The desperate analogy-ridden introduction
Poor old George Graham, it seems, can do nothing right. The man with a PhD in Advanced Arsenal Studies has switched courses but so far his results have been considered below par by the shareholders of the THFC College that he attends. His head lecturer, Sir Alan Sugar, has been impressed enough to hand him a sizeable kitty to buy some study aids, after he brought home a wonderful award called “The Worthington Cup” in his first year, and consolidated his marks in year two.
Now in what could be his final year, the pressure is on for him to deliver above average results, and his fellow students also know that the shareholders will not tolerate mediocrity.
Getting down to brass tacks, George has improved the Spurs squad considerably in the time since he arrived. Crucial areas of weakness have been addressed, some with more success than others. The jewel in the crown is of course is the world-class Sergei Rebrov, but the purchases of Tim Sherwood, Chris Perry, Neil Sullivan and Ben Thatcher should all be considered big steps in the right direction.
To a lesser extent, Oyvind Leonhardsen, Mauricio Tarrico and Steffen Freund have also been key parts of Spurs best performances last season and will have their parts to play this season. Of course room needed to be made for these new recruits and the departures of Allan Nielsen, Espen Baardsen, and of course, David Ginola, have been met with mixed responses from the fans.
And with Ginola gone, it seems from reports, that Spurs are changing their style of play. The long hopeful lobs to Ginola’s chest are a thing of the past, and a slow, patient passing game has evolved apparently. I think in the half dozen games or so that I saw on TV last season, I was never impressed by Ginola and the way he affected the game. Everything seemed to go through him, but unlike Glenn Hoddle 18 years previous, Ginola didn’t have the class to use it efficiently. Once he was closed down and his arsenal of tricks evaporated, the result was the Frenchman on the floor waving his arms, and the opponents storming towards the Tottenham goal.
Who’s gonna play
And because Daveeed has departed, I expect better things from Spurs this season, although I don’t think it’ll be inside the top six. We seem to have a stronger goalkeeper in Neil Sullivan, and he’s playing behind two highly-rated full-backs – 1999/2000 Spurs Player of the Year, Steve Carr, and newly-recruited, Ben Thatcher – and the centre-back pairing of Sol Campbell and Chris Perry.
The key phrase in midfield is hard work (verk?). Darren Anderton needs to come out of his shell and express himself for the first time in over four seasons – he is the key man. Tim Sherwood was a picture of inconsistency last season, but a lot of this was due to his lingering hernia problem. When on form, Sherwood is a powerful all-rounder.
Alongside him will probably be Steffen Freund – the combative, intimidating, hard-tackling, free-scoring midfielder. Ha. The last one is a joke. Just like David Howells, Freund makes up for his lack of ability with a whole-hearted and fully-committed approach. He’s not the hottest property on the market, but he’s critical to the defensive unit.
The left-side will be the major headache for George. Matty Etherington will get a few games, but Oyvind Leonhardsen looks to be the number one choice right now. Leo performed well early last season before injury decimated his season. He’s known to be not fond of playing out-of-position on the left, and who could blame him. He’s probably the weak link due to this. Personally I think George should give Tarrico a game on the left, but it might not happen unless Leo continues his injury curse.
It’s either a drought or a flood up front for Spurs. After struggling not long ago with two half-fit strikers, we now have four hungry and reasonably high quality players vying for two positions. Rebrov of course is an instant choice, and it seems Steffen “twenty grand a week please” Iversen will partner him. The more logical choice would be a target man like Les Ferdinand to play alongside the Ukrainian, and I wouldn’t dismiss this as an unlikely occurrence in the next few weeks.
What I expect?
I expect Spurs to finish around 8th position, with the usual mid-season lull sometime over the Christmas period. The star performers will be Carr, Rebrov, Anderton and my wild card, Ferdinand.
Expect the goals to be divided equally enough – Rebrov (11), Iversen (9), Ferdinand (9) and Sherwood, Leonhardsen and Anderton to divide roughly 20 goals between them.
The FA Cup will be a disaster with a fourth round exit against Premiership rivals, Everton. A semi-final defeat against Leicester in the Worthington Cup is likely (Leicester are the only team legally allowed to win the competition I think).
It’s time somebody stood up for Ruel Fox. He refuses to leave Spurs because they won’t compensate him for taking a 60% wage cut to join West Brom. For this, he has received a lot of unfair criticism. The guy is 32, has maybe 4 years left earning decent money. It’s a short career, and Fox is sensible in refusing to bow to pressure within the club for him to move on. At the end of his contract, he’ll still get a decent move to a first division club and won’t have lost a penny. I still think he’s rubbish, of course.