Monday, 25 June 2012

Modric off, ........... In

During Croatia's short spell in the Euro 2012 Championships, Slaven Bilic had the nation playing slick possession football that was almost the undoing of the masters of one touch football, Spain, with Ivan Rakitic just inches away from knocking Torres and co out of the tournament. Unfortunately it wasn't to be but the game will have had a huge impact in Spain, in particular with Madrid fans. Matching, if not bettering the performances of Barcelona's Xavi and Iniesta, was a midfield maestro by the name of Luka Modric.

Since that game the rumour mill has gone crazy with stories of the Croatian's departure with Man City, United and Chelsea also said to be interested but all signs point to Madrid. Realistic Spurs fans would've accepted the likelihood of Luka moving on and with Madrid forming little competition to us as a club, maybe it is time to let him go and look to strengthen our team with the fee we receive. But who can fill the gaping hole set to be left by the potential departure?

One of the rumours that has been going around regarding the Modric to Madrid situation mentions the possibility of a part exchange deal, with youngster Nuri Sahin being mooted in particular. Sahin moved to Madrid from Borussia Dortmund last summer having lead Dortmund to the league title. Voted player of the season in the Bundesliga, Madrid were quick to snap up the Turkish international on a six year deal but injuries and strong competition have left him with few opportunities to shine for the Galactico's.

Sahin's style is very similar to Modric's, playing in a deep lying playmaking position with a fantastic passing range and a good engine. In his final season at Dortmund he also chipped in with 8 goals and 13 assists, an astonishing record for a player of his position and at the tender age of 21. The stumbling block could be Madrid's reluctance to let such a talented player go, but should he become available we'd have a potential star on our hands.

Another name that has recently been suggested is Hoffenheim's Gylfi Sigurdsson. He made his name initially at Reading under Steve Coppell and Brendan Rodgers showing enough potential to be snapped up by Hoffenheim for £7 million, despite having dropped down to the Championship with Reading. Having struggled for form however out in Germany, Sigurdsson made his way back to England last season with Swansea, again under Rodgers. In 17 games for the Welsh side he returned 7 goals and 3 assists, helping to propel the club to a secure mid-table finish. A very different player to Modric, Sigurdsson may struggle to adapt to a similar position to Modric but could be an alternative option.

Sigurdsson's team mate last year, Joe Allen is another player who could prove an attraction to Levy and the new manager. Unlike Sigurdsson, Allen tends to play deep in the midfield dictating play and is a key component of Swansea's quick, fluid football. Last year the young Welshman was a regular in the side with 4 goals and 2 assists to his name, and is much in the mould of Modric. However he is still inexperienced at this level and Luka is still a class above meaning we'd be arguably weakening our side.

Lest we not forget however two options that could come from within our squad however. In these European Championships Van Der Vaart struggled to pick up appearances for the Dutch side, but when given the opportunities, Van Marwijk tended to favour him playing in a deeper midfield role than he is accustomed to with Spurs. He possesses all the qualities to slot back a little further back, with good energy, a fantastic passing range and a goal in him to boot, but could this be too much of a risk? And could it hamper our goal threat?

Big Tommy Huddlestone suffered horrendously with injuries last season but now looks to be at a stage of recovery where he could be fit for the start of the season. If Modric was to leave, there are very few better passers of the ball than Huddlestone. He lacks pace, which is of course a flaw but his reading of the game and quick thinking more than make up for this. Let us not forget that Tommy was a key component in the season we achieved Champions League qualification and if he can perform at the same level as pre-injury, the loss of Modric could certainly be stemmed somewhat.

Maybe it's wrong of me to already be planning for life without Luka, but I would bet my last dime that Mr Levy will have already done so.

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Saturday, 16 June 2012

International Round Up Pt 2

With the second round of group games now completed, I thought I'd revisit the International Round Up and look at how our players have looked in their most recent appearances.

On Wednesday the Dutch took on the Germans in a much hyped contest featuring our Rafa. After the last game against Denmark where Holland failed to pick up any points I predicted Van Der Vaart may get the nod ahead of The disappointing Afellay but Van Marwijk named an unchanged line-up. With Germany two up at half time Van Der Vaart replaced Afellay for the second half. Whilst he failed to pull up any trees whilst he was on the pitch, there seemed to be a greater urgency and attacking threat after he'd been introduced and the Dutch managed to pull one back. Unfortunately for them they could not find the second goal and found themselves leaving empty handed once again.

Most teams to have lost their first two games of a major tournament would already be out, but Holland are still in with a chance of progressing to the next stages as runners up. With Germany to face the Danes and Portugal providing Holland's opposition, they will need to get the 3 points in their match and hope that Germany can also win. If this is the case it'll then come down to goal difference so a two goal win would be enough. Though I was wrong last week about Rafa starting versus the Germans, I believe that Van Marwijk will play him from the start this time around with the need for goals desperate.

In Group C the match between Italy and Croatia featured two Spurs players with Corluka and Modric both on show. Corluka was assigned the role of keeping Cassano and Balotelli quiet and did an admirable job as Italy's goal came from a free kick in the 1-1 draw, with nothing Vedran could do to stop it. Modric came up against Andrea Pirlo in a much anticipated match up, but his performance seemed to come up short compared to Pirlo. Fairly anonymous in the first half he upped his game a bit in the second half.

Next up for the Croats is a crunch game against trophy holders and tournament favourites Spain. With both teams on 4 points and Italy back on 2, either team could lose and still go through if the Republic of Ireland managed to take something away against Italy. After Corluka's performance this week, he is a certainty to regain his place at centre back for the tough test. Key man Modric will certainly start and will have to be at his best to try and match the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Silva.

England went into their game with Sweden with an unenviable record against the Scandinavians having failed to win against them in 7 attempts at major tournaments. Scott Parker and co were looking to put an end to the run and took the lead when Carroll nodded in. The Swedes then got back into the game with an equaliser which was then quickly followed by their second as slack marking at the back post allowed Olof Mellberg in to head past Hart. With the introduction of Theo Walcott, England looked a lot more hungry and goals from Theo and Danny Welbeck gave us the win so desperately needed. Parker put in his usual shift and even forced Isaakson into a good save in the Swedish goal early on. Unfortunately for Defoe there would be no appearance this week.

The final game of England's campaign is against hosts Ukraine and England will now that a point will be enough to take them through to the knockout stages. However with Spain likely to top Group C, England will want to beat Ukraine to give themselves a chance of topping Group D. Parker, barring injury, will no doubt start and have to watch out for the talented Yarmalenko. The youngster has failed to shine yet in the tournament but is a talented player and Ukraine's dangerman. With Rooney's return from suspension, Defoe will likely sit through the Ukraine game on the bench with Welbeck and Carroll also ahead of him in the pecking order.

With no teams guaranteed their place in the knockout rounds the next four days are certain to contain many twists and turns and it will be interesting to see how our lads fare under the pressure.

Finally on a side note, it's great to hear the news that Spurs legend Dave Mackay has been released from hospital. I know I speak for all of us when I wish him the best in his recovery.

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Thursday, 14 June 2012

Lack of respect from Charlie

It's boring being a Spurs fan. Just when you thought that the FA's appointment of Roy Hodgson had closed the whole Harry Redknapp saga, Levy decides to wield the axe and we now move in to the process of a finding a new man to take the club forward.

With the majority of Spurs stories understandably covering the departure and it's fallout, I thought I'd look at another story that seems to have got lost amongst the masses. In an interview with The Sun this morning Vedran Corluka fired a warning shot at us regarding our midfield talisman Luka Modric and his future.

"We all know it will be very difficult for Spurs to keep Luka" and "Not getting into the Champions League will cost Spurs next season" were just a couple of the quotes that stood out from the interview. Now I know Corluka has no love for the club having fallen out of favour this year, but should an employee really be talking like this about their current employer?

We are all aware of the interest Modric has received across Europe and it is common knowledge that he wished to leave last summer. Whilst I don't like the constant rumours of his departure, they can be understood as it is journalists with no ties to the club trying to sell a few papers. To have a player on the inside spouting off about another player's future however is unacceptable.

Last year Modric was severely affected by the reports to the point where he missed a couple of games at the start of the season. If a teammate is commenting on him, surely this will unsettle even more? We all know why Corluka is talking like this as his bitterness at not receiving the appearances he felt he deserved last season has brought out his petty side on regular occasions, but with Spurs holding all the cards over his own future, a smart move this does not seem.

Corluka served this club admirably and effectively in his first couple of seasons and it would be a shame for him to leave with a poor rapport with the fans, but it seems like this is the way he wants it to be.

As for Harry, whilst the end of his spell was tarnished by the disappointment of missing out on the Champions League, I hope I speak for everyone when I say thank you for what you achieved at our club in pushing us to the level we are at today. Only time will tell whether Levy is proven correct.

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Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Is Moyes the man for the job?

David Moyes has allegedly been short listed by Levy & co to take over the managerial position should Redknapp get the chop, the London Evening Standard has reported tonight.

Last night social media websites, in particular Twitter, exploded with news that Redknapp was in crisis talks with the Spurs board and Harry was set to quit. Harry was quick to quash rumours, claiming the stories to be an 'outrage' and a 'liberty', declaring 'There is not a chance I will resign'. However after the disappointing end to the season crisis talks have been called between Levy, Redknapp and Redknapp's agent Paul Stretford to discuss Harry's future at the club.

If this evening's story regarding Moyes carries any credibility, it looks as if the Everton boss is top of our wanted list, if only because Brendan Rodgers is no longer available. So is Moyes really the man to take Spurs to the next level?

Looking at the job he has done at Everton, the man must be applauded for his ability to get the best out of a team that has punched hugely above it's weight on a shoestring budget. With limited funds he has managed to bring in the likes of Tim Cahill, Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka among others for a combined cost of less than a David Bentley. These three are now the fulcrum of the Everton side and Baines alone has recently been valued at £20 million.

Moyes teams, going back to his managerial beginnings back at Preston North End, have always carried a doggedness and determined attitude. Bar the few exceptions in our squad, this appears from the outside to be something that the majority of Spurs players struggle to show, especially towards the business end of the season. A table based on results over the last 15 games of the season showed Spurs to be in the bottom half whilst Everton flew high near the top.

Where questions have to be asked is whether Moyes would be able to adapt to a different mentality with an alternative club culture. At Spurs, Moyes would be able to look at potential signings from a much wider pool of players than were available to Everton with a higher transfer budget. Sometimes this can breed mistakes with less worry of a higher valued transfer failing because there is the safety net of more money in the coffers. At Everton the fact that he had limited money meant that when Moyes spent, he had to be sure the player was worth the punt. And on the rare occasions that he has spent big, it seems that his judgement has been accurate with high priced Fellaini and Jelavic enjoying the best spells of their career at the Goodison club.

I'm not writing off Redknapp here either as the club needs to look at whether Redknapp's achievements have been reasonably strong enough to keep him in the job and also look at whether any other attainable manager could have achieved more in Harry's time at the club. His 4 years have been trophy less but have contained the highs of Champions League Qualification, strong Cup showings and an unbelievable Champions League run beating Italian giants Inter and AC along the way.

If I'm honest I don't know what to think of the situation. If Harry stays we keep a good manager who has definitely pushed us on to the next level. If he goes there is an alternative available with good pedigree that may just want to take up the challenge of managing our wonderful club. Whatever decision Levy makes the fans have to back the man in the dugout and get behind our team again come August.

Just as a final point, if we were to appoint Moyes at the helm, do you think we'd see the best of Pienaar or could we potentially see the first Player/Manager swap in Premier League History? Would certainly eliminate the compensation if this was to happen. Just throwing it out there.

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Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The Spurs Euro Campaign

Ding Ding. There's the bell and it's the end of the first round of games for Euro 2012 with all teams now having given an indication as to what we can expect from them for the rest of the tournament. So I thought it was worth looking into the performances of our players over the last few days.

First in action representing the Spurs was Rafael Van Der Vaart as The Netherlands took on Denmark. Bert Van Marwijk decided that two defensive midfield players was the way to go so Rafa was sacrificed to include City's Nigel De Jong. With The Netherlands falling behind and struggling to get through Denmark's defence Van Der Vaart was brought on but to little avail as the main shock of the tournament gave Denmark the three points.

Where does this leave Van Der Vaart for the next game against Germany? With Germany likely to also play five in the midfield, I would expect Van Marwijk to stick with the two combative midfielders in De Jong and Van Bommel. However after proving to be fairly disappointing against the Danes, there is a chance that Ibrahim Afellay could make way leaving a place up for grabs that Rafa will surely be desperate for.

Next up on Sunday night were Luka Modric and Vedran Corluka (He's still one of ours) as they lined up opposite ex-spur Robbie Keane with Croatia taking on The Republic of Ireland. Croatia picked up all 3 points in a routine win and much of the credit had to go to Modric, who controlled the tempo of the game, moving the ball around quicker than the likes of Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews could handle. Corluka however seemed to be struggling against the physicality of Doyle and then Walters after his introduction, making a couple of basic errors. In saying that he was out of position at Centre Back and alongside a partner he'd played with only once beforehand.

Next up for Croatia are Italy and they are going to need to expect a lot tougher a test, especially for Luka who will be going toe to toe with Pirlo and Marchisio, players who will not be as easily shaken off as Andrews and Whelan. Croatia have little options defensively so it would be a huge shock if Corluka wasn't selected, but he'll have to be on his game to give Croatia the opportunity to pick up a result.

And so we come to England. With Walker watching the tournament from home we were left with just one representative in the starting line up in the form of the battling Scott Parker. Scott's task was simply to do as he normally does and anchor the midfield. This meant nullifying the fluidity of Cabaye and skill of Malouda in the central midfield. Slowly growing into the game Parker began to gain the advantage in the battle making some stunning blocks and interceptions before being taken off after running himself into the ground. A good game on the whole though maybe could have done more to block Nasri's shot for France's goal. It was great to see Jermain Defoe back out on the pitch after the recent sad news of his fathers passing, but ultimately he had little time to really have any effect on the game as he saw out the 1-1.

Parker's combatitive display surely guarantees him his place for the next game where he will have to stop the creative talents of Seb Larsson, Rasmus Elm and Anders Svensson. Parker has to be fancied to come out on top here as they are not of the standards of Cabaye. Jermain will hope to get some game time again but after Welbeck's display it's fairly unlikely, bar possibly a late substitute appearance.

Finally I have to just sit back and despair at the decision to rid of Pavlyuchenko back in January. Whilst his time at Tottenham was inconsistent and disappointing it looks like he could have another decent European Championship. So often a decent appearance at a major international tournament has sent a players value rocketing. Will we regret selling Pav so soon?
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Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Spurs looking at Green future

With Robert Green now out of contract with West Ham and David Gold tweeting that he will not be staying with the club, it was inevitable that Spurs would be the first club linked to the keeper.

It's well known that Harry loves a bargain and they don't come any cheaper than a free transfer. He's also a former Hammers player, and Spurs have a history of snapping up former Irons favourites such as Jermain Defoe, Michael Carrick and Freddy Kanoute. If Harry can't read or write, then languages are certainly going to be an issue so that can only be another factor that means we must be in for him.

Green has made some well known blunders, none as memorable as his mistake in England's first game of World Cup 2010 against the USA that let them back into the game, but has shown on many occasions that he is a very talented keeper.

What may go against the signing however is where he would stand in terms of selection. With Brad the wrong side of 40 it's inevitable that he can't have long left in the game, but he's shown no signs of retiring just yet. After such a commanding season between the sticks that gave us the confidence we never had with Gomes, would it be fair to demote him to second choice for a player who played his trade in the Championship last year? And is Green even worthy of a starting place?

Robert Green would be a fantastic signing for Spurs, and at little cost, but whether we see him at the Lane next season depends on one thing. Ambition. If he's to take up a contact with us he's effectively saying he's happy to be second choice. It'll be interesting to follow the situation.

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Harry's Contract Scenario

Today Harry Redknapp has come out to the media (yes, again) and told of how he hopes to get a contract renewal from Daniel Levy. He even went as far as to suggest that him not singing up for a longer contract before the season begins could be catastrophic. So has Harry's head got too big after the England fiasco or do we really need him that desperately?

Let's look at what he's done for the club. Since he's been here we have gone from bottom of the league to regular top four contenders, but was the clubs starting position under him ever a true position? Of course it wasn't, any other reasonable manager would have had us far away from that awful mess.

However credit has to be given to him for getting us into the Champions League initially with players of a lesser quality to what we currently have at the club. That season we showed courage, bottle and desire, and achieved far beyond our expectations.

These qualities however seem to have diminished somewhat in the last two years, under his stewardship managing to blow promising positions in the space of 6 weeks towards the business end of the season. If Harry is this truly top manager that he believes he is, should this be happening?

Plaudits were rightly thrown at Redknapp at the Christmas for our style of play and you could argue that the man was right to lap it up. But success has gone to his head and the lure of the England job seems to have proved too much for him to handle, as his loyalties were proven to lie elsewhere. Simply put, Redknapp took his eye off the ball and changed what should have been a groundbreaking season into a crumbling mess.

The reasoning for a contract extension that seems to be flowing from Arry himself seems to be that players will struggle to play under a manager they know won't be here come next season. There seems to be a deep irony here, especially when you look back at the quotes in April claiming that the links to the England job had not led to the slump in form.

I will always respect what Harry has done for the club in pushing us forward, but much like Dalglish with Liverpool, it's hard not to feel like we are stagnating with him in charge. The constant media appearances are becoming hard to stomach and he would be better off hiring an advisor to tell him to save his breathe every now and again. Whatever decision Levy makes, I'm sure he will make it sensibly with the best intentions for the club.

In other news Vertonghen is close to signing for Spurs. Sounds familiar.

Monday, 4 June 2012

They can't wait to get out

Well it looks like Gareth Bale and Steven Pienaar have joined the list of Spurs personnel to want out, alongside Van Der Vaart, Kranjcar, Modric, Lennon, Kaboul and of course Harry himself. Or once again it could simply be silly season with the media trying to manoeuvre a transfer through to sell extra copies.

As a Spurs fan I can't remember the last summer where one of our star players wasn't allegedly on the move. Last year we had the Modric to Chelsea saga drawn out across the summer and the year before it was the rumours of Man City closing in on Bale. This summer it seems the press are going for the jugular however.

This morning The Mirror report that Gareth Bale has gone on holiday to think over his future with Spurs. The alternative and more reasonable likelihood is that Gareth Bale has gone on holiday to think over the best way to come back with a perfect tan. But that won't sell!

I'm not completely blinkered and realise that the Steven Pienaar rumour probably does have truth in it; that he wants out, but has had a price placed on his head too high for interested parties. But even so, it's common knowledge that Pienaar wants out, so are the journalists that lazy to rehash old news? I guess I don't need answers on a postcard for that one.

Van Der Vaart was linked last week consistently with a transfer back to Germany due to previous positive playing experiences out there. Schalke were ready to 'end his hell' as one paper put it. How strange then that Mr Van Der Vaart should come out and express that 'Actually, I want to stay at Tottenham'. I know that players have to remain diplomatic and respectful to their clubs in most cases just in case a move doesn't come to fruition, but Rafael has never demanded a move and over the past two years has constantly talked of his love for the club and the league.

So is there a club that gets as much gutter press directed at them in the Premier League as our Spurs? I just don't think there is. Is there an element of truth in the stories or are they just unfounded easy targets for stories? I think I know which one it is.

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