Saturday, August 4, 2007

Premiership Preview--4. Tottenham

4. Tottenham has finished 5th in each of the past two Premiership seasons, unable to crack the top four and the Champions League spots that come with it. Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal have made up the top four in those two seasons and in three of the last four seasons in total, but that stranglehold will come to an end in 2007-2008. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has spent more than $60 million US this summer to bring in additional players for manager Martin Jol and it will be their contributions that catapult Tottenham into 4th place this season. If you're young and British, Tottenham have an interest in you (Aaron Lennon, Michael Dawson, Jermaine Jenas, Tom Huddlestone, Wayne Routledge, Ben Alnwick, Philip Ifil, Gareth Bale, and Darren Bent).

The prize signing is Bent, a 23-year old striker who spent the last two seasons toiling in obscurity with Charlton Athletic. Bent scored 31 goals in 68 games for the Addicks and after Charlton got relegated this past season, it was clear he was going to move to a bigger club. Tottenham paid a hefty fee for him ($32 million US), but got a player who will make their already-superb striking corps (Berbatov, Defoe, Keane) even better. Each of those players scored 10+ league goals last season and though Defoe's production will drop a bit this year with the addition of Bent, Keane and Berbatov should be good for more than 10 goals again this year and I'd expect Bent to do the same. The player whose addition I feel will prove to be the most important this year is left back Gareth Bale. At just 18 years of age, Bale is already a starter on the Welsh national team (2 goals in 5 games; he was first capped at the age of 16) and played regularly for his Championship team (Southampton) since 2005. He was the Football League (Championship, League 1, League 2) Young Player of the Year for 2006-2007, and possesses a truly lethal left foot which has helped him become a brillant free-kick taker. Bale has been compared favorably to fellow Welsh player Ryan Giggs, and though he's not the most defensive-minded left back, he should jump right into the starting 11 for Tottenham as he's already a better player than any of the other options Martin Jol has at that position. It was basically left-back-by-committee last season at Tottenham and the club didn't spend $10 million US to sit an 18-year old on the bench. Younes Kaboul, a 21-year old French defender, was wrestled away from Auxerre and will begin the season as a starting center back as the captain, Ledley King, is injured (again!). Kevin-Prince Boateng was the Best Young Player in the Bundesliga last season with Hertha Berlin and adds to the dearth of central midfielders that Tottenham has. Tottenham lost no one of note this summer (Reto Ziegler was the biggest name to depart), and have a great team (at least on paper) for Martin Jol to tinker with.

Tottenham shouldn't have much of a problem through their first three games of the season, and a trip to Old Trafford on August 26 will be a statement game. Beating Manchester United away will prove they're for real, and a draw wouldn't be a bad result either. Tottenham hosts Arsenal just 3 weeks (2 games) later in a North London derby, another big game for them, and then will go to Anfield to play Liverpool on the first weekend of October. The schedule isn't very difficult at all from there until the middle of December when two consecutive road games bring Portsmouth and the second North London derby with Arsenal just 3 days before Christmas. Tottenham will then play Chelsea twice in a span of 6 games, games that also include a home date with Manchester United an away game at Everton. 10 straight winnable games follow that second match with Chelsea, and a home game against Liverpool finishes out the season.

Bottom Line: Arsenal and Tottenham are both very young teams, but the difference is Tottenham have some older, more experienced players (Robbie Keane, Didier Zokora, Steed Malbranque, Pascal Chimbonda, Dimitar Berbatov, Paul Robinson, etc.) who all play important, critical roles on the team. Whereas Arsenal's lineup is centered around young players who are relied on heavily, Tottenham can ease their younger players into the lineup because the veterans are still producing. The older guys take the pressure off the kids and mentor them while winning at the same time. The young players are able to mature at their own pace and aren't put into the lineup by Martin Jol until he's certain they're ready to handle playing in the Premierhip environment. Tottenham has fewer question marks than Arsenal, a very, very underrated manager, and more certain financial backing. This team is ready to crack the top 4 and play in the Champions League next season.

1 comment:

tyduffy said...

Yes, but at the same time, how many of those more experienced players would even be in the starting XI for Arsenal?

Also, how are those players more experienced than RVP, Gilberto, Fabregas, Rosicky, Toure, Gallas etc. The same logic could be used about Arsenal and their younger players.