Each week, A Different League takes an emerging issue from the Premier League and gathers the viewpoint of three of our expert writers. This week:
Tottenham drew at home with Manchester City yesterday, will either of these teams finish in the top four?
James McLean: “Both teams are certainly capable. Manchester City’s Joe Hart has proven his ability to maintain a solid last line of defence with a string of top saves – something which even some of the clubs higher up the table desire. Being able to plug an otherwise leaky defence is an extremely valuable commodity, and one which should be fundamental to any club’s ambitions to capture the crown, or qualify for the Champions League.
Spurs, on the other hand, will have raised a few impressed smiles from many neutrals as they overwhelmed City for much of the match. Gareth Bale looks to be in fine form, and Luka Modric threatened City’s goal on more than one occasion, so the hosts’ attack looks strong despite failing to find the net. At present City’s players look like they are still trying to gel, and their unfamiliarity with one another unfortunately shone through more than each individual’s talent – making it difficult to judge how well they can work as a unit, although they certainly have ability, and are one of the most talented sides in the league. Their defence appears resolute, and as such they will surely be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.
In Harry Redknapp, the North Londoners seem to have finally found the man to help move the club forward – highlighted by the fact they will be in the Champions League this season. He appears to be building the club into an even stronger force, and if that work continues then Spurs look well placed to finish right up there – and a top four spot is certainly well within their reach.”
Alex Bath: “In short, yes. Predicting which one is a much harder task. It would be quite conceivable to find both in the top four come May and next season could be the start of a genuine ‘new era’ for the Premier League.
For Tottenham and Manchester City to finish in the top four they need to be consistent. Both teams need to take three points from the lesser teams with almost mundane regularity. Against the teams around them, Everton and Liverpool for example, they need to be impregnable at home and tactically wise when they play away. City, for example, would have marched into the top four last season if they had not had a lacklustre spell of draws in the first half of the season.
The two teams represent two opposite approaches to breaking the top four. Tottenham have the team, City have the talent. Individually, City are marvellous. Carlos Tevez, and Emmanuel Adebayor are far more exciting a prospect than Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe. Tottenham however have a team spirit that produces. Michael Dawson, Sebastien Bassong and Vedran Corluka may not set the pulses racing in the City boardroom, but it is just that sort of depth of talent tied to a strong team confidence that helped push Spurs over the Champions League finishing line last season.
This season will undoubtedly feature moments where one of the two sides appears to be on top, as well as moments where the underrated Everton and the forgotten Liverpool poke their noses in. Come May next year one, or both, of these sides will be planning for the Champions league – good luck to anyone that can confidently tell me which one it will be.”
Frank McCann: “I’m nearly certain that Manchester City will not finish in the top four this season. Whether Spurs can get a top four finish will be down to how they are effected by their participation in the Champions League.
At this moment, I am predicting that neither of these teams will be playing Champions League football next season, although I do expect Spurs to be closer than Man City. Why can’t Man City make the top four? It all comes down to team bonding. It seems like the Eastlands side has too much money. Rather than trying to tweak a team that performed reasonably well at times last season, they have gone out and signed several big names based totally on their reputation. Does Roberto Mancini not realise that signing all these “superstars” will affect the morale of his first-team regulars from last season? Real Madrid spent the big-bucks last summer but ended up crashing out of the Champions League to an average Lyon side and Mancini will find out that it takes much longer than the three weeks he believes he needs for his side to become a successful unit.
As for Spurs, they are a better equipped unit. They have a good squad and some excellent attacking players. However, if they qualify for the group stages of the Champions League (which they should), I can see them dropping points in the league due to their inexperience of juggling European nights with domestic fixtures. Liverpool haven’t got the pressure on them like in previous seasons and I can see the Merseysiders capatilising on the points dropped by Spurs due to their European Hangover.