Saturday, 28 May 2011

Spurs' greatest season ever* - or the greatest trick the devil ever pulled?

Okay, it's the third and final season review from a guest columnist. As with @Liquidspurs and @Bentleysbird, @Studub is a friend from Twitter with plenty to say but no blog on which to say it fully. Hence the invitation to take some rant-space here at Such Small Portions. But, bear with me, since we arranged this little gig, @drwinston001, previously the man behind thfc1882.com, has quit regular writing duties due to the imminence of a new baby, and handed the reins over to @Studub. Which means he now does have somewhere to let rip. But, when we first discussed this, he didn't. So, follow him on Twitter, read his new blog - and enjoy this season review, written just before he was famous...


In all fairness, this past season probably falls somewhere between those two hyperbolic statements. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I will say it again: this has been a good season with great moments, rather than the great season we are being told it is.

For me - and despite all the highs - the overriding feeling that I’m left with, is one of massive frustration, of what could have been.

On a sunny day in August when we kicked off the campaign against that smaller club from Manchester, it looked like we had the makings of another real shot at the Champions League. We put City to the sword and were it not for an awesome display from Joe Hart we would have walked away with all the points.

Looking back the game was a vivid portent of what was to come. I lost count of how many matches we dominated only to fall short due to an impotent front line, either not being in the right place or taking shot after wayward shot with no end product.

The August deadline day saw us all excited but baffled by the arrival of Rafa Van Der Vaart. To be honest, Redknapp exhibited the same emotions. Here was a world class player for only £8m but what were we to do with him? Using him would (& did) force Harry to abandon his beloved 4-4-2, but we all knew we didn’t have the striker that Rafa needed to be partnered with.

First signs were really good though, Crouch and Rafa struck up a partnership which brought goals for VDV and assists for the big fella, but even then it looked like we were over reliant on the Dutch ace to provide the firepower. However, it was working and as the autumn crept up on us, we had started to make a big noise in Europe.

And You don’t need me or anyone else to tell you that it was specifically young Gareth Bale making most of that noise, winning the PFA Player of the Year award on the back of some sparkling performances. I understand that Maicon has been mentally scarred for life. I

nter were torn to shreds in the second half at San Siro and you have to ask yourself, what if Gomes hadn’t been sent off and we’d actually turned up in the first 20 minutes? See what I mean about frustration and what could have been?

We showed them what could have been with a rip roaring performance at The Lane and secured top spot in the group stage in our debut season.

We did it in typical swashbuckling Spurs style too, equalling or beating records for goals scored in group stages and in goals per game (overall). Great achievements that we should all be proud of.

We were also tearing up domestic record books. Without a win away to one of the Sky Four clubs for eons, we strode out at The Emirates looking to turn the tide. After 45 minutes it looked like we were going to be in for another horrid NLD at their place, going in 2-0 down and looking disjointed.

The second half however was a complete turnaround, with Redknapp realising his error and bringing Defoe on. I’m sure his intent was that JD’s movement would bother the Arsenal centrebacks, it turns out his almighty aerial ability was the key (I know!), out jumping Koscielny to help set up Bale’s opener.

Rafa continued his impressive form with a penalty, before sending in the free kick that was met with a mighty KA-BOOM by Younes for the 3-2 win!

Despite highlights such as this, and the 2-0 win at Anfield, we were still frustrating (that word again), especially against clubs we were expected to beat. That our only victory over the three relegated clubs came on the last day of the season really sums it up. Literally too little too late.

Through January we were all convinced that a big name striker was just about to turn up at Spurs Lodge. Going into deadline day and we once again provided the comedy foil to all those actually doing serious business as we were linked to pretty much every striker in La Liga, allegedly making bids for everyone, including Alfredo Di Stefano.

And who did we end up with? Steven Pienaar. To this day I still don’t know why. Such a frustrating choice when we had players like Jenas and Kranjcar twiddling their thumbs on the bench.

It’s also the transfer window where we decided that Luis Suarez wasn’t better than what we had. I believe the kids today would say: epic facepalm. Still it could have been a lot worse, we nearly signed Phil Neville.

So we headed into the Champions League knockout stages still looking light up front, things not improving with Van Der Vaart and Bale also picking up knocks that affected their end of season performances.

We put in a very un-Tottenham like dogged display at San Siro as the other Milan team (and much of the rest of the world) discovered exactly who Sandro Raniere was. He is the definition of a midfield machine: tireless, almost unpassable, good in the air and as he’s proved since, technically capable with a thunderbolt shot.

In the return leg we again showed that we can be defensively solid and compact when required and next thing you know we are facing a tie against the might of Real Madrid’s ‘New Galacticos’.

It was about this time that the wheels really fell off domestically though, that victory in San Siro, prompting a run of 1one win in 13 games. Not quite the soundbite that Redknapp wanted to replace 2 points/8 games with I feel.

As various calamities and bad luck befell us against Madrid, back in the Premier League we just looked inept. Goals were now almost impossible to come by, unless Pav decided that he’d remember what a class player he can be, an all too rare occurrence.

Games away to Blackpool and Wigan showed that we had put all our eggs into that CL basket. And then handed the basket to Gomes. Scrambled egg was inevitable.

Even after that we had chances to push on beyond City, but successive home draws with Arsenal, West Brom and Blackpool left 4th looking decidedly unlikely.

Yes, we got stitched by the linesman at Chelsea but even so, we shouldn’t have been relying on that result. If we’d taken just one win from each of West Ham, Blackpool, Wigan and WBA, do you know where we would have finished? Second. Comfortably. Now I defy anyone to tell me that isn’t massively frustrating. Or does that make me an idiot?

There were some great moments, and some real memories to take away from this season. We also have Europa League football to look forward to, much to Jermain Defoe’s chagrin. That is if we take it seriously, although that is a discussion for later in the summer.

For now I’ll leave you with my best memories of this season & one wish for next:

Player of the Season: I haven’t mentioned his name once yet because I’m trying to keep him a secret, but all credit must go to our conductor, our heartbeat and our only irreplaceable player, Luka Modric. He is the ‘Croatian Xavi’ or the ‘Croatian Cruyff’ depending on whether you ask me or Iain McIntosh, but both work. He has been an absolute pleasure to watch as he goes about his business dominating game after game from midfield. He’s the best player we’ve had at White Hart Lane since Paul Gascoigne and we simply have to keep him.

Signing of the Season: For a while this looked a shoo-in for Van Der Vaart, but he tailed off at the end of the season, due to a lack of fitness more than anything. So for me the outstanding signing has to be William Gallas. What a defender, what a man, he has defied everyone to establish himself as an absolute rock and was vital in holding the back line firm in front of an increasingly flappy Gomes. And he was FREE! Credit to Harry Redknapp for that one. I never thought I would cheer Billy, now I wouldn’t dream of not doing so.
Flop of the Season: Not a nice thing to choose, but it has to be said a few have put their name forward for it, pick one from our strikers, Alan Hutton, Pienaar or Gomes. For me the biggest disappointment was Gomes and Redknapp’s seemingly blind faith in him. Too many errors this season and an obvious lack of confidence, for me his time is up. A top club needs a top keeper, he’s not it.

Match of the Season: Despite the CL heroics, for me the ultimate victory this year was at The Emirates: 3-2 in the North London Derby to put to bed the away day hoodoo and also cement our rep as a team who are no longer a soft touch who will roll over.
Goal of the Season: There are a number of candidates, an NLD THudd, Sandro doing his THudd impression, Bale at San Siro (pick one), Bale’s volley at Stoke. For me though, the goal that gave me the biggest thrill was Rafa Van Der Vaart's second away to Villa. The Bale, Lennon, Rafa counter attack combo was beautiful to watch and is something we should have seen even more of. This move was summed up perfectly by Huddlestone on twitter: "Bale bale bale!! Fifa-like counter attacking play!!" (@thuddz)

My Ideal Signing for Next Season: Honestly? Right now, Carlo Ancelotti & Ray Wilkins as our new management team. For one simple reason, Redknapp has his eye on England in summer 2012, and is therefore not focusing on our club's future. Ancelotti is an excellent manager who is available now and who wants to stay in the Premier League. For me it’s an absolute no brainer.

* Since Sky invented football, anyway

3 comments:

  1. Gomes definitely flop of the season. Our player of the year last time round in my opinion. I don't blame Redknapp for sticking with him though, Cudicini, despite a couple of decent performances, isn't up to much.

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  2. I guess I don't have to write my Harry blog after all, as you managed to say everything I wanted to without anywhere near the same level of bitter, bitter, bitterness.

    Mostly I agree on Gallas, but there was an interesting stat on the Spurs Show about how, if not for vdV's goals, we'd be nowhere near Europe. OTOH, I'm not sure how much he may have *hurt* the team by forcing tactical changes.

    For me the flop was Defoe. Gomes was always brilliant for 90% and a complete moron for 10%, so this year was nothing new, but Defoe looked like a striker to pin some serious hopes on last season. And this year, I kept waiting to have my unerring faith him (suspension and injury notwithstanding) rewarded. THERE IS NO DEFOE, my fallen soul determined.

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  3. I wish I could remember who said it, it might have been Marcotti, but he did say its likely Chelsea would have put something in the leaving package that Ancelotti can't manage a PL club for 12 months. Don't quote me, but don't think that would happen.

    I disagree with the flop, to be fair, for 3/4 of the season I thought Gomes has played alright, not brilliantly, but alright. Of course he has made errors and needs to be replaced, but not the flop. Far worse for me was Peter Crouch, sure he provided many an assist for Rafa, but 4 goals in a 38 game season for a striker, without any injuries, how on earth is that acceptable?

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