After missing out on the prestigious Champions League football by a whisker, Tottenham Hotspur are heading into the new season with a new coach and new players determined to make an improvement from last season. The scenario is same for Tottenham fans as they welcome a very familiar start of the season with uncertainties surrounding key players and positions. The expectations are high at White Hart Lane after clearing out dead-woods and adding world class talents to the roster even though some positions are yet to be filled. The new captain hasn’t been announced yet following King’s retirement but restructuring of the squad is in progress. A place in the Champions League will be the minimum target and Villas Boas will be aiming for glory on other fronts such as Europa League, League Cup and FA Cup as well.
Pre-Season preparation, Olympics and Clearing the Deadwood
Preseasons are meant to pick up speed and fitness after a lengthy summer break by experimenting with players and positions which will help to prepare the team for the stern tests ahead. Unlike their previous seasons’ preparations, Tottenham have roped in the services of Vertoghen and Sigurdsson pretty early and they have gelled together with the team in the pre-season journey even with key players missing. A good pre-season is a dream for any manager, especially when he tries to inherit a squad possessed by someone else. Villas Boas’ priority will be to identify the players and their suitability towards the new game style. Even though Tottenham suffered a defeat at Mestalla towards the end of their preseason preparations, it was a good pointer towards the missing pieces of the jigsaw in the armory of Villas Boas.
Villas Boas was successful with his tinkering to a certain limit and this gave a good account of promising youngsters such as Harry Kane, Andros Townsend, Tom Carroll and Adam Smith along with the established veterans. Villas Boas’ assessment of the Spurs squad is now complete and the rumours gave the idea that Gallas, Bassong, Jenas, Bentley and Naughton are not part of his plans for this season. Naughton is a surprise name in this list after a successful loan spell at Carrow Road last season but with the high flying Kyle Walker ahead of him in the pecking order, it would be difficult for him to get regular playing time. Another loan deal will not be an ideal solution and he wont be satisfied with a bit part role at White Hart Lane as well.
The Olympic contingent at Tottenham, namely Sandro, Dos Santos, Caulker and Rose will be trying to impress the boss after their good performances at London. Apart from Dos Santos and Rose to an extent, everyone else looks to be a part of the new Tottenham setup. There is a huge question mark over the return of the prodigal son, Dos Santos. Villas Boas gives importance to discipline and hard work where as the talented Mexican is just the opposite. His career stalled under Redknapp and it is still not clear whether he will get a chance to revive the same at the Lane itself or he should look for moves elsewhere. Spurs and Villas Boas may look to hang on to him till a clear picture emerges about the team composition.
Spurs real tests in the pre-season were against Liverpool and Valencia whereas matches against LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls provided a good perspective as well. The lack of firepower upfront was discussed at length by the Tottenham faithful across the world and it was visible clearly in all the matches. Jermain Defoe is not the ideal striker for a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation which is going to be used by Villas Boas in his quest to prove himself in the most famous league in the world. Neither Harry Kane nor Souleymane Coulibaly are world beaters at this age and the maximum we can expect is a bright future for these young prospects. Even amidst the huge attacking woes for the team, Levy and Villas Boas are not into the panic buying mode and are waiting for the right man at the right price. Adebayor and Damiao rumors are doing the rounds in the transfer market and fans are expecting the new additions to be present at the Lane before the transfer window closes.
Tottenham possessed one of the best midfields in EPL last season and there haven’t been many changes other than a few fringe players leaving in search for greener pastures. Similar to last year, the uncertainty surrounding Luka Modric is the major concern at the club. The playmaker has gone AWOL in his demand to move from London which has intensified the resolve of Daniel Levy and he is training alone nowadays. He wasn’t part of club’s preseason matches and the manager has analysed the options at his disposal giving an idea that Modric, along with Jenas and Bentley, may make way for a new signing at the Lane.
Sandro, Livermore, Parker, Sigurdsson, Huddlestone and Carroll are expected to stake claims for the central midfield slots along with Modric or his replacement. Sandro has developed leaps and bounds over the course of his stay at the Lane and may establish himself as the main man in the middle of the park. Lennon and Bale are first choices on both flanks currently and competition is expected from Giovanni Dos Santos and youngster Andros Townsend. Star player Rafael Van Der Vaart is expected to bang in few goals along with his fellow competitor Sigurdsson as a modern day no.10.
Defence looks stable with Kaboul and Vertoghen expected to form a formidable pair at the centre in the absence of retired legend, Ledley King. Dawson, Caulker and Gallas will provide tough competition for places. Bassong might be on his way out and can find an ally in Gallas as the situation is still not clear. Flanks will be occupied by Walker and Assou-Ekotto and competition is expected from Naughton, Smith, Rose and the new signing Fryers after the tribunal’s judgement. Naughton might not be happy with a bit part role and Paul Lambert is keen to take him to Villa park for the new season, where as there are few admirers for the GB Olympian Danny Rose as well. A loan move might be beneficial to the development of the winger/fullback.
World class goal keepers like Hugo Lloris and Julio Caesar are being linked with a move to the North London club. This throws question marks over the future of erratic but brilliant Gomes. Brad Friedel is still the first choice at the club with his vital experience and is reliable between the sticks but his age might be a concern from the management perspective. Cudicini and Gomes are expected to provide competition as well as cover for the ageing American if no signings are made in this department before the window closes.
Tottenham are looking like a more balanced outfit this season under the tutelage of master tactician Villas boas. He is known for rotating the squad as well as incorporating young blood at the expense of veterans. Spurs have ample options in all areas except the striking department. That issue is expected to be solved before the season picks up speed and Tottenham will be expecting to build on the Top-4 position from last season.
Unless a world class striker arrives at Tottenham, any talk to being title contenders is futile. Europa league will provide an ideal platform to rotate the squad and to test the youngsters at a bigger stage. U-21 league and NextGen series can be a blessing in disguise for Tim Sherwood’s academy prospects and will help to develop their overall game as well.
Tottenham fans across the globe will be hoping for a good start at the Sports Direct Arena to set the tone for a successful campaign on their journey to the top. Will Tottenham Spurs be able to march on from their previous campaigns to reach further heights? Can Villas Boas deliver the right tactics at the right time to take this team to new heights? August 18 will tell us.