“We want you to stay, we want you to stay – Harry Redknapp, we want you to stay”. It seems like a long time ago that song echoed round White Hart Lane. Redknapp had just got off his tax evasion charge, Spurs were flying high and Redknapp had been installed as the firm favourite to succeed Fabio Capello as England manager, as the Italian resigned from the post.
Fast forward 10 weeks and when Spurs play Blackburn on Sunday, the song of endearment is likely to have changed to a more ironic “Harry for England” from the Tottenham faithful.
I like to think that I am not a reactionary fan, and I have strongly defended Redknapp in the past but capitulation for the 2nd season in a row is too much for me and I lay the blame firmly at Harry’s door.
Firstly, the tactics that Redknapp has used in the past couple of months have been extremely questionable. Having beaten Newcastle 5-0 it masked some of the inadequacies of Redknapp’s tactical awareness. The emotion of the occasion coupled with Newcastle coming with the aim of trying to play Spurs at their own game lulled Redknapp in to the false sense of security that 4-4-2 actually worked. This does not, and has not worked but this result encouraged Redknapp to try the formation in more games.
Spurs success earlier in the season had been the result of playing a combination of 4-4-1-1 and 4-2-3-1. The reason this formation worked against Newcastle due to the tactical naïvety displayed by Alan Pardew – thinking they could go out at White Hart Lane and take the game to us. Spurs have struggled when teams have come to sit back, but with Newcastle going for it from the off it played into Tottenham’s hand. Once Tottenham scored the first goal, Newcastle pushed harder for a goal and left spaces for Tottenham to exploit.
Saha and Adebayor looked like a devastating partnership and it meant that Redknapp continued to pick the pair. In that game though, Newcastle were without a number of key players. Notable absentees included their first choice midfield pairing of Tiote and Cabaye. Since that game, Pardew has demonstrated capabilities that we could only dream of in Redknapp. Pardew ditched the 4-4-2 and has enjoyed great success employing a 4-2-3-1 formation – a formation that a number of Spurs fans want to see us play. With Gutiérrez dropping into a defensive midfield role alongside Tiote, it allowed Cabaye to play in a more advanced role and do so with devastating effect. This tactical change also saw Demba Ba drift out to the left, leaving Papiss Cisse as the focal point of the attack. These subtle changes help Newcastle flourish where Spurs have flagged and the deservedly occupy the coveted 4th spot.
Since that game, Redknapp’s lack of tactical nous has seen Spurs out thought in matches. In the game against Arsenal, even with a 2-0 lead it was evident that Tottenham would not hold it. They were being overrun in midfield as Redknapp had opted to start with the 4-4-2 formation that had appeared to be effective against Newcastle. Redknapp later admitted that he could see what the fans thought was obvious, but by the time he was able to change this it was too late.
Additional tactical errors included (amongst others) playing players out of position against Everton, as well as underestimating a well organised Norwich team. The previous week Redknapp gave Swansea more respect, using two defensive midfielders to help protect the defence. This enabled them to press all over the pitch and ensure that Swansea’s creative players were not allowed time and space on the ball. Tottenham won the game 3-1. Instead of playing the same way against Norwich, Redknapp decided to go back to a failed 4-4-2. We were completely outplayed by Norwich and the Canaries fully deserved the 3 points. Again Harry pointed to the fact that he thought we were overrun in midfield. He wasn’t wrong! Yet he was unable to set us up in a fashion to make sure we won the game.
The stats below have been taken from one of my previous articles and looks at how effectively Norwich were able to press and not allow us to play a fluid passing game. Each of the midfield 4 failed to achieve an 80% passing accuracy in the opposition half. Bale who was poor in possession had the worst accuracy at 46%. The main playmaker Modric was not allowed time on the ball and his passing accuracy in the opposition half was only 72% – well below his season average of 82%.
On a more positive note and to be fair to Redknapp, he did get his tactics right in the game at Stamford Bridge. Again he opted for the 4-2-3-1 and was able to stifle the most creative player Chelsea had on the pitch in Juan Mata. Spurs could have and with better finishing would have won the game. With a system that worked, and 4-2-3-1 starting to help us pick up points, it was surprising that Redknapp continued trying 4-4-2 when it was obvious to pretty much everyone that this doesn’t work.
As well as displaying a lack of tactical nous, Redknapp is notorious at playing players out of position. As the song goes ‘he plays on the left, he plays on the left – Gareth Bale, he plays on the left’ but Redknapp seems to play him on the right or allows him (I’ll stop short of encouraging him) to play through the centre. Tottenham play at their best with width and pace but Bale coming into the centre has left things congested and our left back exposed on occasions – as he was against QPR at the weekend. Playing Bale on the right means that we had to find someone to play on the left. Rather than bringing in a winger, he moved Modric to the left which minimises his creativeness. Modric is our play maker and should be allowed to dictate the play and make us tick. Moving him away from the centre takes away our creative impetus and he has far less of an impact upon the game. Most managers try to make minimum disruptions to the team by playing a similar player in the position rather than completely disrupting the team – not so Redknapp unfortunately.
Next Page: More faults with Redknapp: The lack of rotation. (Click bottom right/top right for page numbers)
Lack of Rotation
This brings me onto my 2nd key point about Redknapp – his lack of rotation. For the 2nd season in a row we are starting to look tired. This is no coincidence as the same players have played game after game. Redknapp has his favourites and if they are fit, they play. This has a knock on effect within the squad. Players that are squad players that are not utilised seek to move where they will get regular football. We have seen this with players like Pienaar, Bassong & Corluka to name just a few. How we could have done with Pienaar recently. Although I appreciate that in his time with us he wasn’t great, he would give Harry an other option. He seems to have rediscovered his best form back at Everton scoring crucial goals against Chelsea and Manchester United.
The second issue with the lack of rotation and trust within squad players is the loss of form and confidence. If it is evident that the manager doesn’t trust you, confidence is so low that when you are called upon there is a nervousness in your play. This is something we have seen with a number of players. As well as confidence there is also an issue of rustiness. This is also perfectly displayed in the example of Pienaar. With regular football at Everton is thriving. While I am not saying that Pienaar would be a regular starter for Spurs he would be a reliable back up – a player that can play on either flank and allow for rotation with Bale/Lennon. When Lennon was out injured, Pienaar could have been an ideal replacement rather than moving both Bale and Modric out of position.
The stats below indicate how influential Pienaar has been for Everton and he was sorely missed in their FA Cup Semi Final. The stats show his creativity. He created an incredible 5 chances from open play at Old Trafford at also created 5 in the previous game against Sunderland. How Spurs could have done with that creativity to unlock the stubborn defences we have faced, both home and away.
My final objection to Redknapp in this character assassination is the fact that he has made us weaker in the transfer window. He is making excuses that players are tired and he doesn’t have strength in-depth but who’s fault is this? How can he allow us from going to a situation where we had 4 right backs last season to just having one? Kyle Walker has been superb and his Young Player of the Year award shows how so, but he is looking shattered. He is not the only one. Just as Pienaar would have been an ideal back up for Bale/Lennon, Corluka should never have been allowed to leave. Redknapp also left us short in the other fullback position – clearly not fancying Danny Rose as an understudy to Assou Ekotto.
Centre back was also a position that should have been strengthened, and I don’t consider an aging defender from Blackburn who hadn’t played for a year as strengthening our back line – no offence to Ryan Nelson. To be fair to Redknapp, he can’t have envisaged that he would have lost Dawson for the rest of the season and he would have had to rely on a creaking Ledley King so much.
However, I am fed up of hearing Harry’s excuses. Everything that he says in terms of tiredness and lack of options within the squad are down to him. Worst of all are his insulting words that Tottenham have never had it so good. You are right to an extent Harry – we have the best squad that we have had in my life time, but you have ruined us.
Redknapp is quick to remind us that we had 2 points from 8 games when he came in but I haven’t heard him mention once his incredible run of 6 points in 9 games.
I am really hoping that England still want Harry, but if not, it’s time for him to go either way.