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Premier League preview - Tottenham Hotspur

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By Alan Robins

Friday 17 August 2012

Last season:

Premier League - 4th

FA Cup - Semi-final

League Cup - 3rd Round

Europa League - Group Stage

The reputed prickly relationship between Harry Redknapp and Daniel Levy was brought to a swift conclusion at the end of last season following the failure to secure Champions League football. In came André Villas-Boas - a choice seemingly popular with many, but who carries expectations to finish in the top four again.

Ultimately Spurs’ achievements this season could be governed by the next two weeks in the transfer market. On his arrival Villas-Boas expressed a desire for a complete squad - the next two weeks may determine if he has one. Going into the opening day fixture at Newcastle with just one recognised striker is not ideal preparation for the new manager and the signing of at least one forward is a priority, as is the resolution of the Luka Modric transfer saga.

However, Lilywhite fans have already seen in the pre-season friendlies the Villas-Boas’ impact, with his preference for the high defensive line. Arguably, this should be more successful than at Chelsea with the Spurs back four looking to have far more pace with a potential line-up of Kyle Walker, Younes Kaboul, Jan Vertonghen and Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

Under the Portuguese, Spurs are likely to adopt a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation - again both extensively used in friendlies. How Villas-Boas uses the players available remains to be seen. Even if Modric finally leaves, and with Scott Parker out injured until October - there is depth in midfield with Sandro, Jake Livermore, the returning Tom Huddlestone and the potential of Tom Carroll, along with any replacement for Modric.

Similarly, while Spurs may need to sign a striker there are options for the start of the season. Jermain Defoe remains at the club as does - for the moment anyway - Giovani dos Santos, who again showed for Mexico in the Olympics he can be a quality player. Spurs also have Harry Kane who has been told he will be given first team opportunities. Rafael van der Vaart or new signing Gylfi Sigurdsson can play either in an attacking midfield role or as a makeshift forward. Obviously Gareth Bale, having signed a contract extension until summer 2016, will be a key player - he wore the number nine shirt in friendlies, playing in central striking role but, in shades of last season, looked more effective in a wide left position. Spurs fans may hope for less experimentation with Bale this season.

Spurs have made two quality signings in Vertonghen and Sigurdsson, while managing to shed some fringe players. More may follow out of White Hart Lane but strengthening with a few quality signings to ensure they can challenge may be essential, especially as it would be unsurprising to see the race for the top four race as close as last season.

Can Spurs build on the previous seasons? Tottenham have shown over the last few seasons an ability to challenge at the top, a tougher mentality, as well as playing some outstanding football. There is no reason to think under Villas-Boas they cannot improve further.

Manager - André Villas-Boas: A reputation for being well-prepared and an astute tactician, with a point to prove, the Portuguese looks a good choice to follow Redknapp. The Portuguese has been positive about the atmosphere in the squad (in comparison to Chelsea) and the club. Fans at least may welcome an erudite manager undistracted by areas outside the club.

Key signing - A striker: With the only recognised striker Jermain Defoe - who doesn’t appear a natural fit for the manager’s preferred formations - Spurs cannot afford to let the transfer window close without signing one, possibly two forwards. To do so could seriously undermine the new manager and Spurs’ season.

Key sale – Luka Modric: Potential sale maybe, but while the Modric transfer saga hangs over White Hart Lane, other recruitment appears in limbo. Daniel Levy may be tough at negotiating but the stance could be said to be at the cost of an incomplete squad. The saga should be resolved as soon as possible.

Keep an eye out for… Gylfi Sigurdsson: The Icelandic international appears to have been around for ages but is still only 22. Sigurdsson opted for Spurs over joining up with his former manager at Liverpool. Nominally an attacking midfielder, the Icelander can score, pass and link play well. Potentially one of the buys of the summer, given his comparative low fee.

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