to help regain fitness, but otherwise no injury worries. Ledley King expects to play after having the week off for his knee. Here is my early thoughts on what the lineup will be tomorrow.


Corluka, Woodgate, King, BAE

Lennon, Palacios, Jenas, Modric

Bent, Keane

Substitutes: Cudicini, Dawson, Chimbonda, Bentley, Zokora, Huddlestone, Pavlyuchenko

I think that Harry will keep the pairing of Bent & Keane after the way they played last weekend, though bringing back Pavlyuchenko would not be a bad idea with his height.

The other changes I would think would be possibly Chimbonda at right-back because of the pace of whatever winger is on the left side for Chelsea, but Corluka certainly did the job against Villa last Sunday. Also, Carlo Cudicini could come in the side, if anyone knows the tendencies of Chelsea players it would be Carlo, but I doubt Harry disrupts the side too much. We'll see what Harry pulls out of his hat tomorrow.

Spurs Team News for 3/20 & No Lennon for England?

Ahead of the big match versus Chelsea tomorrow there isn't much bad news coming out of the club, which is always good. Alan Hutton won't feature in the Chelsea match, Harry has stated that Hutton will play for the reserves on Monday evening before going off to join up with the Holland squad. He could be in for a place against Blackburn after the international window.

Jermain Defoe is inching closer to fitness. I would fully expect to see him training with the lads after the international break, and maybe featuring in the side by the middle of April.

4 Spurs were named to the England U-21 side yesterday, including Tom Huddlestone, Jamie O'Hara, Frazier Campbell and Aaron Lennon. Does this say something about Lennon's chances for a senior England call-up? A player is selected for both squads on occasion, but it doesn't happen too terribly often, so this could mean that even with his blistering form as of late, Lennon has not impressed Fabio Capello enough to get in the squad. What more does the little guy need to do to come back in from the international wilderness? We'll see when the senior England side is announced.

And finally, the club has reported a record 39.8 million pound profit for last year. So even spending like drunken sailors in the transfer market, we still managed to turn a profit thanks to the sales of Berbatov and Keane. Now I wonder how our books will look next year since we've been buying back all those players that we sold on.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Do Spurs Need Another Brazilian?

Okay all jokes aside with the Brazilian line there, you can't help but think of "Special1TV" when mentioning that, Spurs are now being linked with another Brazilian player. Granted we will probably be linked with just about every player over the next couple of months, papers have to churn copy don't they, but this one might have some legs.

The player that is rumored to be a target of not just Tottenham, but of Chlesea, Manchester City and Newcastle as well is 25 year old winger Michel Bastos. He has been at Lille for three seasons, and is supposed to have a dynamite left foot and is a true left-winger. He has also netted 11 goals for his club this season, pretty impressive for a winger, or a midfielder in general.

He has good pace, can take a few goals and is young and still growing into his frame, so he sounds great right? I'm not so sure. Look at our record with Brazilian players in the last couple of years. First off, Gilberto. I think the less said the better on that one, don't you? Next up is Gomes, who has played better, but is still far from being the shot-stopper we all thought we were getting in the summer.

Brazilians aren't all flops in the English game, but at Spurs they have certainly had trouble adjusting. It seems that a lot of the Brazilian players have trouble adapting to the English style of the game for whatever reason, and not just at Spurs, whether it is the physical style of play or the weather, or some other factor. In the past couple of years Brazilians have been taking England by storm, and now you have players like Rafeal at United and Robinho at City who are going to be great players in the League.

Our two Brazilians have certainly taken their time to settle, with Gomes even complaining on several occasions of the lack of fouls called for goalkeepers in the League. Gilberto has never settled, and will be moving again in the summer, at least I hope.

Would Spurs do well signing Bastos? He has been in the French League, not known for it's physical play either, and he may have trouble adjusting to the style of the English game. I don't want to sound like someone who only wants to sign British players, but the Premier League is a different style of play and it can take some time for foreigners to settle. Given the short leash that has been exhibited at times by Harry, this could be disasterous, but if he is buying the player he will certainly give him some more time.

Bastos' name will be one that will be linked with Spurs throughout the summer, and though I don't know if he'd be the answer to our long-standing left-wing problem, I still think he'd be a better buy than Stuart Downing. But that may not be saying too much. We'll just have to wait and see how Harry plays things throughout the summer.

Can Spurs Secure a European Place?

Alan Hansen mentioned in a column that many of us Spurs fans read with reverence yesterday about the ability for Harry's men to challenge for a European place this season. It is not out of the realm of possibility that we could qualify for Europe, but it would be a titanic, and I hate to say it but, an unlikely feat.

Doesn't it just seem like a week ago that we were worrying about the possibility of relegation? Oh, that's right, we were. We still are not totally to safety, and Harry even mentioned that this week in the papers when he said that we needed "two more wins" for safety. This year's Premier League table has been unlike any one I've seen in that anyone in the bottom half of the table shouldn't be too comfortable. Even now with our good run of form in the past few weeks we are still only 6 points from the bottom of the table. Six points is a lot better than in the past months for the club, but it is astounding that we are just now securing safety and turning our attention to Europe at the same time. It seems like we're fighting a war on two fronts, doesn't it?

I'm all for challenging ourselves and having goals to strive for, but it just seems peculiar to me that the papers are turning their attention to us now. I think that says more about those in the positions of 7-10 than anything else, when you look at Manchester City, Wigan, West Ham and Fulham, all good teams, but do they have more talent than us? In a word no. That is why the papers are making a fuss about us now, we are starting to look like the team that everyone thought we would at the beginning of the season, and the pundits are comparing the talent and seeing that we have more and thinking we are just going to keep inching our way up the table.

It would be good to qualify for Europe, I think the rumors of some players wanting to move on would be squelched since we would be offering European football as well, and probably attract a higher caliber of player in the transfer market. But I also wonder if it would be good for us to be out of Europe for a season, making us concentrate on the League and making sure our form is first notch. But believe me, I won't complain if we keep taking points and moving up the table.

Are Spurs Becoming A Loaning Bank?

Two more players have gone out on loan today, this time it's Andros Townsend and Jonathan Obika going to Luton Town. Both of these lads are still playing in academy and reserve team matches, so some real playing time in League One should at least toughen them up a little.

We all know of the high hopes for Obika at the club, and I think that either next season or the year after will see him competing for a place in the first team. Townsend's development could be a little more stunted. He's an attacking midfielder, which we have plenty of, but the good news for him is that he can also play out on the left side. I think Townsend is at least 2 seasons away from joining the first team, if we don't sell him on at some point, like has happened with other promising Academy players.

Both of these boys will do well training with a first-team, and adjusting to a new area, it will help them grow up and mature, and hopefully allow them to prepare to compete in preseason training next summer.

It does seem like we're becoming a bank, with 6 loans of players in the last week. The reason is the relatively few number of fixtures left for the team, and the lack of first-team opportunities for the lads through the rest of the season and Harry wants them to play. So, hopefully some of them will stick around next season and get an opportunity, primarily Taarabt and Obika.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Modric Shouldn't Go Anywhere & Other Various Tidbits

Rumors keep on flying that Luka Modric could move to Serie A this summer, for around 23 million pounds. No doubt these rumors were helped along by his agent, talking about how Luka would do well in Italy. He says that few teams can afford him, but "The Special One" and Inter are apparently being given 100 million pounds to raid English clubs in the summer.

Jose was rumored to be interested in Jermaine Jenas in the January window and might make a push for him in the summer, but as his form has improved, and the way that he has combined with Palacios I don't think Harry will sell him on, unless Jose offers silly money to the club. I think that Jose will come in for Luka, I just have that feeling, and Harry should fight tooth and nail to keep him. At some point I am afraid that Luka will probably move on to greener pastures, but that shouldn't be for a couple of seasons more. At least let's hope.

Roman Pavlyuchenko has spoken to the press insisting that he hasn't been dropped from the first team, which I don't think anyone really thought had happened. He isn't first choice at the moment with Harry but he hasn't been dropped to the reserves like Ramos did with a number of players in the summer. Roman still has a future with the club, a summer of rest and a preseason with the club will make him a better player.

Both Adel Taarabt & Giovanni Dos Santos won rave reviews in their debuts for their loan clubs respectively, with Adel being hailed by all sorts of publications. This is exactly what Adel needed, a good run in a team, and a chance to help repair his confidence and enjoy his football. I think next season we will start to see something on a regular basis from young Adel.

Who we're rumored to be buying today is Sheffield United defender Kyle Naughton who is an England U21 international. He seems like a fine player, but why exactly would we buy him? He is a right-back who can also play right-wing, two positions where we have more than enough cover. Look on the left side Harry!

And finally, Alan Hansen is tipping our Spurs to secure a spot in Europe this season. Yes, we are only 5 points adrift of 7th place, but as optimistic as I try to stay about the club, I don't see that as happening. We're barely catching our breath after the relegation battle, let's try and secure a Top 10 finish, and worry about Europe and particularly challenging for a Champions League place next season.

Best Strike Partnership At Spurs?

After being threadbare in the striker department earlier in the season, we now seem to be spoilt for choice. As the season winds down, we have seen many different combos of our strikers, and I think Harry has finally decided to stick with two up top, and not one striker and someone like Modric playing off that lone striker.

But which pairing is the best for the team? A lot of it depends on the team we are playing, and the form of each individual striker at the moment.

Keane and Bent: This seems to be Harry's first choice pairing at the moment, and they looked pretty good against Villa. You don't have the traditional target-man, and instead have two players who like to come off the ball, and someone in Keane who likes to drop deep to involve himself in the play. A good lineup against slow center-backs, but against quicker pairings, could be trouble.

Keane and Pavlyuchenko: Roman seems to have to lost some favor with Harry over the last couple of weeks, and I would think that he is exhausted at this point. Roman does offer that target player that a team needs at times. For someone so tall he doesn't dominate in the air, but has scored a few times off of headers. He and Robbie seemed to have been getting a rapport, but now not having played together for a few weeks, who knows?

Keane and Defoe: Once Jermain gets back to fitness I would like to see this pairing given a go by Harry. Jol and Ramos never thought this pairing could work, but Defoe is similar to Bent in his style of play, and Harry has been playing Bent and Robbie together. If this pairing could come together it could be dynamite for us.

I'm not including Frazier Campbell, his time is running out and Harry has more established strikers. As you can see the only definite I think Harry has is Keane, especially since he's now captain, and he brings a spark and fight to the team that can be missing otherwise. What do you think the best pairing is? I'm thinking Defoe and Keane, but we'll see if Harry agrees with me.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Which Right-Back for Tottenham?

We have the unusual luxury of having up to five people who can slot in at right-back. I wonder if this is what Harry was meaning when he said the club was unbalanced, 4 players for one position, while we still don't have a left-winger. But who should be lining up in the back 4 every week for Spurs? Each player in the frame has their attributes and drawbacks, which can be frustrating.

Vedran Corluka: Currently seems to be the first-choice at right-back, and has settled well since his move from Manchester City in the summer. He's been consistent, something that has been sorely lacking in the side this season. He's not spectacular, and certainly not very flashy, but he's been getting the job done. Harry does seem to worry about him at times though, especially against speedy wingers, he must feel that Corluka's lack of pace can be a detriment to the club. So can he stay first-choice if Harry is going to want someone to handle the speedy wingers? He can play in the middle, but I think he is too talented to just be a squad player.

Alan Hutton: Has pace, and can get forward in the attack, but cannot seem to stay off the training table. I'm not really sure what Harry thinks of him, as he's only had him available for a handful of fixtures before he got injured again. He can play against the speedy wingers where Corluka has problems, but is he as consistent as Vedran? I've liked what I've seen, but I've seen far too little to be able to say for sure. The jury's out I would think.

Chris Gunter: Loads of potential, but is only 19, and has looked very raw when he has been thrust into the action. Did well in the UEFA & Carling Cups, but not quite ready for facing the big boys of the Premier League week in and week out. Going out on loan will help him, and I would think maybe another loan spell next season would do the trick. Nice to have in the background.

Pascal Chimbonda: Remember when he was challenging for Player of the Year honors at Wigan? I know, it seems strange to think that now, but Pascal was considered a very good player at one point. I think those days are gone now. Was bought for cover and I wouldn't be surprised if he was plying his trade somewhere else next season. A waste of 3 million pounds in January, and not playing ahead of Hutton and Corluka.

Didier Zokora: Can play at right-back in a pinch, though I don't think he'll be doing it too much more after his performance on Sunday. Tries hard, but far down in the pecking order, I think his role is to be a reserve midfielder at this point, and that's about it.

So, when you really look at it, it comes down to Corluka and Hutton for the right-back slot most of the time. Either one would work for me, though Charley has clearly been the workhorse this season. Expect to see Harry clear out some of the deadweight at this position (i.e. Chimbonda) and develop Gunter for the future.

Spurs Team News for 3/17 & Not All This Again

Well, like that same nightmare you had over and over as a child, the rumors have begun about Stuart Downing making his way to the Lane again. No matter what happens with Boro Downing is not likely to stay at the Riverside much longer. We've been rumored to be buying him for years and year, and each time a deal doesn't come to fruition.

We offered somewhere in the realm of 13 million for Downing in January and Boro turned it down flat. I like Downing, but don't think he is a 13 million pound player, but inflation and football seem to go hand in hand now. If Boro are relegated, they will be having a fire sale and we could probably steal him for 7-8 million pounds, but I will say again that I think we would be buying the wrong Boro winger. I would go after Adam Johnson, he's younger, has pace galore, is a bit cheaper than Downing, and I think would make a great pair with Lennon on the flanks.

But we'll see how that goes with Downing, the rumors have already started and probably won't be settled until mid-July. Stay tuned for more info on this as it comes out.

Alan Hutton has been handed a surprise recall to the Scotland squad. He's just coming back into training, and probably before he sees the field for us again, he'll trot out for Scotland. Not bad for a player who's been out for 4 months with injury.

Roman Pavlyuchenko did not exactly light up the reserve game last night, including missing a penalty, so the rumors have started again about him moving on from the club in the summer. I don't think that's going to happen, I think he's exhausted after playing for a straight year and needs a holiday, but the papers will have fun with it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A 55 Million Pound Reserve Team?

The reserves beat up on the Chelsea reserves last night, by the score of 4-0. That's good for Clive Allen and the club as a whole, but there has to be a question asked, do we have enough talent that we are sending out 55 million pounds for a reserve match, or has the club invested poorly in the transfer market?

Unfortunately I'm inclined to say that the latter is probably the case. We have a lot of talent in the team, and having certain players play in a reserve game will keep them sharp. Gareth Bale needs some time on the field to be able to improve his form, and by all accounts he did well tonight.

We also have the youngsters that need these games to be able to prepare them to break into the first-team over time, Ben Alnwick, John Obika, Danny Rose, and Andros Townsend are the perfect examples of this. Their all starting to dominate the youth matches they play, and need the time in the reserves to sharpen them up. I like the reserve system for this reason, it helps us nurture our youngsters so we don't have to go and spend large amounts of money in the transfer market.

But here's what worries me, established first-team players who are in the reserves. Bale, Ricardo Rocha, (not a first-team player anymore, but where else does he go), Gilberto, (same boat as Rocha), David Bentley, Tom Huddlestone and Roman Pavlyuchenko are all good players, but they were all bought by former managers.

These players account for 50 million pounds that the club has paid out, and how many of them are going to be with the club in the long-term? Rocha and Gilberto were rush buys in the January window, Rocha for cover in the middle, Gilberto for God knows why. Huddlestone, Bentley and Bale were all bought with the hopes that they would be cornerstones of the team, but haven't done the job this season. Pavy is still getting adjusted to the English game, but it must be a blow to the ego to be playing in the reserves.

What is the future of the those in the reserves tonight? Well, the future is bright for lots of the youngsters, Obika, Rose, Townsend and even Alnwick have futures at the club. Bale could still have a future with the club, but I don't see Huddlestone, or Bentley around for too much longer.

How should the reserve system go forward? We need to make sure the youngsters continue to get a run-out, and having the fringe first-team players getting some time on the field. But it seems very strange that Bentley, Huddlestone and Pavlyuchenko would be fringe first team players, at around 35 million pounds for just the three of them.

The transfer policy at the club has been flawed for some time, and it is really starting to show it's cracks now. The club cannot have wholesale changes, that will only make next season the same as this, struggling for results as players try to get used to playing with each other. But the club has to be careful as the season ends and the transfer window opens again. We're already being rumored to be buying Kenwye Jones again, McGeady the Celtic winger, and a host of other players. Harry should spend wisely this summer, he's of course going to buy players, but he shouldn't be buying a whole new squad. Given some time, some of these players in the reserves might even come good, we just need to give them some time.

Tell me what you think of our transfer policy. There will be an article later this week where I examine the transfers in the club over the past couple of seasons, and the staggering amount of money we've spent on players that haven't exactly panned out, and those that have as well.

Hutton to Begin Training & Defoe's Not Far Away

Alan Hutton is expected to begin training with the team again this week, possibly even on Monday. He has been sidelined since November with a foot injury, and his return to the squad will give Harry another option at right-back.

Since it seems that Harry gets nervous about the pace of Corluka against the speedy wingers, ie Ashley Young, it will be good for Harry to have Hutton as a choice against those wingers again, instead of slotting in Zokora who was overmatched yesterday.

There are still rumors about Hutton moving on in the summer, but I think in the last couple of months to the season he'll prove that he has a place at the club. I don't expect him to be in the squad against Chelsea this weekend, but he could make his return against Blackburn after the international break.

On other injury news, Jermain Defoe is close to beginning training again. I would expect to see him back in training next week, and possibly making the bench versus Blackburn. Jermain has made a good recovery from his foot injury and I am excited to see him back in the side, he was doing well before the injury. I am curious if Harry will have the same reservations about playing him and Keane together, I think that they could be a good pairing, we would definitely have pace up front then. We'll see what Harry has in store soon.

Happy Days at the Lane Again?

I think we all can agree that yesterday's victory was a sweet, and that the team are on a good run of form. The major problem that we've had all season is inconsistency, once Harry took over we popped up for a bit and then struggled again. You were never sure which Spurs side you were going to get.

But I am going out on a limb and saying that things have changed. With 11 points from our last 5 games, we are starting to show the form that we were all expecting at the beginning of the season. I was especially happy with yesterday's performance, Villa have been in the place that I think we all expected to be in, and we showed our class against them.

The midfield is starting to come together, and I know that Jenas is still a sacrificial lamb for most of the supporters, I am finding his performances to be better and more like they were in the 05/06 season. Palacios is providing that bite we needed in the midfield, and Lennon and Modric are providing that creative spark.

The defense is solid, and I agree with Harry when he says that when together, King and Woodgate are as good a center back pairing as there is in the Premiership. King oozes class, and it honestly hurts me to watch him play, you can see the talent he has, and the injuries just cripple and limit him. You wish you could go back to that game at Newcastle three years ago and pull him off before he hurt his knee, maybe things would be different then.

I think one of the biggest reasons for our turnaround is the return of the prodigal son, Robbie Keane. He was always a talisman when he was here before, and since he has come back we have been productive, and flashing more creativity. He's netted a couple of goals for us, but I think his contribution is more psychological than anything else. It's as if the lads believe that he can take the opportunities that are presented, they know they have a first-class striker up top, which is improving play throughout the side.

Now that we're a few months out from Harry's first transfer period, I say the returns are pretty good. Keane and Palacios are automatic first-choices for the side, and Defoe will be competing for a spot when he regains his fitness. Cudicini might not be playing, but he is challenging Gomes and making Gomes perform better. The only dud for me would be Chimbonda, but I didn't like him on the first go round with the club either.

So, I don't want to jinx the lads, but it looks like we are finally starting to look like the team we were expecting, and it should make for an exciting last couple of months to the season.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spurs Do In the Villians W/Player Ratings

Where has this team been most of the season? We went out flying and were in great control of the game until that late goal by Carew. I think they just want me to have to start seeing a cardiologist with these late sweats in matches. Overall, a great performance by the team, I was hopeful for a win, but I would have been very happy with a draw. Villa have been great all season, but have had a dip in form as of late, and I think we caught them at the right time.

Harry had said after the Hull game that we would need four wins to make sure we stay up, we're halfway there only 3 games after he made the proclamation, not bad at all. Looking at the League, since the beginning of February against Arsenal, we have drawn 2 and won 3, and more importantly, no losses.

Our midfield was outstanding, with Lennon and Jenas really doing well dictating the play today. It seems that this midfield is starting to gel, and even our favorite whipping boy Darren Bent showed something today.

I was curious as to what Harry was doing when he put in Zokora at right-back. I guess I am still wondering, but my guess was that Zokora had more pace than Corluka to keep up with Ashley Young but it was clearly a mismatch from the start. You can't really fault Zokora, he was out of position, but just looked second-best, and I was so relieved to see Corluka come on.

More results like this will do a lot for building confidence ahead of next season. With Chelsea coming to the Lane next week, I will be hoping for a draw, they have played a lot better since Hiddink took charge, and look forward to trying to grab 3 points against Blackburn, Newcastle and West Brom down the road. Good performance overall, it was nice to enjoy a game and not sweat and swear through the whole thing.

Player Ratings:

Gomes- 7 Gomes did well overall, it seems like he has reestablished himself as the No. 1 at the club. That was not something I would have expected even a month ago, but that's how football can be. Made some good stops, and handled his area better, still is a little shaky, but he's getting there. Couldn't be faulted on the goal, unless he had come out to punch it away, but Woodgate had been winning those challenges all day. The only thing that baffled me was him chasing that wayward cross early in the first half and then letting it run into touch, giving Villa a throw. But that's Gomes now isn't it?

Zokora- 5 Playing out of position, and was torched by Ashley Young constantly. Harry was smart to sub him, already on a yellow and not able to keep up with Young he would have been trouble throughout the match if he'd stayed on.

Woodgate- 7 Would have been higher except for that late cross where he was out-jumped by Carew. He has been so solid this season, and today was no different, he contained Heskey and Agbonlahor well throughout the match.

King- 7.5 Another fine performance from Ledley. He and Woodgate work so well together in defense, you can only imagine where we would be if Ledley didn't have his knee problems. Did a good job of controlling play and patrolling the middle.

BAE- 7 If there was an award for most-improved player this season, BAE would certainly deserve it. He was my whipping boy, and I still doubt him at times, but he has been solid in the last month and a half. Did well containing Milner today, and only had one true lapse in concentration, with that give away in the first half. Is getting to be pretty solid, and combining well with Luka.

Lennon- 8 Another performance from Aaron that should have Fabio Capello thinking. He made Luke Young look bad throughout the match. Great ball in on the JJ goal, if he keeps popping in balls like that, there will be nothing defenses can do to stop him short of fouling him. Also had a great shot that was inches wide, which would have totally iced the game for us.

Palacios- 6.5 Not Wilson's finest performance in the shirt, but he did well. He made good tackles and helped control the middle of the park, but his dribbling and passing were a touch off today. Still better than most holding midfielders even on an off day though.

Jenas- 8 My Man of the Match. Did well to be in the box for the early goal, something he needs to do more of. Had several other shots that looked good and did very well controlling play in the middle of the park. Tackled well, helped close down Ashley Young when needed, and his passing was crisp and creative today. Combined well with Lennon and Keane, and looked like the player that was in the England squad several years ago.

Modric- 6.5 Not the best day for Luka, but not a bad one either. Had some good movement and passing, the only real fault I have is he probably should have squared the ball to Keane or cut it back to Bent in the first half instead of taking the shot himself. A good shift, he's showing he has the mettle to handle the Premier League.

Keane- 7.5 He's really regaining the form that he had before he left the club in the summer. Dropped back and picked up play, had good passes and a couple of good shots, though I don't think the second goal would have gone in without Bent's help.

Bent- 7 A surprisingly good game for Bent. Was in the right place for the goal, but more importantly, he made good runs, fought for the ball and was active throughout the game. One of his best performances of the season, I was pleasantly surprised.


Corluka- 7.5 Came on in relief of Zokora, and barely put a foot wrong the rest of the match. Young was almost completely shut down after Corluka came on. Even got forward and had some good play, which wasn't really needed, but is nice to have from your right-back.

O'Hara- 6.5 Came on late for Modric to help kill off the game, and played his role well. Made a couple of passes and got the ball clear, which is what was needed.

Spurs Lineup Versus Villa

Harry has kept Darren Bent in the starting lineup against Villa today. I guess that will be good, as the pace of him and Keane could give Knight and Davies problems. The only changes Harry made was to bring back BAE over the woeful Chimbonda and to have Zokora start in the right back slot in place of Corluka. Let's hope it's a winning side.



Zokora, Woodgate, King, BAE

Lennon, Palacios, Jenas, Modric

Bent, Keane

Substitutes: Cudicini, Corluka, Dawson, O'Hara, Bentley, Huddlestone, Pavlyuchenko

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spurs News for 3/14

The lads seem to be confident heading up to Aston Villa tomorrow. The team has few injury worries to deal with, with Hutton and Defoe being the only ones out with injuries, and both are expected back in training relatively soon.

The players are saying all of the right things ahead of the match with Villa, with Ledley King and Harry talking about how Spurs need to follow Villa's example of how to go about the League next year, with the same results hopefully to follow. It seems to be a love fest between the two clubs, so I am expecting a fierce battle tomorrow, nothing dirty, but good hard football.

Tom Huddlestone has discussed his uncertain future again at Spurs. He said that you never know what will happen in football, and isn't sure of what his future will hold, even though he has four years left on his contract. He also stated that he would expect "a number of changes" at the club in the summer, which would seem strange. I have a feeling some new players will come in, but only a few will be leaving, but Tom is more in the know of course, so we will see.

Harry has reiterated that he will be the one making transfer decisions in the summer, and he alone, unlike in prior years. He also said that he won't be selling Luka Modric & Aaron Lennon in the summer, which will be good news for the club.

I'm expecting a similar lineup to the one we've been using in the last couple of weeks. My only real question would if Darren Bent will start again, or if Roman Pavlyuchenko will get the nod tomorrow. Here is my early lineup for the club tomorrow:


Corluka, Woodgate, King, BAE

Lennon, Palacios, Jenas, Modric

Keane, Pavlyuchenko

Substitutes: Cudicini, Dawson, Chimbonda, Huddlestone, Bentley, Zokora, Bent

King's Future with Spurs

Ledley King is almost universally beloved by Spurs fans, and it has pained many of us to watch him struggle with knee injuries over the past couple of seasons. As his contract concludes next year Harry has been quoted as saying he should be a Spur for life. But what is Ledley's future to be?

With the season winding up and our fixture list not nearly as congested as before, this is allowing Ledley to play in almost every match for us. When the League reverts to a normal, once weekly fixture list, it fits in well with Ledley's ability to get on the field. As next season comes along, we will not be in Europe and our fixture list will be less congested, I am wondering what the best role for Ledley would be.

I believe that his best role would be as a League-only player, much like he's been throughout this year. Having him focus only on the League will take some pressure off of him to try and be fit for other competitions. Let Dawson and Woodgate be the first choice center-back pairing for any cups, or Europe if we get back there at some point.

This would allow Ledley to bring a calm to the back 4 in the League, which should always be the priority for the club, and give Dawson a chance to have regular playing time as well. Most midweek League matches would also have to be manned by Dawson, but this should give all the players in the center back rotation a good number of games, without tiring out too man of them.

Ledley had so much promise as a player, if he would have stayed fit I would think he'd be challenging to be a first choice center back for England at this point, but that is not too be. By focusing on one competition this will allow Ledley to stay as active as possible, and contribute to the club, without compromising his health. If Harry were to deploy this strategy, and I think that he is already thinking along these lines, we will be able to see the King at the Lane for several more seasons.

The Usual Gang of Suspects

With only a few games left in the season, and more importantly the games that we have occurring a week apart, we shouldn't have too many problems with players being fit for the game each week. Now of course since I've said this, the injury bug will hit us, but I am keeping my fingers crossed that will not be the case.

The question becomes with the way the games are spaced out, what is our best team, and what is our best squad? Who is going to be left out of the squad each week and find themselves playing their football in the reserves for the rest of the season?

Harry is starting to find a team that is somewhat regular, and I feel that it is a side that he is going to stick with as the season goes on. The biggest competition and unkown on the pitch would be in goal, where Gomes has been playing better, but will still be challenged by Carlo Cudicini. I think Harry is trusting Gomes more and will stick with him in the nets until he has a clanger of a game, which with Gomes is never far off.

We have a clear back four, in Corluka, Woodgate, King and BAE. The fact that the games are so spaced out over the rest of the season is so important for Ledley, as has been mentioned in many articles as of late, the time in between matches allows him to recover and play regularly in the back. As well as Dawson has played this season, King brings a calm to the back 4 that just isn't there other times.

It seems that Harry is starting to find a midfield that he likes, with Lennon on the right, Modric on the left, with Palacios and Jenas manning the middle. Modric is given free reign to drift infield as he wants to create for the team, with Jenas and Palacios providing the bite that Harry wants in the middle of the park. It has been an effective pairing in the last couple of matches, and I think that as they play together more these 4 will become more comfortable with each other.

Up top, the obvious play is of course Robbie Keane and I think that Harry is going to pair him with Roman Pavlyuchenko usually. Harry played Keane with Bent last week and it didn't seem to go too well. The pairing of Keane and Pavy seemed to work well against Boro, and especially against Villa this weekend, the combo of size and guile that the two have will trouble the Villans center backs.

Now that we have a starting 11 basically established, let's think about the bench. As we have loaned out players in the last week, we have cleared the decks somewhat, but we still have a plethora of players for spots basically to sit on the bench. In the back, the loser of the competition between Gomes and Cudicini each week will be the deputy, so no surprises there.

In the way the substitutes are always set up, there are two places on the substitutes bench for defenders, and lots of competition for those spots. The obvious reserve is Dawson, who has played well throughout the season, and our only reliable center back in reserve. The question comes in between Pascal Chimbonda, Gareth Bale and in a few weeks Alan Hutton back in contention for a place in the squad. So three players for one spot, who will win? Sadly I don't think it will be Gareth Bale. He has fallen down the pecking order with Harry and I think that we won't see him much on the field for the rest of the season. Hutton will challenge Corluka for the start at right-back in a few weeks, with Chimbonda being the utility man in reserve for the defense.

The biggest competition for places comes in the midfield. Three spots on the bench for midfielders usually, and look at the options we have to fill them. Zokora, Huddlestone, Bentley,& O'Hara are all quality players. Harry's faith in Zokora seems to be unflinching, so we will see him on the bench most of the time I feel, with Hudd, Bentley and O'Hara competing for places. No matter how you cut it, a quality English player will be left to languish in the reserves through the rest of the season, but we have to do what's best for the club don't we? I think more often than not the two substitutes will be Huddlestone and Bentley, with O'Hara being the odd man out.

Finally, up top, where we were so thin earlier this season, we now are spoilt for choice. Bent is the obvious choice for the reserve striker at the moment, but in a few short weeks Jermain Defoe will be back to fitness and if he isn't in the starting lineup, definitely expect to find him as the first striker off the bench, sending Bent to the reserves and away from the club in the summer. The other forgotten man is loanee Frazier Campbell, whom I don't think we'll see wear a Spurs shirt again. His loan move will be over soon and he'll head back to Manchester, not exactly having lit up London, but also not given too much of a chance.

So that's the usual gang of suspects we should have pulling on the shirts over the next two months. There will be some very good players not even making the squad on a regular basis, which in the long run is good for the club because of the competition for places.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bentley's Nightmare of a Season

This was certainly not what David Bentley had in mind when he moved to Tottenham this past summer from Blackburn. His big money arrival was trumpeted throughout the English press, and the fact that he was coming to play for his boyhood team just made the story all the more compelling.

But the feel good story of the summer went south when the season actually started. I was curious where Bentley was going to fit into the side when we bought him, but decided to see where Ramos deployed him. But the fact that Bentley came into the club, to seemingly challenge the place of Aaron Lennon, motivated Lennon to become the player that we've thought he could be and therefore banished Bentley to the left-side, where he is ill-suited at best, or worse the bench.

Short of the wonder goal that he scored at Arsenal, we have seen none of the quality that he displayed at Blackburn last year. In fact, the flicks that used to serve him well have done nothing to endear him to Spurs supporters, as most often these flicks have been intercepted by the other team.

I think the low point for him had to be last week, first in the Carling Cup, when he was brought on only because Lennon cramped up, and then missed the penalty that he stepped up to take. To follow that up, when he was announced as a substitute against Boro in the middle of the week, the supporters booed him, and I suspect Harry wasn't going to bring him off the bench unless his life depended on it at that point.

Where has it gone wrong for someone who was recently in the England squad and hyped as the next great English right-winger? Well the first answer would be having to play on the left side. It is tough to work your way into a new team even when you are playing a position you feel comfortable in, much less on the opposite side of the field. Yes, professionals should be able to play with both feet, but as clearly demonstrated by Pascal Chimbonda against Sunderland that is not the case.

I think part of the problems could also stem from the fact that he was a purchase by Juande Ramos. When he was relieved of his duties, I am sure many of those players that he signed were left thinking "What now?" as Harry came into the club. Luka Modric has come on strong, but he has been shuffled around the field as Harry has looked for his best position, and he's been the best of the signings.

Look at the returns from the other Ramos imports. Gomes has been a shambles in the nets for us, and though he is rebounding a bit, I don't expect to see him at the club next year. Givanni Dos Santos was another high profile coup for Ramos, and has found himself on the outside of the squad looking in since Harry came in. Vedran Corluka has acquitted himself well as our right-back and I think Roman Pavlyuchenko will become a good striker for us over time, but the results haven't been there this season.

So Bentley is a square-peg for a round hole to use a cliche. He is not Harry's player, and most of us were aware with some of his attitude problems at the beginning of the season, which didn't endear him to Harry we are sure. I have little doubt than when Harry was complaining about players who didn't "get stuck in" or have "the heart and fight" that the club needed he was pointing the finger at Bentley, who seemed more concerned with flicks and tricks than tackles at the beginning of the year.

The rumors are all over that Bentley is on his way out after just one season, with the Villans being the likely destination for him. Is that really necessary? How little patience are we showing if we are ready to run a player out of town after just one year? I will admit I am not a huge fan of Bentley, I like all fans have my favorite players, and he isn't one of them, but the stick that he has received is not fair. I think in many cases he has been made the scapegoat for the troubles that have plagued the club all year.

I don't think we are going to see Bentley playing in a Spurs shirt next year, I think Harry's mind has been made up, but I feel bad that he hasn't had time to settle and show us what he can do. He is a talented player, which is probably the most frustrating part of this ordeal. He can hack it, but just hasn't so far. Over time Bentley will probably look back on Spurs year as a nightmare, and so will many of the supporters.

But I don't want us to be too hasty in showing him the door this summer, because if Liverpool make an audacious bid for Lennon, and offer him Champions League football, he might want to leave, no matter how much Harry insists he will keep our big players at the club. He could become like Michael Carrick, a player who wants to move on even if we want to keep him, and we might have to let him go. At that point, we would definitely need to keep Bentley, because given an extended run as the right winger, he could be a player for Spurs after all.

Gareth Bale Should Be the Next to Move

With the news of loan signings galore coming out from the club today, I want to propose another player to go out on loan for the rest of the season, and that would be Gareth Bale. The other nineteen year-olds in the squad have moved out for the rest of the season, and I believe it would benefit Bale to go for a bit as well.

Harry doesn't rate Bale as a defender right now, especially with how BAE has turned into a decent footballer throughout the year. When he rested BAE against Sunderland, Bale wasn't even in the squad and Chimbonda looked atrocious as the left-back, who didn't play the ball with his left foot at all.

Every Spurs fan, and most other supporters know of Bale's infamous record with Spurs in Premier League contests. I can't blame him too much as he was injured through most of last year, and when he was playing this year it was mostly for Ramos and we all remember fondly the beginning of the season, don't we? I don't think Bale is going to see the field too much more this season, with the lack of fixtures now BAE will be fully rested before each match.

By allowing Bale to go out on loan until the end of the season, we are not admitting defeat in signing him, we are developing him as a player. Let him go back to Southampton for the rest of the season and watch him help fight to keep the Saints up. Or allow him to go somewhere near the playoff picture, such as Preston North End, who were rumored to be interested in Gunter, and let him fight for promotion.

He was the "next big thing" when he was in the Championship, and by honing his skills for two more months he might be able to make a dent in the side next year. Having him stay at the club with little hope of seeing the field will just delay his development, and sadly some supporters may boo him like Bentley against Boro, and further erode his confidence.

Let's see Bale get some quality time on the pitch and hope he becomes that player we were fighting Manchester United for two years ago. Think about it Harry and Mr. Levy!

The Lads Are On Their Way

More news that will raise the eyebrows of Spurs fans today, though not in a bad way. Having seen Adel Taarabt go out on loan to Queens Park Rangers this morning, we now have news that fellow 19 year old Giovanni Dos Santos has been loaned to Reading until the end of the campaign, and is in the squad to play tomorrow, as is Taarabt for QPR.

I say this raises eyebrows because of how quickly this went occurred for both players. Chris Gunter's loan move had been speculated on since January, and had reached fever pitch this week before he went out on loan to Nottingham Forest. Neither Taarabt or Dos Santos had been mentioned as going out on loan, but I think this is very good for both players.

I talked in an earlier post today about how having regular first-team football will benefit Taarabt, and I believe the same is the case for Gio. His confidence has been destroyed this season, and even though he scored a good goal in our last UEFA Cup game, he often disappeared on the pitch, when he was there at all.

Taarabt has a lot of flair, but needs to become acquainted with the physical nature of the English game, and playing in the Championship will certainly do that for him. For Gio, he needs to get used to the physicality of the English game as well, but he must also get used to the speed at which the game is played. He has pace aplenty, but hasn't seemed to use it when we've seen him this year, and by playing with Reading he will get a chance to "stretch his legs" so to speak.

My question is, where will he play? Stephen Hunt occupies the left wing for them currently, and most Spurs fans remember him being linked with the club in January because of his good form. Could Gion play out wide right, or as a withdrawn striker? Gio's main competition for the right wing position would be the Mali international Jimmy Kebe, and his competition up front would be Shane Long, Kevin Doyle and Leroy Lita.

It was clear with the number of fixtures that we had remaining in the season that Gio, Gunter and Taarabt would not be playing regularly, if they even made the bench, so this works well for the club. Send out three 19 year-olds to get some experience and hopefully they can make an impact on the club next year, or in Gio's case make him more attractive to potential buyers. Good move by Harry and the chairman, this will help the club.

Spurs Team News 3/13 & Taarabt Flies the Coop

In a surprising piece of news, if for no other reason than there has been no hint of it in the papers in the past couple of days, Adel Taarabt has gone out on loan to QPR until the end of the season. This was said to be the rumored destination of Chris Gunter who wound up at Nottingham Forest on loan. QPR are mired in the middle of the Championship table, but a good run of form could have them competing for the playoffs. He will join ex-Spur Wayne Routledge so I would expect Adel to play more in the middle of the park.

This is a good move for Adel, he is only 19 and needs first team experience, just like Gunter. The moments of promise he's shown us this season are good, but he needs consistent first-team football to develop, and this loan move will give him that. Hopefully he'll come back a more complete player next summer. I think he will at least make the bench against Southampton tomorrow, but he may also be thrown straight into the mix, we will see.

Harry has insisted that our big stars will not be moving on this summer. He specifically means that Luka Modric & Aaron Lennon won't be sold. They will be tempted by Champions' League football, but I think we can hold on to them.

Javier Saviola is facing a possible exit from Real Madrid this summer, and our beloved club has been linked with a move for the striker. I like Saviola just fine, but do we really need him at the club? With Keane, Defoe, Pavlyuchenko already in the fold and possibly Obika coming into the first team as well, I wonder if he will be happy facing at best a rotation system, and at worst warming the bench at the Lane. The thing he has going for him is that he has been a good soldier as a reserve at Madrid.

The last bit of news that I have for now is that Alan Hutton is expected to begin training with the club again on Monday, after being out with a foot injury since November. I would expect to see him on the bench for the club soon, although I think the match against Chelsea will be too soon for him to be back in the squad. But it will be good to have him back, and the only long-term injury we will still be dealing with will be Defoe who is expected back soon as well.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How Spurs Can Beat Villa

The lads have been on a good run of form in the past couple of weeks, especially in the League. A good win against Boro, a late winner at Hull, and a saving grace goal from Keane at Sunderland have seen us move away from the relegation zone. Now comes the hard part, Villa this weekend, and Chelsea the next.

Villa have seemed to tire as the season has gone on, and have dropped important points, especially against Manchester City in the past month. Injuries and the low number of players that Martin O'Neil have used throughout the season have started to drain the squad. I think that if there ever is a time to take points from Villa this could be it, and what follows will be my ideas on how to beat the Villans, or at least try and scrape out a draw.

The first thing that must be done is to play Robbie Keane and Roman Pavlyuchenko together up top. They have formed a good combo, especially against Boro, and Villa seems to struggle against active forwards who track back, like Elano in the Man City game, the role that Robbie thrives in. The combo of Curtis Davies and Zat Knight will struggle against the pace of Keane, and if Pavy is in a groove they will struggle with him as well.

Villa's strong suit is their midfield, and we must run out a side that can compete with it. Of course Lennon, Palacios and Modric have to be in the midfield, and I think that with the way they have played lately, I would have to put Jenas in the side as well. I am guilty of being a JJ fan I know, and I think that the recent midfield lineup has been solid for the club, and can stand up well to Barry, Petrov, Young and Milner.

If Ledley King is able to run out on Sunday, and all indications seem to be that he will, he will be a good match for Emile Heskey and I am confident that Woodgate can stand up Agbonlahor with few problems.

The keys to the match will be the play of Gomes, if it's not a clanger, we could be okay, and also the play of our fullbacks, namely Corluka and BAE. If they get forward in some crucial spots and watch Barry and Young down the flanks, we have a shot.

What do you think? Can we squeak out a win, or a draw? Or are Villa going to break their winless streak against us? Tell me what you think.

Could Our Left-Wing Problem be Solved In-House?

Any Spurs fan knows that our personal hell is the left-wing position for the club. It has been years since there has been an out and out winger on the left side of the club. We have tried various options, but haven't actually bought a new left-winger. We've already been linked with the Celtic winger in the summer, and I've also brought up the name of Adam Johnson of Middlesborough as a possible replacement, but could the problem possibly be solved in-house without having to spend big money?

The two names that I have in mind regarding this option would be Jamie O'Hara and Gareth Bale. Jamie has been a quality player for us this season, and at times has looked good going down the left-hand side. He doesn't have the speed of an out-and-out winger perhaps, but he can pass and whip in some crosses when in the proper position. I don't know if Harry is sold on this option, but he has deployed Jamie out wide several times. He is young and can grow into what role is presented to him at the club. He wouldn't fit as the traditional winger, but could possibly serve the club well. If he was to work on some speed training in the summer, he could be viable option out wide.

The other main option would be Gareth Bale out wide. We all know of Bale's shortcomings in defense, but the times that he has been placed as a winger has been some of his better performances this season. When he was at Southampton he had played on the wing as well, and could whip in a cross. His problems have been defensive in nature, shutting down defenders and being caught too far up field in a counter-attack. As a winger, he still has defensive responsibilities, but they are mainly tracking back and helping the defender, not having all of the pressure upon his shoulders. He and BAE could form a possible combo, but the possibility of both of them getting caught out is a scary thought. He has a strong shot, and is a better passer than most think. This could be the way that he develops, allowed to embrace his strengths while working on his weaknesses in training during the week. It could be a possibility.

The other two options that are possible but I don't think are likely in the long-term are Luka Modric and Jermaine Jenas out wide. Modric has been playing out on the left flank as of late, but he mainly drifts infield as the match progresses, and leaves the flank for BAE to patrol mostly. He does play some out wide, but I think he is wasted out wide, he has less control over the game and when he is in the center he can dictate play. I think that Harry doesn't think he can handle the physical play in the center of the field.

The other option would be to have JJ deployed out wide, like he was for England last year. He could play this position, but he drifts too much and would probably do the same thing as Modric and drift inwards during the match. I think when JJ is concentrating he can be a great player, but he is better suited to the middle of the field.

So those are some of our options on the left flank, and we could possibly have some answers without having to buy a new player. I don't think that Harry will stick with these players as the answer, he has already had the time to look at them and I think has decided that help will need to come from outside the club, but these are options for the future.