Europa League: Tottenham Hotspur 3 - 1 Shamrock Rovers

Spurs were able to quell an Irish uprising and come out 3-1 winners against Shamrock Rovers in the second match of group play.  Stephen Rice put the Irish champions ahead in the 50th, but an upset was not in the cards this night.  Roman Pavlyuchenko tied the game back up ten minutes later, followed quickly by a goal from Jermain Defoe to take the lead.  Giovani dos Santos put the game away in the 65th with a strong drive to cap of a Man of the Match performance.

Spurs were dominant in the first half and had plenty of chances throughout the match, but failed to capitalize on any until Rovers supplied the impetus.  Aaron Lennon returned from injury to start but was pulled at half in favor of Andros Townsend, who had a big impact after coming on. 

Goalkeeper Richard Brush had played admirably until his defense let him down, allowing Pavlyuchenko and then Defoe to drift into space to knock in headers.  Defoe did a fantastic bit of work to set up the third, tackling in his own end and then racing all of the way down the pitch to set up Dos Santos.  The Mexican’s work rate seemed to inspire the rest of the team in what could perhaps be considered a breakthrough match for the player as a Spur.

Spurs of course invite Arsenal across North London this Sunday for the big derby match.  It will be interesting to see if the performance of Dos Santos propels him into the manager’s plans for the upcoming fixture, even if only by moving up the pecking order on the bench.

Wigan Athletic 1 - 2 Tottenham Hotspur

Wigan’s second half fightback was undone after Steve Gohouri was booked for a second time and sent off.  Spurs had come out of the gate firing on all cylinders, and could have easily been up by four or five at half.  Emmanuel Adebayor pounced on a mistake by Maynor Figueroa and, after galloping into the box, squared the ball to Rafa van der Vaart for the opening goal.  Adebayor could have scored one of his own not long after, as Kyle Walker steamed down the right flank and crossed to the striker, who blasted his shot over the bar. 

Gareth Bale doubled the lead in the 23rd minute with a perfectly placed header from a Luka Modric corner.  Bale turned in a Man of the Match performance, causing problems for the Latics’ defense from both flanks as he was given freedom to roam about the pitch.  This was likely due to the lack of a true right winger, with Modric, Van der Vaart, Scott Parker, and Sandro his teammates in midfield. 

Wigan looked determined to scrap in the second half and were rewarded for their efforts with a goal in the 50th.  Ronnie Stam made the best of an error from Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who should have cleared, and found Mohamed Diame for the finish. 

Gohouri’s second booking dashed the home side’s hopes, however.  Wigan continued to fight and deny Spurs the chance to put the game away, but were unable to finish any of their own chances at the other end. 

Spurs will be content with a third straight win, although Harry Redknapp and fans alike would have hoped that a strong starting XI could have finished more chances against a team likely to be battling against relegation this season.  Tottenham host Shamrock Rovers midweek in the Europa League before inviting Arsenal to White Hart Lane next Sunday for this season’s first North London derby.  The latter match will be a major measuring stick for both sides as Spurs seem, for the first time in a long time, to hold the advantage over their arch-rivals.

Carling Cup: Stoke City (7)0 - 0(6) Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs have made an early exit from the Carling Cup with a penalty shootout defeat to Stoke after a goalless draw.  Brazilian holding midfielder Sandro’s much-anticipated return from injury was not enough to push a makeshift Spurs side past the determined Potters.  Stoke featured both recent acquisitions from Tottenham, with Wilson Palacios getting the start and Peter Crouch coming on as an early substitute for the injured Kenwyne Jones. 

Harry Redknapp put out a mostly secondary side who were able to match Stoke well throughout the contest.  Roman Pavlyuchenko was unlucky to have a fierce drive tipped over the bar by Thomas Sorensen early in the second half, but ultimately the game was destined for the penalty shoot-out.

It would be Pavlyuchenko who was the goat in the end, failing to capitalize on Jermaine Pennant hitting the bar, missing the net entirely with his own shot.  The sides would trade goals until debutant Massimo Luongo’s shot was saved, dropping Tottenham out of the competition.

Most Spurs fans will care little about leaving this contest early, with a top four finish in the league the main goal and FA Cup and even Europa League matches taking precedent.  Still, it’s unfortunate that even a secondary side could not handle Stoke when the game was so close throughout.  It would have been a great competition to continue to offer playing time to the likes of Jake Livermore, Tom Carroll, and others in reserves.  The league campaign will resume this Saturday against Wigan.

Tottenham Hotspur 4 - 0 Liverpool

Blogger’s Note: I apologize for the lack of updates while I was on vacation.

Spurs continued to rebound from an embarrassing start to the season with a convincing 4-0 win over Liverpool.  The London side was dominant throughout and never looked like conceding.  After opening the season with successive defeats to both sides of Manchester, Spurs have now strung together back to back wins to bring them back level on record.

Much credit is due to new recruits Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor, who have been instrumental in the turnaround.  They have come into the side playing with confidence, inspiring their new teammates and instilling a new focus. 

Luka Modric opened the scoring in the seventh minute with an unstoppable drive into the top corner.  Jermain Defoe stumbled over the ball on the edge of the box, leaving it for the Croatian to unleash a rocket that Pepe Reina could do nothing about.

Spurs continued to dominate play 11 v 11, but the sides weren’t level for long.  Charlie Adam was sent off for a second yellow after landing his spikes on Scott Parker’s thigh just outside the box. 

The second half wasn’t any nicer on the Reds as Martin Skrtel was sent off for clattering into the back of Gareth Bale’s legs.  Now facing only nine men, Spurs pressed their advantage.  Jermain Defoe found himself in acres of space in the 66th, advancing towards the box, spinning off a defender, and finishing well for the 2-0 lead. 

The Man of the Match, however, was his strike partner Adebayor.  Linking well with his teammates and controlling possession, he was finally rewarded for his efforts in the 68th.  Controlling a rebound off of Reina, the Togolese talisman flicked the ball and hurdled the keeper, coolly tucking it away to make it 3-0. 

Adebayor struck again in stoppage time to make his brace, smashing a volley into the net to cap off the route.  In a match between two clubs competing for the Champions League places, Tottenham have surely signaled their intent.  Liverpool were never really in the match and will be left with plenty of questions to answer.  Meanwhile, Spurs will look to continue their roll in their midweek Carling Cup encounter with Stoke.

Tottenham Hotspur Transfer Window Recap

Well, the summer transfer window has finally closed and it’s time to let the dust settle and assess the moves.  Spurs took a unique approach amongst their peers, focusing more on hanging on to a player - Luka Modric, of course - than on bringing anyone new into the fold.  Arsenal caved pretty easy when it came to letting go of their stars, although they have been dealing with the Fabregas situation for some time now so that move was understandable.  Time will tell if their approach of allowing Samir Nasri to leave for a major rival was better than Spurs’ tactic of holding tight to Modric, but City already seems massively improved by Nasri’s arrival.  

Many have criticized Daniel Levy’s unwavering stance that he would not accept any bid for the Croatian playmaker, especially when reports came out that Chelsea’s final offer was £40 million (or £30 million plus Brazilian defender Alex, depending on who you believe).  With that sum of money, Spurs could have reinvested in the squad and brought in two or three excellent players in areas of need.

But would they have had enough time to turn around and spend it?  That is a question worth considering.  Would having £40 million in our collective pocket right now be better than keeping hold of Modric in the short term?  There are plenty of pundits claiming that we won’t receive an offer in that range again, but this seems doubtful.  Surely with Chelsea likely to be competing with both Manchester clubs for the title, Roman Abramovich will come calling again in January.  This is when prices traditionally rise, not fall.

For a deeper investigation of Levy’s Modric gamble, you can read the article I wrote for Bleacher Report on the subject.  Ultimately, I think the best move that the chairman made with regards to the Modric situation was buying insurance in the form of Scott Parker.  Parker was brought in for a modest fee believed to be in the range of £5 million, and he does more than simply adding depth to the center of midfield.  Parker is a seasoned veteran, a relentless hard worker, and a vocal leader.  In other words, precisely the type of player Spurs need to lead them out of the mess they currently sit in.  His style of play is infectious and he provides the perfect foil for Modric if the diminutive Croatian kicks up a fuss.

Added to the earlier signings of Brad Friedel and Emmanuel Adebayor, Parker represents a third solid purchase to bolster Spurs in an area where they could use added strength.  With Sandro still recovering from injury and Modric’s commitment in question, Tottenham needed to do something to insure the center of the park.  One area that they did not address is the center of defense.  A move for Gary Cahill looked to be in the cards, but ultimately Bolton Wanderers demanded too much (believed to involve Jermain Defoe) in return.  Such a move would have been a massive boost for a defensive unit that has struggled thus far, but the cost of losing Defoe may have been too high considering the lack of depth and quality at forward.

Another striker was sent packing, however, as Peter Crouch left for Stoke City.  The move brings an end to Crouch’s run of terrible form with the club, during which time he did little to help put the ball in the net.  Crouch wasn’t the only man packing up his locker either, as Spurs did their best to clear out as many fringe players as possible.

Joining Crouch at Stoke is defensive midfielder Wilson Palacios, who found himself surplus to requirements with Tom Huddlestone, Sandro, and now Scott Parker ahead of him in the pecking order.  Likewise for Jermaine Jenas, who was loaned out to Aston Villa.  Villa also swooped in for a permanent deal with Alan Hutton, who was unlikely to see much time behind Vedran Corluka and Kyle Walker at right back.  Lastly, David Bentley was loaned to West Ham as the East London club look to reinforce their midfield in Parker’s wake.

Sebastien Bassong looked to be on his way to QPR, but the plug was pulled on the deal when Levy learned the cost of bringing in Cahill was too high.  Bassong has been kept on for depth in the center of defense, where injuries to William Gallas and Ledley King have left him and Younes Kaboul as the only remaining options to partner with Michael Dawson.

In the end, it is disappointing that Spurs were unable to secure the services of Cahill, or bring in another attacking player or two, but the window was not a complete failure.  Brad Friedel has already shown his value over error-prone Gomes in net, while on-loan Adebayor will hopefully provide the finishing element that this squad so desperately needs.  Scott Parker may end up being a more important signing than both, especially if Luka Modric isn’t giving his all to the club.  Here’s hoping his leadership qualities will help pull Spurs off the foot of the table and back into contention at the top.

A New Way Forward: How Spurs Must Retool to Compete

I recently wrote an article (which you can read here) for Bleacher Report detailing a formational shift that could be used to adapt to life without Luka Modric.  I won’t rehash the whole article here, but basically it is based upon the contingency that we bring in at least one of the holding midfielders we are linked with, namely Scott Parker and Lassana Diarra.  In the hypothetical situation that Modric leaves for Chelsea and one or both of those players are brought in, all hope would not be lost. 

Whether Modric goes in the next few days or not, though, there are some holes that need to be filled before the close of this transfer window. 

Another center back is a necessity.  William Gallas has plenty of mileage, Ledley King is as brittle as ever, and Younes Kaboul just isn’t cutting it.  Be it Gary Cahill, Christopher Samba, Scott Dann, or someone else, Michael Dawson needs a dependable partner in crime.  Many have criticized the play of Dawson himself thus far, but it’s difficult to gauge how well he would have performed if he had a steadier companion like Gallas by his side.  Let’s not forget how strong their partnership was against some of the best sides in Europe a year ago.

Spurs also need another striker.  Peter Crouch has reminded us all of just why he had such a horrific time last season trying to score goals.  His flailing, flopping, fouling act was on full display against Manchester City, as he repeatedly looked to the referee for an excuse for his own shortcomings.  He is not cut out to be the striker of a top side, plain and simple, and it’s becoming aggravating to watch him.  Without Crouch, we would be left with just Jermain Defoe, Roman Pavlyuchenko, and new loanee Emmanuel Adebayor. 

This is where Levy needs to splash the cash.  If he has a chance to bring in Fernando Llorente, Giuseppe Rossi, or someone of their talent level, there is no time like the present to do so.  They aren’t getting any cheaper in their prime years, and other clubs will certainly be looking to scoop them up if we don’t.  Levy needs to make a statement of intent and let fans and foes alike know that Spurs will not simply lie down and let their rivals stamp them out of contention.

We are only two games into our season and have faced the two strongest squads in the league, so it isn’t time to panic just yet.  At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that we currently sit bottom of the table and have been annihilated by two teams that we aim to compete with.  If the ship isn’t turned around and set in the right direction, we will be the laughing stock of the league, a club with notions of greatness but without the nerve to live up to that standard.  Daniel Levy clings to Luka Modric because he thinks it will prove Spurs are not a feeder club, and yet he has done precious little to improve a squad that fell back to fifth in the league last season.  If he thinks that having a player or two that the “big clubs” want makes his club big too, he is sorely mistaken.  Time to push the chips to the center or walk away from the table, Mr. Chairman.

Torn Hamstring for Van der Vaart, More Trouble from Modric

It appears more trouble has been heaped on Tottenham following their 5-1 defeat at the hands of Manchester City.  Rafael van der Vaart, who pulled up lame following a sliding challenge and promptly headed to the dressing room, has suffered a torn hamstring.  This comes as a blow to a side which is already thin in the attack, losing their most inventive forward for at least a couple weeks.

Spurs’ other creative mastermind, Luka Modric, apparently asked not to be part of the team for today’s match.  Harry Redknapp has revealed that Modric came to him during the morning and requested to be left out of the squad, saying his head was not right to play.  Redknapp sees this as just another attempt by the player to push for a move away from the club, and insisted that he needed to have Luka in the line-up with his options already scarce.  The next three days will show whether or not actions like these help Modric get his desired move, or if Daniel Levy will call his bluff and hope he settles back in.

Thankfully the club have an extra week off before they resume league play, and fans will hope that between transfer activity and time for healing, a rejuvenated and refocused squad will take the field for the match against Wolves.

Tottenham Hotspur 1 - 5 Manchester City

Daniel Levy, I hope you were paying attention.  Manchester City sent out a warning shot to their Premier League rivals today with a 5-1 thrashing of Spurs at White Hart Lane.  To be fair, Spurs played well through the first half and had some fantastic chances, but - as was so often the case last season - they failed to put them away.  Gareth Bale knocked a sitter over the bar and, not long after, Peter Crouch blasted a header just wide of goal on a golden opportunity.  City, meanwhile, made the most of everything they got.  Edin Dzeko had a four goal performance with a Kun Aguero strike thrown in as well.  Samir Nasri, making his debut for his new club, was instrumental in Dzeko’s first two goals and looks to have made a seamless transition from Arsenal.

Luka Modric started off well and looked to be the catalyst Tottenham’s attack was missing last week against the other side of Manchester.  However, Spurs were unable to capitalize on their build-up, and he was eventually subbed off for Jake Livermore in the second half.  The performance he got from his teammates might not have helped shift his opinion about a move away from the club.  Livermore did his best to provide a spark on his arrival, with his team already down 4-0.  He linked up well with his teammates and Spurs were able to get back a goal from a Kaboul header on a corner.  Jermain Defoe’s introduction for the injured Aaron Lennon also played a part in this second wind of sorts, as he fired a few dangerous shots on frame from range, one of which set up the corner that led to the goal. 

Despite these flashes of brilliance, it remains clear what separates Spurs from their competitive rivals in City - the ability to finish.  Peter Crouch was toothless up top, failing to connect with most balls because of his typical array of fouls and flops, always ending in complaints to the referee.  Defoe looked to be on form but he lost a key cog in the supply line when Van der Vaart soon departed with injury, leaving the team with only 10 men because all three substitutions had been used.  It is troubling to see the Dutchman again walk to the dressing room clutching his thigh after a seemingly routine sliding play.  Perhaps the cut price which Spurs paid for him should have come with a “fragile” disclaimer. Spurs fans will hope the extended break before the next fixture will offer him time to mend both body and mind, as he has looked lost on the pitch for much of these first two games.

Levy now has three days to decide who will be shipped out and who will be brought in before the close of the transfer window.  Even with the arrival of Emmanuel Adebayor, it would seem another striker remains at the top of Spurs’ list of needs.  Perhaps successive defeats will convince the chairman to loosen the purse strings and splash the cash on a high profile signing like the oft-linked Llorente or Rossi.  The addition of either Scott Parker or Lass Diarra to the midfield would be welcome as well, with injuries severely limiting Redknapp’s options in the center of the park.  Either one (or both) would add vital experience to a squad which seems now, more than ever, to need a guiding light. 

Lastly, some competition for Aaron Lennon on the right wing and added insurance in the center of defense would be of use.  It remains to be seen just how much Levy is willing to do to upgrade this squad, but with the rumored departures of Crouch, Wilson Palacios, David Bentley, and other fringe players all imminent, additional funds will be available.  I think these moves are just as important for satisfying the hunger of the fans as they are for stabilizing the squad, because if Spurs don’t see a quick turnaround, the supporters will be on the chairman’s back until January.

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City Preview

Spurs and City meet at White Hart Lane for a match-up between competitive rivals that has grown immensely in importance and intensity over the past few seasons.  Having each broken into the top four once over the past two campaigns, they are the new members of the elite club at the top of the table, and they continue to jockey with one another as they fight to continue their climb.  City have of course taken the more fiscally liberal approach to this arms race, bringing in loads of talent with the money of their oil tycoon owners.  Meanwhile, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has continued to make due with a strict wage structure and more modest signings, trying to pick up diamonds in the rough rather than pricy, proven commodities. 

It seems, though, that City’s spending over the past few seasons - matched only by Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona - has completely changed the financial landscape, and Levy is finding it harder and harder to pay the fees required to improve his squad.  This is of course compounded by the fact that Spurs already have a very good squad, and the players available that would actually seem a marked improvement over their current crop are all of the expensive variety. As a result, it was City that made progress in the standings last season, as Spurs fell back to fifth in the league and out of the Champions League places.

So, rapidly approaching the close of the transfer window with recruits still needed, Levy added a new wrinkle to his strategy: picking players off from his rival’s squad.  City have acquired a surplus of talent, especially in attacking positions, over the past few years.  It was only a matter of time before some would have to be sold off, and at a cut rate.  This has enabled Levy to sign Emmanuel Adebayor on loan for the season, with City retaining a chunk of his wage bill - and now it is rumored that he is looking to do the same with out-of-favor attacker Craig Bellamy.  An interesting tactic indeed, but one which may pay off for Tottenham’s more frugal front office in the end.  Only time will tell.

This brings us to this season’s first match between the two sides.  Adebayor will not be able to make his debut, as he cannot play against the club that owns him as part of the loan agreement.  That means Harry Redknapp will have to make due with Jermain Defoe, Roman Pavlyuchenko, and perhaps Peter Crouch, who looks like he may be headed for more playing time at Stoke, for at least one more week.  Defoe is the odds-on bet to make the start in front of free-roaming Rafa van der Vaart, as he did last week against the red half of Manchester.  Don’t be surprised, though, if he is on a short leash - he wasted several chances against United by frustratingly refusing to shoot, and didn’t link well with Van der Vaart either. 

Another man sitting on a hot seat is winger Aaron Lennon.  The most agonizing moment of the match against United was a play where Lennon cut inside the box, where he had Van der Vaart to his left in acres of space, waiting to put the ball away.  Instead, he chose to try to lash the ball across the box and ended up knocking it off a defender, back into himself, and out of bounds.  Van der Vaart made no secret of his feelings, pulling his shirt over his head in disgust. 

The one man to watch above all others, though, is the diminutive Croatian who has been the talk of the transfer window.  Luka Modric will, according to Redknapp, make his first start of the season.  With reports that Chelsea will offer a last-ditch bid of £40 Million, Levy has stuck by his stance that he will not be sold.  We will know within a week whether that holds true, but what Modric continues to represent is the chairman’s ambition to keep pace with his rivals and build a winning squad.  Modric embodies Levy’s intent to build a good club into a great one - he wants to challenge for the title, not sell off his stars for profit to those who are already challengers.  Thus far, he has decided to hold the want-away playmaker to his contract and turn down the loads of cash being offered.  How Modric plays in the match may be an indication of whether Levy’s gamble even has a chance of working.  If Luka looks disinterested or unmotivated, it might be the deciding signal to Levy that there is no choice but to sell him.  If he performs at his usual high level though, it might be all the justification Levy needs.

It always seems to be a tight contest between these two and, with the match being played in North London, I would expect no different this time around.  Spurs will be motivated by the home crowd and battle hard to get off the foot of the table.  I predict a 2-2 draw and, as a Spurs fan, I hope that Modric is instrumental throughout.  If Spurs can even eke out a win, it might be just what the creative Croatian needs to change his mind about where his future lies - at least until January.

Europa League Group Revealed for Spurs

Tottenham will take on Russian side Rubin Kazan, Greek side PAOK, and Irish side Shamrock Rovers in Group A of this years Europa League.  Friday’s draw set the stage for the next few months of group play between the 48 teams remaining in the competition.  Spurs will of course be favorites to top the group, but will face a tough test in order to do so.  Matches for this stage of the competition will begin next month and run through December, when the top two clubs from each group will progress to the knockout rounds.