As the new Premier League campaign gets well and truly under way, fans are already setting their sights on how the season will turn out for their respective clubs. United and City have announced themselves as immediate favourites for the league title, while some familiar names have been tipped to be drawn into a relegation battle come May. One place that will be of interest throughout the season is who will take the 4th Champions League spot. With City, United, and Chelsea all tipped to make up the top three, the final place in the Champions League looks set to be challenged for by Arsenal, Liverpool, and Tottenham.
Tottenham enjoyed their debut season in the Champions League last season, only to be knocked out by Real Madrid in the quarter-finals. However, the club finished fifth in the league last year, and I cannot see them getting back in to Europes biggest club competition again this season for the following reasons.
Spurs’ failure to compete strongly on more than one front.
Spurs’ fairytale campaign in the Champions League saw them top their group having seen off the likes of Inter Milan, Werder Bremen and FC Twente in the early stages, and then victory at the San Siro over AC Milan ultimately saw them through to the quarter-final stage.
However, in focusing their efforts on European games, Spurs faltered both in the league and in cup competitions, and failed to pick up key points where they would have expected to usually. Again this year, Spurs will compete in the Europa League as well as the FA Cup, and have already been knocked out of the league cup.
Although Harry seems intent on fielding some of his younger players, as the season kicks on and fatigue and injuries come in to play, Spurs could find themselves in a similar situation to last year, where picking up points in the Premier League seems a lot more difficult than it does in Europe.
Spurs are too naïve against ‘smaller’ clubs.
Last season Spurs failed to win any of their away games against the bottom five clubs in the league, picking up just 3 points altogether from these matches.
At home, they managed to scrape just 7 points against the same five clubs, taking just 10 points out of a possible 30 overall, home and away. Spurs failed to win against Wigan, Blackpool, or West Ham over the course of the season, and both Redknapp and the Tottenham fans would have been going in to these games with confidence and a strong belief that the three points were almost certainly there for the taking.
With similar commitments again this season both domestically and in Europe, what is to say Spurs will not struggle against the likes of Wigan, Swansea, Norwich and so on once more?
Spurs will be relying on Adebayor for their goals.
With Robbie Keane and Peter Crouch completing their moves away from White Hart Lane, and both Roman Pavyluchenko and Jermaine Defoe failing to find their form throughout much of last season, Redknapp emphasized the importance of bringing in a goal scorer this season.
Eventually, Spurs completed the loan signing of Emmanuel Adebayor, and already the striker has bagged three goals for the club. While his ability is unquestionable, it seems Spurs are ultimately going to be reliant upon Adebayor to get the goals needed to mount a serious challenge across all fronts, particularly in the Premier League.
While the likes of Van der Vaart, Bale, and Modric are likely to chip in with a few themselves, Spurs will ultimately need the Togo international to remain fit and in form for most of, if not all of the 2011/12 season. Should the goals dry up for Adebayor, or should injury or fatigue set in on the striker, Spurs will once again find themselves struggling for goals.
Spurs’ failed to adequately improve their squad over the summer.
In a summer transfer window which saw the likes of Wilson Palacios, Johnathan Woodgate, Peter Crouch, Robbie Keane, Jermaine Jenas, and Alan Hutton among others leave the club, Redknapp and Levy were only able to bring in veteran Brad Friedel on a bosman, Emmanuel Adebayor on loan, and Scotty Parker from West Ham.
In terms of the squad’s depth, it seems as though Spurs will have even less players to rotate with this season, and in terms of quality, the players brought in do not appear to have improved the squad significantly, when we consider how many have moved away from White Hart Lane.
Spurs will almost certainly struggle with rotations in the squad once fatigue and injuries start to take their toll, and it does not seem as though adequate adjustments have been made in the summer to improve on last season’s performance in the Premier League.
The clubs around Spurs have adequately improved their squad over the summer.
While Spurs have failed to make the necessary adjustments in terms of bringing in new players, the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, and Manchester United have all spent heavily in the summer to improve their sides.
Manchester United bought well and they bought early. The additions appear to be successful as even Ashley Young has become rejuvenated since he slipped on the red shirt. A small question mark or two remains over De Gea, but the players in front of him are so good these early ‘mishaps’ can be covered if not entirely indulged by Sir Alex Ferguson.
United ooze experience and with the resurgence of Rooney is is inconceivable that they won’t qualify.
Chelsea are coming in for criticism across the board, but one has to ask over what? Their squad does have a few ‘senior’ players in its number, but these are by and large stellar talents that the bulk of Premiership clubs would give their eye teeth to hire. The ‘Torres’ situation is one that makes me laugh. So he cost £50m. Some fussing over his low goal tally are talking as if they had to foo the bill.
The bottom line is Chelsea too have the required winning mentality and they are certain to qualify.
Manchester City have been largely a team possessed this season and when the Blue Mooners aren’t ‘doing the Poznan’ they are singing, ‘boring boring City’ as the goals fly in. Mancini has constructed a hybrid side of Europeans and Englishmen (if you’ll for give the distinction) not to mention young Mario.
This is a side that appears to be well organized to adapt to playing in both Europe and domestically. The very ‘Italian’ and overly defensive strategy of last season appears to have morphed into something far more entertaining and to watch.
So City look very likely to be joining the previous two.
Arsenal have lost two key players in Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, and like Spurs, have failed to bring in adequate replacements. It is Liverpool then who look likely to challenge strongest for the 4th Champions League place, and the additions made in every position since Dalglish took over in January will be pivotal to such success. While Spurs did give Liverpool a 4-0 thrashing on the weekend, over the course of the season the depth and quality within the Liverpool squad will prove to be the difference.
With the return of Steven Gerrard imminent and the like of Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson, and Stewart Downing already making an impression on Merseyside, Liverpool boast one of the strongest midfields in the division, and one that will be crucial in their quest for fourth place.
Agree or disagree? Who will get fourth place this season? Let me know either below or @sixthofficial on Twitter!