Tottenham are gunning for the big boys – so says Harry Redknapp. The so called big four are showing signs of weakness and Spurs are determined to be first in the queue for the reallocation of the top four spots this season. Whilst Manchester United and Chelsea seem to be still out of reach, at least if Spurs’ meetings with them so far this season are used as a guide, Liverpool are in a pickle and Arsenal still look lightweight. Redknapp’s charges have already dispatched the Reds on the opening day, and next weekend they have the chance to shoot down the Gunners in the derby at the Emirates. Before then, a different kind of test awaits – the physicality of Stoke.
If there is one thing that Tottenham look ill-equipped to deal with, it is high balls in to the box. Vedran Corluka recently admitted that he does not like heading the ball, something worrying for a player who has filled in as a centre-back on occasions and who will be required to defend crosses and long balls on many occasions against the Potters. Peter Crouch’s height will come in handy for set-pieces, and he is likely to start given that Jermain Defoe is suspended following his dismissal for a stamp against Portsmouth. What Spurs do not want is for Crouch to get dragged back during open play to help man the barricades.
Sebastien Bassong has been an excellent acquisition at the back and will come in handy against Stoke’s tall centre-forwards. James Beattie netted a brace for Tony Pulis’ side in their last match against West Ham and Dave Kitson has started to find the back of the net finally having endured a nightmare first season after moving to Reading. The lack of European action at White Hart Lane this season has had a silver lining in that Ledley King has been able to have a full week between league games without having to miss games in other competitions. There is still a big question mark against Gomes on crosses and other situations where he must come off his line. His stunning save against Portsmouth at least shows he has the reactions to cope with chances created by flick-ons, something Stoke will create lots of, particularly if Rory Delap’s big throw is firing.
A win against the boys from the Potteries will strengthen Spurs’ position in the top four. With Liverpool hosting Manchester United, at least one of the big four will drop points this weekend. Capitalising on other teams’ stumbles is key this season, and as Redknapp points out, this is an opportunity that has not been there in recent years. He said: “This is the year the top teams are getting beaten. In other years it’s been different but Chelsea and Liverpool were beaten last weekend. Liverpool only lost twice last year in the league.” He admits too that his side is not the only one capable of challenging, with potentially seven or eight teams capable of finishing in the top four spots. “There are teams now who, on their better days, can knock the top sides over so I think the league is getting closer. Aston Villa got a great result against Chelsea and are going to be there, Manchester City can achieve anything with their squad. We can look to push on and be around that top group all season.”
One man who is already playing for a big four side could have been helping Spurs to push for the top if things had worked out differently. Arsenal’s Russian international forward Andrey Arshavin has told Bobsoccer, a website in his home country, that he would have been happy to join Tottenham before his move fell through last summer. Spurs were unable to agree a fee with his then-club, Zenit St Petersburg, after his stock rose following his star turn at Euro 2008. He announced: “I was not against a move to Tottenham. If it was down to just me to reach an agreement, the move could have taken place.” Arshavin was also linked with a move to Barcelona, and there have been rumours in the papers that another player with connections to the Catalan club could be set to leave White Hart Lane in January. Ex-Barca forward Giovanni dos Santos, who has failed to earn a regular spot in the Spurs line-up, has been heavily linked with a move to struggling Portsmouth. Gio went on loan to Championship club Ipswich last season, quite a step down from being a hot prospect at the Nou Camp, so a move to Pompey is not too far-fetched.
Tottenham Club Focus
Defoe dazzles but may remain an England substitute – September 8
Redknapp to thank for Lennon renaissance – September 11
Spurs fail first big test – September 15
Transfer budget not affected by new training complex – September 18
Honesty not always the best policy in football– September 22
Redknapp almost spoilt for choice – September 25
Four-Star Robbie serves up timely reminder – September 29
Versatile Huddlestone is two for the price of one – October 2
Tall stories dominate while Reebok win proves too tall an order – October 6
Old friends, new enemies – October 16
Benoit Assou-Ekot-who? – October 20
Big boys and even bigger boys – October 23