So far 2012 has not been Tottenham Hotspur’s year; they have lost their grip on a top four place in the English Premier League and now face a battle to ensure Champions League football next season. Since hammering Newcastle on 11th February they have played nine Premier League games and won only one. After impressing so much at the start of the season what has happened at the club to make them suddenly so ineffective?
The obvious answer is of course that Harry Redknapp has had his head turned by the England job. It is quite remarkable that in this media frenzied world a manager with his recent record is blameless in the national press. It is clear the press have decided who they want as the new national manager which leaves the players as the scapegoats. The players have clearly been deeply upset about the prospect of losing the ‘great’ Harry Redknapp and simply cannot continue to play at the same level. This is of course utter rubbish; the reason Spurs have imploded is that confidence has gone to certain player’s heads’ and others simply haven’t got close to the standards they set themselves earlier in the season.
One extenuating circumstance has been that Aaron Lennon has missed several games which clearly disrupted their balance. Normally Spurs employ two natural wingers, who, when aided by the over lapping full-backs created chaos for defences earlier in the season. Unfortunately for Spurs Gareth Bale’s form has dipped massively since he was granted freedom of the pitch and his continual presence on the right of the attack makes the team lopsided. Whilst there is no doubt Bale is an immensely talented player his ego appears to have grown disproportionally to his performance level. He is, and always will be a left winger who needs space to be most effective; until he remembers exactly where it was that he flourished his performances will continue to be below par.
However, there is one player at Spurs who continues to under deliver; Luka Modric. Last summer figures of £40 million were being branded around for the Croatian midfielder. Similarly to Bale there is no doubt that he is a wonderful player; brilliant first touch, lovely passer of the ball(his pass completion percentage currently stands at 87.5 in 32 games) and can beat people for fun. However, he doesn’t contribute enough in terms of assists and goals to command anywhere near that fee. In nearly four completed seasons at Spurs Modric has 12 goals and 15 assists in 121 league appearances. That is the kind of return you used to expect from Fabregas, Gerrard or Lampard in a single season, let alone four!
For a player of Modric’s ability those statistics are alarming. He is deployed in a central midfield partnership with Scott Parker where he is expected to be a combative, yet creative. This is simply not his game as his display of air tackles against Manchester City recently demonstrated. He needs to be given a platform further up the pitch where his creative attributes can come to the fore and be expressed as we have seen with Croatia.
Much of this will also lie with the manager. Redknapp has tinkered a little bit with formations this season but his midfield is incredibly ineffective defensively; Bale, Lennon and Modric are all luxury players to some extent. This has resulted in Scott Parker having a much greater workload than he should have had. Great defensive midfielders, it was always said, should be anonymous as Makelele was; why therefore is Parker always so noticeable?
If Spurs fail to qualify for the Champions League there is little doubt that we will see a repetition of last summer with the Modric will he/won’t he rumours coming round again. It should not be forgotten that in a poor Premier League season Spurs have been one of the few positives. However, they must now push on and secure a Champions League place or they could be rebuilding their side again over the summer. I feel they deserve a place in this season’s top four but at the moment they are not quite there and at this stage of the season the league table doesn’t lie.