A record-breaking 72 points finish to the league in his first full season is quite an achievement, but when success is measured by Champions League football, Andre Villas-Boas’ effort that kept Spurs in the race until the very last matchday might not be widely appreciated. The quality of the squad is beyond doubt and they have further proved their ability to match the top four this season. However, inconsistency and the lack of squad depth have overshadowed Gareth Bale’s incredible form. Tottenham is again only second best in North London.
Retaining Bale and hunting for strikers is the obvious top priority this. To keep pace with the other European football contenders, there are more problems AVB has to address to keep sharpening the squad.
(a) Polishing the Back
They have found a long-term first-choice goalkeeper and restored Michael Dawson in the centre of defence. Now they require better contribution from the fullbacks. Kyle Walker’s season can be rated as solid, but the youngster might have suffered from the “sophomore’s blue”. Unlike his rookie season which he challenged Corluka’s starting position, Kyle Walker looked less sharp offensively and made immature passing decisions. Aaron Lennon’s poor fitness did not help the two to form a strong partnership, but Tottenham would have expected a steeper development curve from the right back alone.
Tottenham will be shopping for a left back to replace the passionless Assou-Ekotto. They might need to search for one on the right to challenge Walker and stimulate his growth. This will also depend on their plans on Jan Vertonghen’s position and Kyle Naughton’s development.
(b) Mixing the Midfield
There are no short of talents in midfield and AVB will need to search for the right mix. Scott Parker, Moussa Dembele, Sandro, Tom Huddlestone, and Jake Livermore all featured for Spurs in central midfield. Tom Huddlestone had some delightful performance since returning from injury but has expressed his desire to leave for more playing time. Scott Parker is already 32 but could still be influential to the team. Sandro and Dembele look to be the frontrunners, although more creativity could be arriving at White Hart Lane, even though AVB’s favourite Joao Moutinho has already joined Monaco.
Sigurdsson scored some big goals coming off the bench. In truth, Tottenham was quite short of options when they sought for changes in the match. Andres Townsend’s return from Loftus Road could be a boost to the bench. Understudies for wingers are still needed, regardless of Bale’s decision to stay or not. More importantly, AVB has to work out the best midfield combination to get the most out of his selection of strikers.
(c) Searching for Leadership
William Gallas was AVB’s early season choice of captain. The ageing legs and fitness problem sidelined the Frenchman and Michael Dawson returned. Still, there is a lack of outspoken characters in the team. Even the inspirational Scott Parker believes in action rather than words. Arsenal proves this is not a compulsory character to be top four. For Tottenham, who sometimes shows a lack of concentration and motivation, they might need a man who can roar at them back to their best in match –
(d) Inspiring Self-belief
They can overcome Manchester United and City, but stalemates against lower teams often frustrate Tottenham. It is the ability to grind out results late in the season that differentiated Arsenal and Tottenham. Already showing better resilience since AVB’s emphasis on Europa League involvement, Spurs does not have a player who have been enjoying regular success before. Without a winner’s mentality, the team failed to persevere as the season entered the latter stage; the team looked less motivated. AVB will have to discover a way to bring self-belief to this group of talented players in order to get the maximum out of them.
Daniel Levy and AVB have a lot to do this summer to avoid disappointment again next season. With Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool ready to mount a challenge for European football again, also with Everton determined to regroup following David Moyes’ departure, Tottenham will anticipate an even tougher contest in 2013/14 campaign. Nevertheless, with nearly half of the teams facing managerial changes, the Yids shall be delighted that AVB is steering them in the right direction. With AVB solidifying his stature at White Hart Lane following a slightly turbulent season, it is time for him to lead Tottenham to bigger success.
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