Midfield – flanks
Bale and Lennon provide quality and speed. Behind them in the seedings, Modric, Kranjcar and Rose provide options of varying shapes and sizes (and quality) on the left with Townsend coming up on the rails. On the right, it’s Bentley.
Bale looks fit and strong in preseason. He’ll face a physical battering every game but he’s a year older and ready for it and will once more take the Prem by storm. Also more mature is Lennon on the right. Less concerned with having crop circles carved into his hair he’ll thrive on his relatively new found status of being one of the senior players. Azza will make maximum use of the space afforded by the double-teaming of Bale and develop a killer instinct in front of goal. We get our money back for Bentley.
Bale flickers more than sparkles as right backs around the country (thankfully not now starting with Phil Neville on Saturday) go into him boots flying. When he’s absent, Luka will fill in for him thus one of our key men will be out of position and ineffective on a regular basis. Similarly VdV will be asked to start regularly on the right as Redknapp attempts to squeeze the Dutchman into the side. Bentley to miss the decisive penalty in the Europa League quarter final.
Overcrowded or what? Modric, Kranjcar, Sandro, Huddlestone, Palacios, Jenas, Pienaar. Deep breath. Livermore, Bostock, Parrett, Mason. A wealth of talent!
In theory we’ve got the numbers to take a horses for courses approach. Whether we need to flood the midfield at Old Trafford or attempt to stretch opposition at WHL we should have the players to do the job. Once he’s got over his knee problem Sandro will be back to renew his partnership with Modric and they’ll form our centre pairing for all the big games, the Brazilian capturing the ball and giving it to the Croatian who will quickly set any one of our new still-to-be-bought speedster strikers off on a run at goal.
Modric to sulk, Sandro to battle injury all season. Any mixture of big Tom, Kranjcar, Palacios, Jenas and Pienaar is adequate but will be lacking either in pace, attitude, technique or talent. Livermore, Bostock, Parrett, Mason et al once more fail to break through as we try not to pay attention to the free-scoring antics of Taarabt and O’Hara.
With a raft of international strikers available, no problems here then. Erm, not quite. Goals last season were rarer than a Joe Lewis appearance at White Hart Lane. Still there’s hope around the corner in the shape of Harry Kane and Souleymane Coulibaly, both scoring freely in preseason.
Surely Defoe cannot have such an awful season as he did last year? He’s a proven striker after all. 15 league goals from him, plus 15 from new signing Scoraloado and similar from Pav and VdV. Kane and Coulibaly run riot in the Europa League, making Harry give them each a run out in the Prem where they both regularly notch often enough to give Squillaci the squits and loosen Luiz’s bowels. Giovani might even be allowed to join in the fun.
Bids for strikers will continue to be turned down on a weekly basis. Defoe’s demise is permanent; he’s lost that edge of pace despite his confident preseason bluster. Crouch is swapped for Zigic and Pav goes into a sulk after being left out for the first half dozen games as Harry goes one up front and floods the midfield in an attempt to prevent his leaky defence being exposed.
Rafael Van der Vaart
VdV is the key to any success we might achieve this season. He is the closest to world class we have. His barrel chested cockiness provide a leadership lacking elsewhere, he scores goals in big games and his attitude is an example to all others in the shirt. Personnel wise, he’s the biggest magnet we might have to attract other foreign stars.
Van der optimist
Despite getting crocked at Brighton Rafa has a preseason behind him and should thus be fitter than he appeared to be during most of last season. His free kicks in South Africa show the talent he has. He knows how much of a leader he is and how much the others look up to him. With a European Championship tournament coming up, he’ll need to produce to get in the squad, and he will.
Cynical van der Vaart
Van der Vaart’s a key player alright, the trouble is, where does he fit into the side? Play him up front and he has his back to goal too much. If in the hole, who does he play behind? No-one is good enough to hold the ball up and play him in. Stick him in the centre of midfield and you sacrifice one of Sandro or Hudd or someone and you’ve lost strength in the spine. Put him nominally out wide, as Harry is wont to do and the whole team becomes unbalanced. He’s a quality player and undoubtedly has to play, but at what cost to the side?
2 points from 8 games to CL quarter finalists is quite an effort and whilst there’s dispute about some of his tactics and his rent-a-quote activities few would swap Harry. This’ll be a tough season for him. Expectations are high and competition at the top of the PL is stiffer than ever; there’ll be no barnstorming the citadels of the European superpowers to distract from any failings at home either. Still, there are always domestic citadels to have a tilt at. The Emirates and Anfield last year, Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge this maybe?
Harry’s a wheeler-dealer and a man manager, a boss who gets the best men and gets the best out of them. The court case will shortly be behind him enabling to keep his mind fully on the job. With the help of a couple of late signings, an effervescent Bale and a revelatory faith in youth, Spurs swash buckle their way to the top four and a first European trophy since the mid eighties.
The court case takes Harry’s eye off the ball and before he knows it the window’s slammed shut with no new signings. A couple of early losses and a couple of long-term injuries and Redknapp will know the game is up. “You can’t turn your country down” will be his refrain and the FA agree. Goodbye Harry, hello Owen Coyle.
As it currently stands the team will have to perform heroically to finish above Man City, Man Utd or Chelski. Arsenal appear vulnerable, but beware the wounded beast and all that, whilst Liverpool are going in the right direction apparently, they’ll probably stutter a bit before they get there. All we can hope for is that our manager remains a free man, the players ‘leave nothing on the pitch’ and that we get more than our fair share of entertainment. Give us these and a surprising amount of success might just follow.
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