After a year away, Tottenham are poised to return to the Champions League next season. Or at least they will do if they perform in their final seven – mostly winnable – games of the season. Disarray at Liverpool and rebuilding at Chelsea have opened the door for Redknapp and Co and it’s an opportunity they must take. It has been a largely successful season, let down dramatically – if not yet fatally – by a terrible recent run in the Premier League. But there’s plenty of talent at White Hart Lane and with some brave decisions the club would be in a strong position to actually challenge for the Premier League title next season.
What are those decisions?
1. Accept an England approach for manager Redknapp
If Spurs do keep their nerve and finish in the top four (absurd though it is that it’s not virtually sewn up by now), England may follow through on their supposed interest in Harry Redknapp.
The competition for the top job – assuming the FA are scared off appointing a foreign boss after the Capello debacle – is underwhelming. Roy Hodgson has enjoyed a relative renaissance at West Brom but his stock was damaged after the disastrous reign at Liverpool. Stuart Pearce seems to lack something – perhaps personality – and has no track record of managerial success to call on. Glenn Hoddle flopped at Spurs and Wolves after his short but reasonably successful 1990s reign with England. Alan Pardew and Martin O’Neill are in good jobs in the north-east that are certainly not worth leaving while Sam Allardyce would be a disaster of Steve McClaren proportions. Below them only Alan Curbishley jumps out but he’s been out of management for four years now.
While Redknapp has done well at Spurs, his limitations will become more and more apparent the longer he stays at the club. Jamie’s dad is not a tactician – he’s a motivator (see Martin O’Neill, Kevin Keegan). Winning the big games takes more than mere motivation and the peculiar tactics employed by ‘Arry at times (Bale playing centrally, Modric on the left) highlight this. Bale returned to the left-wing against Swansea last weekend and was man of the match. If Tottenham do secure Champions League football then a clean break with Redknapp is perfect for everyone. He leaves full-time management with a smash hit album and gets to spend the second half of his 60s working part-time to bring England to the quarter-finals of the next World Cup.
This is a crucial time in the future of the club. Perhaps Andre Villas Boas could find the set up at Spurs that he didn’t have at Chelsea – a relatively young squad without the heavyweight egos that repelled his attempts to rebuild his previous employers.
Glad I wrote that one after a victory.
2. Send Adebayor back to Eastlands
He’s scored goals, he’s worked hard, he’s been committed. But Emmanuel Adebayor is not worth the mammoth investment that his permanent signing would require.
There’s no doubt he’s been an asset this season – a goal every other game – but he’s not a top class finisher and history shows that he tends to only have one good season per club. A string of highly rated strikers have been linked in the last year – Rossi, Llorente, Damiao, Remy – and Spurs need a clinical finisher and a powerful presence up front to perform in the big games.
3. Transfer Modric abroad
I’m not sure Luka Modric will take the sun that well but that should not stop Daniel Levy from considering a transfer to Spain or Italy for the midfielder. Modric failed to engineer a move away from the club last summer when Levy steadfastly refused to entertain bids from Chelsea. While credit goes to Modric for eventually settling down and performing – occasionally brilliantly – he’s not the player he was last season.
It could be that his market value has fallen in the last 12 months but if Spurs could net the guts of 30 million pounds then it could be the best solution for everyone. In partial return, a swoop for Swansea’s on loan Gylfi Sigurðsson (six goals and three assists in 11 games) would be a sound investment. Sigurðsson is like a raucous rolling stone to Modric’s orchestral, considered verve but he’s young, hungry and been a success at Reading, Hoffenheim (voted Player of the Season even though he only started 13 games) and now Swansea.
4. Win it on the wings
Tottenham look a far weaker outfit when one of their wingers is out. Indeed the resurgance of Manchester United since the return of Antonio Valencia has moved the winger debate on to the football websites in recent days.
Unfortunately for Spurs, Aaron Lennon has been absent for long periods this year, unbalancing the team and leading to Gareth Bale turning up on the right-wing and the center of midfield. Rafael van der Vaart and Niko Kranjcar have played on the right but neither has the pace to challenge the opposition left back like Lennon (in fact right-back Kyle Walker is often the most advanced right-sided Spurs player). I think the absence of Lennon coincided with Spurs worst form and cost them a number of points this season. Blackburn’s Junior Hoilett is out of contract this summer and has improved in each of his three seasons in the Premier League. He would be the easy target. But I like the look of Adam Johnson at Man City who could be an asset once his talent is harnessed.
Why try to fix something that ain’t broke? Well it’s not broke yet but Spurs have far more potential than they’ve even shown this season. This is the time to make brave decisions.