The title of the piece refers, of course, to the manner in which Spurs have been going about attempting to secure Champions League qualification this season. As in, the hardest possible. Ten points clear in third turned to being cast adrift in fifth, which turned then into a chance to once again seize third and redemption, which yesterday became meekly failing to beat one of the poorest Villa sides to have graced the Premier League. It’s fair to say that, if we do eventually stumble our way into next year’s Champions League, it won’t be for want of trying not to.
Of course, it wouldn’t have been Spurs either without a flash of bad luck, and that came in the form of Ciaran Clark’s horribly deflected opener. The goal went against the flow of the game up until that point, and it would surprise few that McLeish’s side shut up shop after the half-time interval. The factors behind the failure to win can’t just be blamed on Villa’s ‘let’s start with six defenders in the starting XI’ tactics though – this is a Spurs team that has consistently struggled to break teams down in the second half of this season, and yesterday was just another reminder of the need for investment in the summer. Meanwhile, here are some more thoughts from the game.
Oh, Danny. With Assou-Ekotto out injured, it’s bad enough that we have to play Rose in the first place, who for my money has never really quite shown enough to warrant merit in a Spurs shirt (godly volleyed goal against Arsenal aside). Now, after a challenge that was equal parts clumsy and senseless, we have no dedicated left-back for the final game of the season against Fulham. Assumedly, this will be combated in much the same way as it was after Rose’s dismissal yesterday, with Bale dropping back into the left-back slot, but it’s a selection headache we could have done without – the only positive that may come of it is that Bale will be forced to stay on the left.
As for Rose, his Tottenham career continuing may depend on summer signings. He can’t keep trading in on one goal, and with it having become clear this season that we need more reliable back up for Assou-Ekotto, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Rose depart on loan next season if someone of a higher calibre can be brought in.
Redknapp’s Substitution Masterclass
Any hopes that the closing of the England debacle might lead to Redknapp focusing more intently on the task in hand at Spurs appear to have been ill-founded. We can speculate until Gareth Bale scores a goal again as to what exactly caused Harry’s indecisiveness on Sunday, but there was more than a sneaking suspicion of him playing it more than a little safe after learning of Newcastle’s defeat to Manchester City. That result, of course, still leaves us sitting in a good position for claiming fourth going into the final game of the season, but it seems unbelievable that Redknapp would choose not to go for the jugular of a weak Villa team when a win would have secured for certain a top four finish.
None-the-less, this seemed to be the case, with Defoe’s planned introduction being cancelled after Adebayor’s equaliser, and Scott Parker’s introduction towards the end of the 90 minutes seeming to send a ‘hold what we have’ message to the players – Van der Vaart’s rueful shake of the head as he made his way off the pitch told its own story. To be fair to Redknapp, he can only work with what he has, and the second half of the season has told us that we certainly still need that world class striker we’ve been hankering after for time immemorial. Still, after the second half of the season we’ve endured, and even with ten men, to have expected a little ambition was not too much to ask – and we could yet regret not capitalising on the situation, with Fulham likely to pose much more of a challenge.
Defoe – Now Can’t Buy A Sub Appearance
It can only be assumed that Defoe has done something horrendously affronting to Redknapp – not much else would explain his disappearance from even substitute appearances over the past few games. This isn’t trying to say for a second that Defoe is the saviour this Tottenham team needs, but when the other strikers in your team are either struggling to score (with the exception of from the spot), or 34 years old, you have to think that it’s worth at least letting him ‘facking run around a bit’. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him leave in the summer due to a lack of satisfaction with playing time, and if Adebayor doesn’t make his loan permanent, that’ll leave us in a very dark place indeed in terms of strikers, so perhaps Harry should start being a bit nicer to him in the close season? You know, just because, as it stands, Louis Saha will be our only front-man come the start of next season. Eeek.
Just going to get in there nice and early and say that, in the Blackburn match reaction, I said that I thought Arsenal would drop points in at least one of their last two games, and that Spurs would fail to capitalise. As predictions go, it might well have been like shooting fish in a barrel, but allow me a moment of smugness. On a more serious note, there’s still every chance Arsenal could falter again against West Brom, but even if they do not, we can grab fourth by simply winning against Fulham. Fulham’s away form isn’t brilliant (I’ll try and be more specific in the pre-match stats), so even for this somewhat faltering Spurs side, there’s still hope. Meanwhile, Newcastle won’t be given an easy ride by Everton, so as long as we can avoid defeat, we should achieve that top four finish. Pipping Arsenal to third would be extremely satisfying, but now once again looks unlikely – and if we don’t, we’ll have to endure the long wait until the Champions League final result to find if fourth does indeed qualify us for a place at Europe’s highest table. Only Spurs could manage to keep your nerves on edge past the end of the season. Fourth might as well have our name on it.
On Twitter: @AEFSpurs.