What started off as potential title contenders then drifted to top four competitors, it’s safe to say it has been a turbulent season for Tottenham Hotspur. There was a sense of belief oozing around Hotspur Way, that Spurs could finally do something this year. A young manager, off the back of a great first season in charge whilst also collecting his team’s record points total in the league, Andre Villas Boas was building quite a strong Spurs side, with signings such as Paulinho, Capoue and Chadli, that were seen as good additions to the squad. Paulinho alongside Sandro seemed to be an exciting partnership that many fans looked forward to whereas somewhat unknowns in Capoue and Chadli were merely seen as ‘squad players’ to help cope with the demands of cup competitions and the Europa League.
One of the major reasons as to why Spurs fans were excited about the new season is that they finally attracted a top class striker in Roberto Soldado, a proven international goal-scorer with a wealth of experience. This topped it all off before the season even started. Then signing Chiriches, Lamela and Eriksen all on the day prior to the Arsenal game was another major reason to boost the confidence of the Spurs faithful. Signing young promising players with room to grow into world class players is what the Spurs fans wanted. Finally the fans were beginnings to see the start of a young side also consisting of a wealth of experience to try break into the top four once again, but, it hasn’t been easy for them as the season has shown.
With a string of average performances, the lack of appearances of Lamela, and Soldado only being able to score penalties, the fans were beginning to become slightly agitated. Although there were a few negatives, there are always a few positives to take away. Spurs boasted a great defensive record. Up until the 6-0 thrashing away to City they had the best defensive record in the league by conceding a mere 6 goals after 11 games. AVB got what he wanted, a defence capable of playing a high line. Although the defence was playing well, the same cannot be said of the attackers. Only 9 goals were scored at the same point in the season, which was becoming frustrating after signing so many players due to the Gareth Bale windfall they received.
There were many questions after suffering an embarrassing 6-0 thrashing courtesy of Man City but after five unbeaten games (including two in Europe) the problems remained unearthed until the 15th of December when they suffered an embarrassing 5-0 defeat at White Hart Lane vs Liverpool. A completely one sided game, poor individual performances, most notably from Holtby, Naughton, Walker and Dawson proved to be the end of the tether for the fans and the board. On Monday the 16th of December it was confirmed that Spurs had parted company with Andre Villas Boas. Several managers’ names were thrown into the fire, such as Frank De Boer, Louis Van Gaal, Michael Laudrup and even Glenn Hoddle. Tim Sherwood was given the reigns until the Spurs board came to a decision.
Described as a ‘Young Harry Redknapp’ Sherwood promised to bring back the attacking style of play that we have all grown accustomed to at White Hart Lane. First up in the Capital One Cup at home to West Ham, from the off we saw that Sherwood had delivered what he promised, an attacking line up with two strikers spearheading the team. The first half was completely one sided and there was disbelief that Spurs went in at HT with the score remaining 0-0. The second half began and it was all Spurs again. Finally the deadlock was broken with a fine cross from Soldado to Adebayor who finished off the volley with a confident as ever finish. Then disaster struck, two successive goals from West Ham meant that we were knocked out of the cup. Many fans were disheartened with the result, but also happy with the new style of play implemented by Tim Sherwood. Still being the caretaker manager, Sherwood guided Spurs to a 3-2 away win at Southampton which proved to the board that he should get the job on a permanent basis. He signed an 18 month contract and then began the Christmas period with a team struck with injuries to key players.
The Christmas period proved difficult, but he managed to guide the team to three wins and one draw. This is a great achievement for a manager with no Premier League experience, a long list of injuries and rarely getting the time to train the players after such a busy schedule. An away FA Cup fixture defeat to Arsenal will always be hard to take but he reinstalled the faith with a 2-0 home win to Crystal Palace. Tim Sherwood stuck to his promise, to play attacking football. They’ve gone with two centre midfielders in a 4-4-2 formation, giving youngster Nabil Bentaleb playing time over the likes of Capoue and Holtby which has proved to be an inspired decision. Also putting Soldado up front with the reinvigorated Emmanuel Adebayor has proved successful as it gives Soldado more support and opens up a lot more chances for him, although he still hasn’t been able to find a goal from open play in the league since his goal vs Aston Villa in October.
With an overall look at the team, in goal Hugo Lloris is a top class keeper. Sticking to his ‘sweeper keeper’ duties, he has been suspect to a lot of praise and also criticism. This criticism is for rash decisions such as coming off his line too much and also having a tendency to punch the ball from corners or crosses rather than catching. He boasts having the joint record for clean sheets in the league, which totals 9 in 20 games. After facing a total of 209 shots, he has only conceded 24 goals which is a respectful statistic for the French captain. The defence has had its moments this season and after missing the likes of Vertonghen and Kaboul, it has stood firm in most matches. Conceding 25 goals in 21 games is not a stat to be laughed at with an ever-changing defence. Jan Vertonghen is a player who they have missed massively, but new signing Vlad Chiriches has proved to be a good replacement after averaging 89% pass accuracy along with 53% average duels won over the course of 11 games whilst also notching a goal in the process. With performances like these it will soon begin to merit a first team place in the team for good.
The midfield this season for Tottenham has been solid over the course of the season. New signing Paulinho has proved to be a great addition to the team. He has an 85% pass success rate over the course of the season, whilst gaining 2 goals and assists to help his team. He is not the natural Brazilian we have grown accustomed to but can prove he can provide the guile that most Brazilian’s have with his massive goal away to Cardiff in September with a back heel goal in additional minutes. Fellow new signing Christian Eriksen, the Danish international, had started life at Spurs on a positive note, but an injury on international duty meant his positive state came to an abrupt end. After a spell of one month out, his return has proven to be a big success. In his most recent four league games vs West Brom, Stoke, Man United and Crystal Palace, he has scored two goals and gained an assist to help Spurs to four wins and a draw in their last five games.
Under AVB, goals from the strikers this season has been a rarity, but under Tim Sherwood he has brought back Adebayor from the reserve team which has proved to be a success. Scoring three goals and gaining two assists in as many as six league games. Not only has he scored and created goals, he provides Roberto Soldado with support and it has instantly shown improved performances from Soldado, although he still hasn’t claimed a goal from open play yet under Sherwood. Surely if past performances are to go by then it is only a matter of time until Soldado scores from open play and gets rid of the nickname ‘Pendado’.
After the busy and hectic period of Christmas the season is at its midway point. After a few bumpy performances, Spurs are still in contention for the top four. Jermain Defoe has now been sold to Toronto so a replacement may be needed or Tim Sherwood may stick with the youth and decide to give Harry Kane a few chances. With players returning from injury Spurs aren’t in desperate need of new signings, so sticking with what they have – and with some luck on the injury front – may prove to be vital to finishing in the top four. Tim Sherwood’s career at Spurs has been short but also promising – if he sticks to the attacking style of play and giving youth a chance, then he will surely become a fan favourite.