Thursday, 16 August 2012

Season Preview 2012/13

The new season is finally upon us and I for one am delighted. While I enjoyed Euro 2012 and the Olympic games, there’s nothing quite like the buzz you get from the start of the domestic season, especially as a Spurs supporter.

It’s been an intense summer at White Hart Lane, a fine fourth place finish last season was followed by the heartache of watching London rivals Chelsea win the UEFA Champions League, therefore taking our place in this season’s tournament. Harry was shown the door by Mr Levy and André Villas-Boas was hired as the Club’s new Head Coach.

Unusually early signings followed in Gylfi Sigurðsson and Jan Vertonghen, both highly sought after players that seemingly whetted the appetite of the fans as we expected more signings. They haven’t come yet though.
A striker is clearly still the priority and while Jermain Defoe and Harry Kane are by no means surplus to requirements, everyone and their dog can see we need a forward in the mould of Emmanuel Adebayor to lead our line.

Villas-Boas was asked about the Manchester City man during today’s pre-Newcastle press conference and had this to say,
"There are talks (with City). They have been happening for quite some time."We have touched on different players in that position, but we have not been able to conclude a deal.
"Our focus and attention is towards that position, which we will try to sort out next week."
A second summer or speculation surrounding the future of Luka Modric has cast a shadow over the good work being done by the new coaching team, but Villas-Boas is hopeful a solution isn’t too far away,
"I think we will have a conclusion in the next couple of weeks.
"We expect him here to train. He is still a Tottenham player but from what the chairman has told me talks are ongoing, they stalled a little bit two weeks ago, but they have picked up recently."
With his departure imminent, the Club have begun looking for replacements, with Joao Moutinho touted as a possible acquisition. Moutinho fulfils a similar role to Modric’s, and has played under Villas-Boas before at FC Porto.

Throughout pre-season Villas-Boas has sought to bring his own footballing philosophy to the Club, whilst also acknowledging the fine work done by Harry Redknapp and looking to build upon those solid foundations.
Redknapp was quick to dismiss the UEFA Europa League last season, using it to blood youngsters and give fringe players some much needed minutes. Combining those two elements led to unorganised and players performing as individuals rather than as part of a team.
Villas-Boas has already made it clear that Spurs are competing in four competitions in order to win said four and his players have echoed those sentiments.
While we made the semi-finals of the FA Cup last season, poor showings in Europe and an early exit from the Carling Cup saw two chances for silverware thrown to the wayside. Modern football dictates that money, particularly the money won by finishing in a top four place, is the main target, however in 50 years time I can’t imagine myself telling my children about a season we finished fourth. Silverware and Cup Finals go down in history and the majority of fans will tell you that it’s occasions like those that first attracted them to Spurs. It would be a shame to put financial gain over a trophy.
With Villas-Boas seeking to compete on four fronts, squad depth will be essential. While there have been the usual mumbles and grumbles about a lack of out-goings from the Lane, AVB has used pre-season to assess the squad properly, not just going on past opinions.
David Bentley and Jermaine Jenas, while not being every fans cup of tea, have seen substantial playing time and could be seen often this season. Redknapp was criticised for not rotating more last season, many believing it led to the burn out of key players during the final months of the season. But I ask you this; had Harry left out Gareth Bale or Luka Modric from a Premier League game, would some have you not criticised that decision too?
While many assume Villas-Boas will rotate more willingly, a read of his biography suggests he is a believer in playing your strongest team when available. But from watching and looking at his Chelsea teams of last season, he seems willing to chop and change due to the physical nature of the English game, something that Spurs fans will hopefully welcome this season, despite their ‘favourite’ sitting on the bench despite being fully fit.
Tough away trips to Newcastle and a Manchester United side Spurs haven’t beaten since 2001 are the toughest offerings from August and September and with such quality in the side Villas-Boas is likely to be targeting a minimum 14 points from our opening six games. Achievable yes, but supporters must not be quick to forget the huge changes that have happened at the Club this summer, and while it may not be a popular statement, this season could be one of transition for the team.
While Spurs are likely to remain active in the transfer market right up until the window closes at midnight on August 31st, potential additions, or a lack of, will be a vital part of Tottenham’s target setting this season.

With no new striker and no replacement for Modric currently, Spurs visit Newcastle United this weekend for an evening kick-off on Saturday. The Sports Direct Arena, formerly St. James’ Park is where Villas-Boas will make his competitive debut as Tottenham Head Coach against Alan Pardew’s side.
Last season’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation has been retained, but has at times looked closer to the 4-3-3 that Villas-Boas is known to prefer. Two holding midfielders and one further forward central midfielder have interchanged and rotated at will, while full-backs have been handed licence to bomb forward and join in attacks.
A lone striker means there will be added emphasis on scoring goals from all positions, said striker looking to hold up the ball and bring others into play. The wingers in particular will be asked to contribute substantially, while the most attacking of the three central midfielders will look to arrive late in the oppositions box to finish moves off, a role a certain Dutchman has reveled in during his first two seasons in North London.
The high defensive line employed by Villas-Boas has been judged by many already without seeing it in a competitive setting. Each minute played under this new tactic will bring improvements and it is very much a work in progress, rather than the finished article.
It’s hard to know how we will line up come Saturday evening, but I would hope to see something close to this team. Sandro has just come back from the Olympic games with a silver medal and seems to be match fit and ready to slot into the side. Whether his lack of time with the squad this summer stands in his way of starting the game remains to be seen, but if that is the case, then we could see Tom Huddlestone or Jake Livermore in the heart of midfield.

Sigurðsson impressed above all in the friendly games during the summer and it would be a shock if he wasn’t handed a competitive debut from the start. Rafael van der Vaart’s fitness will be checked before he is given a starting berth, but I would like to see him in the team along with our new Icelandic midfielder, and not it being a case of one or the other.
Much has been said about Jermain Defoe and his ability to play as a lone striker this week, and if he does struggle as many expect him to, then having as many players as possible coming from deep with the ability to score a goal is vital. Sigurðsson has shown he can play a deeper role and he works hard when asked to do so, so there should be no hesitation from Villas-Boas to pick him in that role.
Seemingly, the only other decision to be made is which pair starts in the centre of defence on Saturday. Younes Kaboul and Vertonghen seem to be the preferred pairing by general consensus, but Michael Dawson has been touted as possible Club Captain following Ledley King’s retirement. William Gallas and Steven Caulker are both likely to be pushing hard in training for a place in the side, so Villas-Boas is likely to reveal his favoured twosome come Saturday evening.
Tomorrow I will be looking in-depth at our opening day opponents, looking at what they have done during the summer to try and consolidate their impressive showing from last season and also what to expect from the Magpies.
Key Player
Following signing his new contract, I think Gareth Bale will continue to improve and astound this season. The flying Welshman has gone from strength to strength in recent seasons and has shown no signs of slowing just yet.
A pre-season experiment saw Bale play as a lone striker and while he didn't have much joy on the day, his athleticism and skill set make him a seemingly perfect candidate for a role here in the future.
Bale has already shown his goalscoring ability, both the spectacular and the instinctive, and was close to double figures in the Premier League last season.
While a switch to a more roaming central position was a point of frustration for many fans after Christmas, Bale has shown his ability to learn new skills, drift inside and look for space away from his wing where he can be double or even triple marked.
Under Villas-Boas, Bale could play a similar role to the one he takes up on International duty with Wales. Under the late Gary Speed and now under Chris Coleman Bale plays from the right wing, cutting inside onto his favoured left foot and providing a goal scoring threat. Villas-Boas is known to be a fan of inverted wingers, and Bale and fellow wide man Aaron Lennon could see their roles reversed this season.
One thing is for sure, there are likely to be several headlines written about Bale this season, in fact there already has been throughout the summer following his war of words with Liverpool's Charlie Adam and missing out on a place in the Team GB football squad.  Come Saturday though, he'll hopefully be making headlines for all the right reasons.

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