Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How Tottenham have turned their season around since August's Manchester City humiliation

When Manchester City arrived at White Hart Lane on August 25, Tottenham were simply not ready.

Spurs' start to the Premier League season - a home game against Everton - had been delayed by the London riots, and so Harry Redknapp's side faced the big-spending club on the back of a convincing 3-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford, in which Jermain Defoe led the line alone, Luka Modric was inconspicuous by his absence and the defensive onus in midfield fell to the inexperienced Jake Livermore.

Meanwhile, Roberto Mancini's side had signalled their early intent with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Swansea City, in which debutant Sergio Aguero came off the bench to score twice, before putting another three past Bolton Wanderers.

City were not expected to brush Spurs aside given the tight nature of the previous meetings between the two, but Mancini's men were rampant in north London, as Edin Dzeko scored four and Aguero grabbed another, with David Silva and Samir Nasri the masterminds behind a thoroughly convincing 5-1 victory.

Modric had attempted to pull out of the game, Peter Crouch, isolated up front, could not impose himself on the visitors - nor could Gareth Bale or Aaron Lennon. Spurs looked streets behind the league's pacesetters.

However, Redknapp maintained he could turn the fortunes of his side around if he were able to bring in the key transfer targets he had identified.

And, once Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor were signed, sealed and delivered to White Hart Lane, Spurs barely looked back.

The impact of both players was instantly felt, as Parker marshalled the midfield at Molineux against Wolves, and played in Adebayor to open the scoring in a 2-0 victory, with Jermain Defoe grabbing the second.

The signing of Parker was allegedly met with some hesitance by Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, given the player's fairly advanced age and fee on the back of a heroic season with relegated West Ham which saw him emerge as the English football zeitgeist, but the 31-year-old has since shown his value to the team time and time again, proving particularly influential in home wins against QPR and Bolton.

It is the England international's industrious, tireless efforts that have freed those around him to play to their fullest, particularly the likes of Bale and Modric.

Parker's introduction to the Spurs side also coincided with the return to fitness of Ledley King, who has been in and out of the team, but has proved to be an integral player during Tottenham's run of good form.

And, while King has failed to feature consistently since his first appearance of the season against Wolves, Spurs have benefitted from the improvement of Younes Kaboul, who looks a different player to the one who first arrived at White Hart Lane in 2007, while Kyle Walker has firmly established himself as the regular first choice right-back over Vedran Corluka, and is surely an England hopeful.

How close Parker actually came to having a different central midfield partner at White Hart Lane is anybody's guess, as the Spurs hierarchy must surely have been tempted to part ways with Modric following a big-money offer from Chelsea.

But Levy and Co. have reaped the rewards of holding onto their man since the possibility of leaving the club dissipated.

In fact, it took Modric little time to put his desire to leave the club behind him, as he fired in after just seven minutes in a sumptuous display in the 4-0 victory over Liverpool, and has since proved himself to be everything the previous seasons had suggested he was - unflappable on the ball, with remarkable vision and a deftness of touch replicated only by the world's finest midfielders.

Equally impressive has been the evolution of Bale from direct left-sided winger to adaptable modern forward.

The Welsh international had hinted at having more to his game than an almost-unstoppable dribble and a decent shot, but this season, Bale has been afforded the opportunity to express himself in a free-flowing, interchangeable Spurs front line, often occupying the space behind or alongside Adebayor, and on the right hand side.

Against Norwich City at Carrow Road, Bale was excellent in something of a free role, and his second of two goals, bursting straight through the gut of the home side's defence before delicately chipping over John Ruddy, summed up the season he is having.

The part Adebayor has played in the resurgence of course, cannot be ignored. The Togolese striker is far more adept at holding up the ball and involving his team-mates in play than Defoe, who has actually scored more goals in all competitions this season than the former Arsenal man. It is his link-up play with Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Lennon that arguably makes him first choice over his competition.

That City could afford to loan Adebayor out to Spurs, whose title credentials they must surely have doubted at the time, while still subsidising his wages, is testament to the strength in their frontline, and the task Spurs are faced with in attempting to keep the likes of Aguero and Dzeko quiet on their own patch.

Indeed, Tottenham face a huge task in upending the league leaders, who boast a 100 per cent record at the Etihad Stadium.

But Redknapp's charges will feel better prepared for the challenge than they did back in August.

No comments:



Related Posts with Thumbnails