Last Season: 4th
Premier League Champions Odds: 25/1
Ahh the Premier League…let me think back and remember what that is. After a summer of sport unlike any other in my life, it’s bread and butter time – the start of the best league in the world, a league that takes me on an emotional roller coaster on a weekly basis and a sport that I love like a mother loves a small child. Despite it being the return of my own personal universe, I have mixed emotions about the 2012/13 season and the prospect of my regular pilgrimage to White Hart Lane to watch the ‘mighty’ Spurs.
I don’t love my club any less, I haven’t lost my passion, it’s just reality has kicked in and I have a feeling that this season – we may not be so mighty. A new era will begin at Spurs come Saturday, ‘Arry has gone, AVB has arrived and initially I had an overriding and uncharacteristic sense of optimism. The Spurs PR machine did well to gloss over any negativity that may have surrounded the arrival of AVB – we announced his appointment in close proximity to new signings Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson, which were swiftly followed by the hype around the new training ground – at this point, I was sold.
We went out on our pre-season tour/battle to recruit American fans. Yet with every passing game/week my excitement dwindled – finally culminating in a loss to Valencia. The Luka Modric saga has rumbled on without conclusion, disrupting our build up. This may be a contentious point, but he simply has to go. He has served his time and now his presence is an unwelcome distraction that could cost us early points. It’s not that he is a trouble maker or anything like that…it’s like having the in-laws stay over; you know they are going to leave, you are waiting for it and until it happens you feel unsettled. Modric training alone is doing our only world-class player a disservice, so let’s just unload him. It is unnerving to see AVB hasn’t lost his ignorant streak as Modric’s lack of pre-season action and his isolation echoes the exile of Nicolas Anelka and Alex at Chels*a hinting that maybe he didn’t learn much from his Chelsea experience.
The Modric saga, of which we are already on our second installment after last summer, also seems to be limiting our activity in the transfer market. At the time of writing this we haven’t added to either the Vertonghen or Siguardsson singings when the squad is crying out for two new strikers, a winger (who can play both sides), another left-back and a goalkeeper.
We are under a week away from the kick off of the Premier League with Jermain Defoe as the only senior striker. I don’t know about you, but I am worried. AVB has backed 19-year-old Harry Kane to do a job… A job for a team that is trying to challenge for a top four spot again, is he joking? Kane is a good prospect, but far from ready and Defoe is 30-years-old, playing for a team that doesn’t exactly play to his strengths.
As usual, we have been linked with the customary big names; Adebayor, Damiao, Moutinho, Lloris and Ramirez none of which have come to fruition for one reason of another. We are currently weaker than we were last season with no Adebayor or King and Modric ready to depart. We built our success last season with an unbelievable start to the campaign (after the Manchester games). But this season the task seems even greater with the improvement in the teams around us. We cannot afford to start off with a loss to challengers Newcastle, who themselves are looking decent. We have a lot of winnable games early that have the potential to inspire confidence in both the team and AVB. We don’t want to turn to negative town (I am not negative, just realistic) like the Chelsea fans eventually did during AVB’s reign – we have seen the results of such attitude in Chels*a’s league performance last season.
With that in mind, AVB is a man who has it all to prove – he is currently an Englishman in New York, an old enemy who has penetrated friendly lines, none of this is helped by Chelski’s performance during his tenure.
But there is also plenty of positive from the appointment of AVB as he will bring a brand of football to the club which ultimately will be best for the team long term. AVB’s mentality echoes that of the Pep Guardiola’s and Brendan Rodgers’ of this world and he is a million times more astute tactically and technically as a coach than Redknapp ever was.
*Technical astuteness calculated in part on the ability to read and write as greater assets than the deficit of leaving tactics sheets in hotels ahead of important fixtures*
AVB has already changed the team formation to a 4-2-3-1 formation that many of us felt the team could have benefitted from last season when we needed to keep things a little tighter and be more resilient. Possibly the only silver lining when Modric departs, as he wouldn’t fit this formation being an out-and-out centre mid. Whether we have the personnel to be effective playing this way remains to be seen as with it comes new headaches. Defoe cannot play as a lone striker and at the moment no one has been brought in who can. Have we got the depth of quality defensive midfielders we need to play this way? No wonder we are also linked to Yann M’Vila.
The other thing is can we play at a high enough tempo to press high up the pitch without the ball – a tactic Harry Redknapp seemed against as he preferred the team to sit back and defend our own half last season. Have we got the passing quality to play this way without Modric linking the play? The jury is out, but it won’t be long until we have the answers.
It’s not all pessimism from this realistic Y*d – I do like our new kit, not that I buy football shirts these days being such a real football fan…
This season preview felt more like a confession of my sins to my local catholic priest than a look to the season ahead, but the bottom line through all my waffle is the future is uncertain. I have tasted the delights of Champions League away tours and I want more – I am not sure I can go another season without a trip to the San Siro or Santiago Bernabeau, it feels like a place we belong. Every passing season without the lure of Champions League football, we risk going backwards by failing to retain our top players and add the necessary quality to the team. Time will tell whether AVB is the man to take us there, but make no bones about it, I hope he does and it could turn out that this season is a bit special at the Lane.
Predicted finish: 5th