Saturday, December 12, 2009

Winter Wolves Beat Weak Minded Summer Spurs

The term "summer footballer" can mean many things, for Spurs defeat to Mick McCarthy's Wolves, read "a team who weren't prepared to match the spirit of their opponent." All too often there's a damning indictment of Tottenham throughout the ages...

Over the past three weeks we have seen every side of Spurs, the Good in beating Wigan 9-1, the Bad in surrendering a two goal lead to draw with Everton 2-2, and now the ugly in a 1-0 defeat at home to Wolves.

To put the loss to Wolves into context, this was the first time they had won back-to-back matches in the top flight in 26 years, and the first time they had won at White Hart Lane in 36 years.

Kevin Doyle's early deft header against Tottenham's porous defense was enough to win the game. It was just rewards for their tenacious display at White Hart Lane, where they effectively outfought but most importantly out-thought Harry Redknapp's team.

Under Redknapp, Spurs have improved dramatically from the team that was in a downward spiral under Juande Ramos.

His year in charge has tellingly seen Tottenham become the fifth best team in the league on points accumulated. But that is scant consolation; it is the positions in May that matter.

A good start to the season saw Spurs move into the top four, and all of a sudden, talk of finishing there permeated the air.

The loss to Wolves today was Tottenham's fifth this season from 16 matches. Three of those defeats were to "top four" opposition, while the other two were at home to Wolves and Stoke, who held them goaless.

But one element links all the defeats, and indeed their draw to Everton last weekend.

Spurs lack mental strength.

Over the last 30 years, every Tottenham team has been susceptible and weak when real questions were asked of them. It is something that has seeped into the very structure of the club.

The reverses to Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester United were all expected to some extent, however, the manner of these defeats speak volumes of Spurs' strengths and weaknesses. Against all of these "revered" opponents, Tottenham were beaten even before they took to the pitch.

They expected to lose, and never asked questions of their competitors as they should have. The game against Stoke was one of those games, Tottenham dominated the match to such an extent that they had 70 percent of possession and Stoke only had one shot on goal, from which they scored.

The problem with losing to Stoke in this manner is that good teams, real teams, do not lose games like this to the likes of Stoke. Nor do they let a club like Wolves come into their home and dictate the game.

Redknapp has recognized this failing in his new club, and has moved to rectify the situation. In his first three months in charge the Spurs boss recognised that Tottenham were brittle in midfield, so Wilson Palacios was brought in to shore up these holes.

Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch, and Robbie Keane were all brought back in to add firepower to the front line. But Tottenham still lack in important areas.

Palacios' partner in midfield needs to be sorted sooner rather than later. Jermaine Jenas has been given enough time at the club to produce, and he will never be any more than a very good reserve for a club with real ambitions.

Aaron Lennon, for all of his attacking prowess, goes missing when Tottenham are under the kosh, and with him in the team it is like Spurs are playing with an extra forward rather than a wide midfielder.

This is another reason why Redknapp must make a radical improvement to the middle of the pitch: Palacios is the only real defensive player in Tottenham's midfield. Despite Tom Huddlestone's conversion from centre half to centre mid, he does not possess the mobility needed of a top class player and he goes to sleep at important times.

The defense needs re-working too.

In short, Tottenham possess maybe only one or two players who would get into a team like Manchester United or Chelsea.

They are the benchmarks that Redknapp has to work towards, and until he brings in players that have "been there and done that", Spurs will always be mentally weak.

It all depends on how far Daniel Levy wants to bring the club. Most people in football say they want to achieve this and they want to win that but are afraid to take that actual step into becoming a winner.

Tottenham have been standing on that line for decades now, and with Liverpool's current demise and Arsenal's evident weaknesses there is no better time to take that substantial step.

Do they really want it though?

I have my doubts.