Player power

Having already covered off key players in the season review several weeks back I've decided to look ahead instead. So, this is me looking ahead, in a 'what I expect from our players in 2014' type of article, not too deep and not too heavy and because I can't be bothered copying and pasting the latest transfer nonsense and pretending I have an opinion on it.

 

Friedel  

Third choice cover. His experience is undeniable but Brad can't be a first team player option, not if our whole system is geared around the high-line and the sweeper keeper. It can't work if we're playing Lloris and a defence that adapts to be completely comfortable with how the keeper sweeps up and attacks the ball. Only for that system to change when playing a keeper that stands back on his line. We need younger, more eager legs between the sticks if Hugo is rested/injured.

Although arguably the Europa League games might not be perceived as truly first team. We need a third option that will became our second choice. It's a potential headache if Lloris does get injured and we only have one keeper (regardless of his experience) to fall back on. Not a position spoken about in the run up to the transfer activity that will hopefully play out, but key for our longevity. Brad can still do a job but to not think of the long term would be naive.

Lloris

Keep on doing what you're doing Hugo, and boss it. I'm inclined to believe the key improvement is for the four that stand ahead of him. We have to retain a consistent back-line in terms of selection (granted there will be rotation and injury). A genuine world class player/signing. Can't argue that we haven't got it right at the back.

Kaboul

Out all season, the suggestion is he's prone to the odd injury. The concern is, he'll always struggle to retain his fitness. A reminder of the frustrations we experienced with King. Really hope he's 100% and fully charged for the new season. Would like to see him partner Verts at centre-back.

Vertonghen

Spent the season deputising on the left. Was at times erratic and as per the usual drill people like to focus on the negatives. Some do. I prefer to bask in the positives. Intelligent, progressive player with an eye for goal. Composed on the ball, a leader and a solid defender. What he needs in his second season is positional consistency. Centre-back, with a partner and the opportunity for the working relationship to blossom. Hopefully with Kaboul.

Naughton

Depending on what we do in the transfer market, Naughton might be retained as cover or be loaned out. If I'm honest, if we're going to continue to compete in the top tier, we're going to need better quality players in every position. Talking of full-backs, Danny Rose is touted as returning. Did well at Sunderland but is he also simply a covering option or a long term solution? The former is more likely.

Dawson

I cannot fault his character and determination. The bloke has astonishing spirit best displayed this season when he was almost on his way out of the club before pulling himself back into the fold. We need players that love the club and he epitomises that passionately. Daws is not as quick and composed as Kaboul and Vertonghen, but I'd gladly have him on the bench and for rotation. When he starts he's fully committed, loves the diagonal ball and we did rather well last season - not losing a fair few games he appeared in. But using the same principle as cited above, we're going to need better quality players in every position and with the risk Kaboul holds with injury plight, we could do with investment at centre-back. I'm not being dismissive of Dawson. Probably looks that way.

Walker

Much maligned. Sometimes he didn't really help himself. However there was no real competition for Walker at right-back and absolutely no respite. Overplayed, lacked confidence, was prone to costly mistakes. The upcoming season is important for him in that he has to shift past the learning curve of last season and prove he's actually learnt something. Tactically, in defence, his positioning at times was non-existent. His spacial awareness lacked direction. It's vital for the coach and for his team mates to support and equally so for him to have a player - competing - that can allow for more concentrated focus on his responsibilities. I'd love to know what he's told to do tactically by AVB, especially when pushing forward but more so when he has to stand his ground/track back. For all the colourful commentary on his form, he was still being selected time and time again. 

Assou-Ekotto

Staying or going? Another maligned player that always seem to be an easy target for scapegoating. For a long period of time, didn't do much wrong. In fact considering the flak he initially got a few seasons back, he's been a key player for us. Not so much since his return from injury. Hard to know if AVB fancies him or not. I'm happy with BAE when he's on key.  BAE is generally happy not matter what. If there was an option for him to move on, he'd probably have no issues with considering it. I'd mark down the left-hand position as one we need to consider covering. Having Verts slot in there is not the best of ideas.

Caulker

Cracking season at Swansea the season before last. The ground sort of swallowed him up a little when he returned to us. That's not to say he hasn't got talent but he's not at the required level. Yet. Has to be used in rotation. If he's good enough to break into the side he will. Again, it's about matching him up with the right player when he does start for us. Remember when Dawson lined up against King back 'in the day'? Daws was brilliant, oozing confidence. But then you would if you had Ledley owning it by the side of you. Of course, you could be smart about this and say that Caulker should be able to adapt no matter his centre-back pairing. I still believe stability and a helping hand is required.

Dempsey

Not the same player he was at Fulham. Far more involved and dynamic (dynamic in short bursts without the pace, but still hugely influential) at Craven Cottage. He was their main man. Whereas he was signed for us as...emergency cover? A midfielder that can half play in offensive positions. No doubting his knack for scoring important goals. But not quite the jigsaw piece for our midfield puzzle. Good squad player. Will have to do something special next season to retain a first team place.

Huddlestone

I don't think Tom will ever be more than a brilliant passer of the ball, technically astute with a sweet oh so sweet volley but somewhat at odds with the modern game. Against Man City, that type of performance, can have you doubting yourself. It can suggest that Huddlestone does work.  City's lack of urgency to adapt to our substitutions and man mark the player led to him having the time and space and the resulting confidence to boss it. It's something he's done before. When the circumstances suit him, he can play. When they don't, he (along with the team) can struggle. If we really want to know how influential Tom can be, then he needs to play every week. For him to do that he needs to leave Spurs. Another club might be able to accommodate him by making him the focal point of their dynamic. That isn't going to happen at the Lane.

Lennon

Was pivotal for us early season. And when he wasn't he still was still sticking in a shift. The question is, can he do more? The answer will always be 'yes'. Lennon, running at defenders from wide or through the middle is one of the most devastatingly good things to watch about Tottenham. He has to do this more often. I sometimes think he works extremely hard (you can't argue with his tenacious defending and tracking back) but is sometimes too involved in the structured build up play rather than released at pulsating pace. When he does strike at the heart of defences or run wide, cutting in or first time crossing, you'll always left wondering - should we be seeing this far more often? We should be utilising him more and he should be far more confident.

We could do with a new winger. Might be too much to ask for, but a flanker that can play both sides (be it one stronger than the other which is usually the way) would be a Godsend. Competition, cover and alternating options means the team can offer a variety of dimensions than just the standard two. Lennon himself should not be underestimated. His work ethic is outstanding. He can still raise his game higher.

Parker

Will be surprised if he's still with us at seasons start. Excellent first season with us thanks to the discipline required to aid Luka Modric in midfield. Less so of the discipline last season with his responsibilities far more open meaning Parker had too much time on the ball as opposed to looking for the quick release. Injury, tired old legs, at best he can do a job if the job has a specific mission statement, but he was always going to be Sandro's backup last season and unfortunately replaced him altogether. Not that I'm being overly critical of Parker, it's just that, he can't quite keep up with the pace and his all-round abilities don't match up to some of the players around him.

Sandro-007.jpg

Dembele

Because of Sandro's injury, Dembele (much like Vertonghen) had to deputise in terms of how he played his football, further compounded by the fact he was never fully fit and struggled for parts of the season. Not enough freedom to get forward, far too much time (a necessity) fighting it out in centre-mid. When he didn't play he was solely missed. It just wasn't Dembele at his full capacity. A common thread with 2014 expectations is that we'll hopefully see the true player flourish rather than one tied back thanks to the lack of balance in the middle. Should seek to improve his decision making when he does get into forward positions. Glides with ease past players, should look for the back of the net when the opportunity presents itself. A holding midfielder who should let go and throw a little more than he does.

Bale

If Gareth Bale can take what he achieved this past season and double up on it, then the supposedly cited £80M transfer tag might just about be justifiable (when compared to some of the other recent ridiculous price tags paid).  Not consistent enough, some would say. I'm still sticking with the fact that he's developing and evolving and not every single performance is going to be heart-signed. What will benefit him is a stronger, more consistent team around him. Watch how different it all becomes if he breaks down the left and crosses in for a striker that aims to attack the ball. Watch how many assists he'll have. Also keep a keen eye on his movement, if he's able to continue the flank-swapping play, from left to middle to right.

Bale can only get better because it would be criminal for him to stagnate. With the player already crediting AVB for his continued growth, coach, player and team mates need to take it to the next level. If others had chipped in a little more, we might have taken a few more points. No problem letting him take centre-stage if it means others can elevate their influence. If you have a stand out player then you make sure he retains that stature. All this talk of one man team, was Ronaldo a one man team for United in the season he notched up 40 odd goals? Yes? I'll have some of that one man team again then please.

Should continue to attack down the middle and play the flanks. All-rounder. Why not take full advantage of his talent. He should also seek not to go down. At all. Unless it's physically impossible for him with gravity pulling him down to earth. Otherwise, he'll never win us a penalty. 

Sigurdsson

Started to show us some class in the latter stages of last season. Confidence does a player so much good and Sig might prove to be a far better piece in the puzzle than Dempsey. Technically sound, has an eye for goal. Any pressure that stunted his early season form should now be non-existent.

Holtby

If you're going to base what type of player Holtby is on his sub appearances and his insane energy levels then you're going to find yourself in the wrong, but you'll be happy in doing so.  He was signed early when the summer was meant to be his expected arrival. He was signed, mostly thanks to our desperation in failing to sign anyone else. And because of lack of depth and injuries. So in he comes and rather than settle in and allow his characteristics as a footballer to slowly transition, he's given the task of 'getting in amongst it'. All very forced by us and for him, perhaps overly exuberant.

Another example of a player having to compensate to help fill a void in the side. Yes, he allowed for quick passing movement, one touch and release, to keep the flow going. But for the most part he was running around like a clubber on Ecstasy coming up in the middle of the dance floor. He wasn't presenting us with a glimpse of the slightly more cultured footballer he was in Germany (and recently displayed for the U21s). He's not a Modric ilk of playmaker but when you take that adrenaline and desire and allow for him to take more responsibility, he'll be able to show off a far more involved range of passing and vision.

If I'm wrong, I'll hold my hands up. In the air. And wave them like I just don't care. I could do with an E myself if I'm perfectly honest.

Livermore

A slightly more refined Jamie O'Hara. Cover at best.

Sandro

His loss was the difference between 3rd place and 5th. With Lloris in goal. Sandro in midfield. Bale behind the forward - that is a strong spine (be it complete). Take Sandro out and we are practically crippled. Think Bruce Wayne with a broken back. But no need for us to go to South America for treatment when we have South America ready to treat us again soon (comic nerd in-joke overload).

Sandro doing what he does, defending, hassling, bringing the ball out from deep - this is imperative to allowing us to play with that sabbatical lost balance in the middle and returning balance equates to our players playing as they should, with expression of their ability. Rather than compensating. We did well, compensating, but not good enough. Utterly no excuses if we have our Brazilian beast available for the entirety of the season and we fail to compete. Although I can feel you tapping on my back and pointing out that the spine is still incomplete. Even Bruce Wayne has an entourage of super mates to help him defeat the enemies.

Carroll

More game time please. On the one hand, I can understand why a loan deal in the Premier League would be more beneficial, but I'd rather see him come off the bench more often for us. His composure and his maturity allow for a calmness beyond his age that can sometimes bring a much needed zen to a frantic final 10-20 minutes.  I honestly get the feeling that he's good enough, unlike one or two other young players we have - Carroll isn't lost or out of place but he is inexperienced and he needs to be given the platform to present his skills.

Adebayor

A season to forget. Protracted transfer saga, injury, red card, injury, ACON and so on. Add to it a confused on the field role that had him wide or deep rather than willing and able in the box. Regardless of positioning and attitude, even though he did link up play and wasn't half as detrimental as some suggested post-any given match, he also wasn't half the player he was last season. Ballsy, arrogant and bullying. We want to see that again. Having that Adebayor alongside Bale would be just a bit handy. Having anything less will be disappointing and wasteful. There was a stat I saw shared around that Spurs apparently had one of the highest rations of shots on goal. I'd love to know how many of those shots came from our forward players (out and out strikers).

Defoe

Impact wise, brilliant. When he's running at the last defender or playing/attempting to play inside the last defender, he can unleash hell from his boots. He's never done it consistently. This isn't a criticism, it's a fact of life. JD will always score goals for us but he's not got enough about him to lead the front line with constant dominance. He's improved, at least I can remember occasions when he adapted accordingly into the team's shape but for the most part, that's caging him up. He works best when he's instinctive. Trouble is, you can't rely on those instincts all of the time. Add to it the fact that he isn't the type of player that is comfortable with dropping deep and linking up play and doesn't release the ball quick enough to others in better positions. But that's JD. He hasn't changed, he won't change. Love him for the player he is.

Which leads me onto... 

Andre Villas-Boas 

We need to define ourselves on the pitch without any doubt or ambiguity. Foundations, re-tweaks set. There is no further transition required. We proved we could compete last season. We had no moments of complete dread or terror or crisis. Just blips and mistakes. We have to improve the areas of our game that arguably let us down last season. What strikes me with confidence is that these areas are not the ones at the back, the ones which we might argue prove costly, but rather fine tuning our strengths in order to consolidate our offensive potency.

We need to start with the forward position(s). Part of the problem has been a crisis of identity up front. Sure, it has meant Bale has blossomed further because someone had to take responsibility of winning games, but his game can adapt further by playing alongside someone who can share some of that responsibility. We played the season with just two forwards. One of which wasn't available at times for selection. That's like taking a boxer and telling him he can only punch with one hand...sometimes.

Daniel Levy and possibly Franco Baldini will have to support AVB in resolving this long term problem. 

It also comes down to attaining that balance that we lost last term. Kaboul and Sandro returning will be imperative selections in the team. Then others will be able to graft and show off in their traditional roles whilst everything slots back into place. In addition to managing the players we have and bringing in new ones to improve the team's depth, our coach also has to move the notch up a touch higher. Especially at home. We lacked adventure and invention at times. Possibly again because of the holes left behind by van der Vaart and Modric, but also our then new manager was cautiously implementing his new methodology and style of play. Build up play can sometimes be too contrived, too slow. I remember when he first arrived and how he cited 'aggressive counter-attacking football'. We like a bit of that away. With the way teams set out against us at home (even Manchester United), another dimension to our play will be needed to brush past the stubborn and stay clear of disjointed excuses.

Even though the forward position is the one we lust over, like a man chasing a beautiful sexy twenty-something with legs all the way up to her bum and plenty upfront, what we truly need even more is a femme fatale smouldering, smoking with hands on hips, the centre point of attention, with a killer touch ready to murder with finger on trigger.

Away from this Film Noir blonde bombshell fantasy mash-up and in plain footballing terms, the spine of Lloris, Sandro and Bale needs both of these additions and not just the one; a play-maker and a goal-scorer. Otherwise the supporting cast overshadows the main attractions.