Spurs Searching For Their Killer Instinct
January 19, 2011 1 Comment
Spurs performed wonderfully against Manchester United on Sunday afternoon. At times, they completely overran their opponents, who remain undefeated in the league this season. They created the best attacking moves, and the best opportunities, but they could not land the knockout blow. Spurs are still lacking the killer instinct they urgently need.
This season has seen Spurs’ meteoric rise to the mantle of Europe’s great entertainers. Harry Redknapp has put his team permanently into the ‘gung-ho’ mode that even the most daring fan rarely flirts with on Football Manager. Top scorers in the Champions League; a stunning victory over the European champions; and in Gareth Bale, Spurs possess a frighteningly talented footballer.
But the success of the last 2 years is at risk of being a fleeting phenomenon. As much as their fans might like to deny it, Tottenham are not a big club. Two UEFA cup wins in 1972 and 1984, and a league and cup double in 1961 don’t hide the fact that this season is Spurs’ first outing in Europe’s elite club competition since the 1960s.
If they are to continue to attract players of similar quality to the mercurial Rafael Van Der Vaart, then retaining Champions League football is a must. Spurs currently sit 5th in the Premier League, where they have been for most of the season, just a point behind 4th-placed Chelsea. But creeping into the top four, and staying there for a few games, is a huge psychological boost to a team, in the same way that clubs at the wrong end of the league find a run in the bottom three akin to wading through mud. Spurs are at risk of developing an ‘almost-big club’ mindset.
Mindset is the key ingredient to a recipe of sustained success. Believe, and it becomes possible. To get into the champions league places and stay there requires quality and consistency, and consistency only comes with belief.
Undoubtedly, Spurs have quality. In Bale, Van Der Vaart and Luka Modric they arguably possess three world class players. The problem for Harry is that none of them are strikers. The current crop of frontmen doesn’t quite cut the mustard. Defoe blows hot and cold, but he is the very essence of consistency compared to Roman Pavyluchenco; Peter Crouch is a great ‘option’, but he is not a 20 goals a season guy; and Robbie Keane long since passed the peak of his powers.
Spurs had three good chances on Sunday – that was all – and they managed three decent efforts. But if they have pretensions to permanently join the private members club at the top of the table then they must take chances like these, especially when facing the toughest opposition.
Redknapp knows that he needs to bolster his frontline. He tried to sign Luis Fabiano in the summer, and is in a battle with a number of clubs for the signature of the prolific anti-hero of the world cup, Luis Suarez. Seal a deal and Spurs could have a set of strikers to rival any in the league.
That’s only half the battle though. Quality is no substitute for belief, and only a potent concoction of the two will take Spurs higher. Manchester United’s present players illustrate the point perfectly. A side not at its best by any means, but able to go 21 league games unbeaten simply because it plays in the colours of Manchester United; a club where success permeates every pore.
Redknapp is desperately trying to elevate his own side to this higher plane, sometimes risking ridicule to do so.
At every opportunity he has touted his team as title contenders, even after Sunday’s game when Spurs failed to beat a top four side at home for the third time this season; as soon as Wayne Rooney handed in a transfer request, Redknapp was publicly expressing an interest in signing him; he’s even talked up his side’s chances of winning the Champions League. One suspects that if Leo Messi wanted to leave Barcelona, Harry would be speaking up.
As fanciful as some of Redknapp’s claims may be, they are having the desired effect on his team – of making his players believe that they are now representing for one of Europe’s big boys. Even if Spurs lack a cutting edge, the confidence they have going into big games is there for all to see. They have outplayed Inter Milan, Manchester United and Manchester City at home this season. Their public displays of togetherness after winning games tell us that the players reallybelieve this team is going places.
But if they are to consistently beat the best, they need more defining victories to cement the winning habit. The 3-2 victory away to Arsenal was an importantstep, as was a late home victory against Liverpool, and their demolition of theEuropean champions. But other hoodoos need to be banished, which is whythe extension of what is now a ten year wait for a league victory over Man Utd is damaging. Spurs need to learn to carry the confidence with which they soeffusively start matches right through to the final whistle, and they need to learnfast.
Tottenham are in a race against time. One year out of the Champions Leagueand it can be years before a club returns. Everton and Newcastle both found thisout to their cost, and Liverpool are experiencing the same demolarising period ofexile now. With Fifa’s Financial Fair Play regulations threatening the ability of aclub to spend big, Tottenham need to bcomee a regular top four side now so thatthey can secure vital revenue streams.
Redknapp seems to be building something potentially very special at Tottenham.A team that plays thunderbird football in a thrilling style, and a club that placesemphasis on developing youth. Tottenham can be a force for good in a modern-day game tarnished by the mega-rich. But Spurs need just a little more belief,and a little more quality to push them into the top four. Perhaps Daniel Levy willdeliver another transfer window present to his manager that could just take themthere.
by Ben Williams