FA Cup – Semi-Final
League Cup – 3rd Round
Europa League – Group Stage
Tottenham Hotspurs’ season is over; Chelsea’s victory in the Champions League final seeing Spurs fall into the Europa League despite a top four finish. In truth Spurs should never have had to be reliant on Bayern Munich, considering their commanding third place league position entering February. However, for the second consecutive season, a Spurs slump in the final third of the season has ultimately cost Champions League football.
Tottenham’s season seems one of contrasting themes – brilliance and average, focus and distraction, rise and decline amongst others. As the season started, Daniel Levy was fighting off Chelsea’s attempt to sign Luka Modric, a home match was postponed due to the riots in Tottenham followed by two comprehensive losses to Manchester. A top four finish looked distant.
The end of the transfer window saw the arrival of Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor and a head-straightened Modric. Spurs looked focused, turned a corner and went on a run of one loss in the league until January. In doing so, Tottenham played – built on a solid defense – some brilliant attacking football and were widely acknowledged to be the most entertaining team in the league. Victories over Liverpool and Arsenal, an imperious performance over Norwich as well as ground out points seemed to suggest Spurs had added a steel backbone to a rapier like attack. The Europa League had been used to give some promising youngsters experience and rest some players for the league. Tottenham looked like they meant business.
If the one loss during the run at Stoke had seemed unlucky, with controversial refereeing decisions, the next loss may have appeared more so. Manchester City away at a time when there was a 10-point gap to fourth place and whispers of a title challenge. A missed stamp by Mario Balotelli, who instead of a red, then won and scored a penalty. For a few games this appeared another aberration and then Newcastle, a night of pure emotion and glorious football to celebrate Redknapp’s return from Southwark. Spurs had seemed to struggle in a few matches during off-field distractions – heart surgery, the Southwark trial and Fabio Capello’s departure and three months of England rumours. This coincided with player fatigue and a squad now lacking depth. Players frustrated through lack of rotation had been allowed to leave on loan in January and not adequately replaced, at a time that the first eleven looked tired and injuries bit. Coupled with this, were the manager’s tactical decisions to compensate, that ultimately failed. The slump started with a poor loss to Arsenal and continued with another to Manchester United. More followed including Norwich and QPR, a draw at Aston Villa. A series of missed opportunities that resulted in 16 points being taken from a final 39, along with a FA Cup semi-final loss (again with controversial decisions.) From brilliance to average and to still finish fourth. What might have been? Some may argue fourth shows a good season. Maybe, but fourth behind North London rivals, from a commanding third place, then failure to qualify for Champions League football may feel more an anticlimax.
Manager – Harry Redknapp
For any credit Redknapp deserves for Spurs style, excellent football and run pre-February, his role in the slump is perhaps crucial – off field distractions, lack of rotation, mismanaged loans and questionable tactics all appeared to contribute to an awful run of results in the final third of the season.
Player of the season – Kyle Walker/Younes Kaboul
Difficult to separate the two as both have excelled in defense. Kaboul has grown at centre-back, been commandeering in the position and would appear to be first choice now. Walker has a great engine and patrolled the right-flank, being solid defensively and threatening going forward with pace.
Turning Point – Fabio Capello’s resignation
Maybe it was typical of Spurs’ luck this season that on walking free from Southwark Crown Court, Redknapp walked into a whirlwind of England rumours. Redknapp and the players seemed to allow themselves to be distracted by these rumours. Was it coincidence the slump that started just after Redknapp was linked to England only ended with Roy Hodgson’s appointment?